by Atsushi Muroga, 1999, 83 min. starring Kaori Shimamura, Yuji
Kashimoto, Osamu Ebara, and Miwa.
you watch a movie that is directed by someone who is known in Japan
for directing plotlessly gory films, you pretty much know what to
expect. Case in point, Junk (aka Shiryour Gari).
While breezing through the blessedly short 83-minute film, I didn’t
quite know what to make of what I just saw. Was it meant to shock
me? Make me laugh? Excite me? Ambivalence enveloped my very being.
Then, while browsing through the filmography section of the Artsmagic
special edition DVD of Junk, I came across that description
of his directing style – PLOTLESSLY GORY. Ahhh, that explains
me crazy, but I’ve always found zombie movies quite silly.
Imagine a bunch of bodies, in various stages of decay, ambling around
like a bunch of drunkards during New Year’s Eve. I mean, once
you get past the whole decaying body parts and the maggots and,
presumably, the stench, and actually stick it in your head that
you can outrun these freaks, the terror is GONE! But, like
most horror movies, the terror of disbelief will always give us
the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome when confronted with such a
Unfortunately for the zombies of Junk, they are
neither monstrous, nor terrifying. In fact, they look rather fake,
cheap, even powdered. Powdered? Yes, powdered. No dripping slime,
no oozing pus, none of that fun stuff. They just wander around,
breaking through doors, and eating humans (at times, even themselves!).
It’s this type of absurdity that goes beyond the realm of
suspended reality that makes Junk unsuccessful at any attempt it
tries to make.
“The dead will devour the living…”
At a secret lab at an abandoned plant in modern-day
Japan, the US government have been conducting experiments on how
to bring the dead back to life. With the invention of DNX, they
have discovered that once this mysterious green goop is injected
into a deceased body, the body will live again. As with everyone
who tampers with nature, the results of the initial DNX tests are
without side effects (of course!)... all except an insatiable hunger
for human flesh! <insert maniacal laughter here>
This becomes apparent to them when their first experiment; a beautiful
(and naked Miwa, in her film debut) corpse attacks a doctor right
before opening credits.
Meanwhile, a group of bandits (including our heroine
Saki, played inconsistently by Kaori Shimamura, and comic relief
Akira, played with gusto by Osamu Ebara) rob a jewelry store in
the middle of the day. After a successful robbery (though not quite
as successful for Akira, as he ends up being stabbed in the foot
by a teller), they contact the person they want to exchange the
jewels for money for. They agree to meet at an abandoned plant outside
of the city where the cops won't find them... (and I do think you
know where this is going... )
Elsewhere, a doctor (Yuji Kashimoto) is summoned
by the US military to answer questions about experiments involving
DNX. He claims the experiments were terminated years ago and have
long since forgotten about it. Unbeknownst to him, the experiments
were still conducted by his former colleague (the one that was eaten
during the pre-opening credits, by the way). He is shocked to find
this out, and demands to know where these experiments have been
going on. They have been taking place at an abandoned plant outside
of the city… yep, you guessed it...
As the thieving four meet at the said plant, unaware
of the zombie activity afoot, they wait for their Yakuza benefactor
that’ll take the jewelry loot off their hands in exchange
for dough. While there, the supposed leader of the group attempts
to strike a deal with Saki, to kill off the other two for a bigger
share of the money. Saki refuses (a thief with a conscience –
like we’ve never seen that before), so she saunters off, leaving
him to be impaled, and later, eaten, by zombies, but not before
he lets out a bloodcurdling scream that gets the other three a-running.
They tear through the plant and stumble upon a room where a bunch
of bodies have been tied up and wrapped in sheets.
They brush this off and continue exploring, only
to find their friend being eaten by two zombies (stomach open, innards
being scooped out and chewed aimlessly). This naturally disgusts
the heck out of them. Another zombie pops out of nowhere, so they
start shooting at it. Stomach - BANG!!! – still alive! Chest
- BANG!!!! – still alive! Head – okay, that
did it ;-) They therefore conclude that there are zombies around
them and that they should get the hell out of there.
Running out, they run into Yakuza king and money
exchanger Ramon (Satsujin Gota) who, strangely enough, wonders where
they're running off to in such a gosh-dang hurry. Naturally, they
tell the truth – ZOMBIES ARE AFTER THEM!!! You can imagine
his and his posse’s reaction, being hardened Yakuzas and all.
Whatever, they decide to get down to business and do the exchange,
only to find that when three thieves give up their stolen loot,
they get exchanged with a complete arsenal. And believe me, it’s
not for them to use. To show that Yakuza posse mean business, they
shoot one of the thieves. And then there were two. Right before
they’re done in as well, in comes a zombie, chews the neck
off one of the Yakuzas, and all hell breaks loose. Even more hell
breaks loose when during a gunfight, bullets shatter vats and tubs
of the jolly green life-giving liquid DNX and it pours all over
a bunch of dead bodies, therefore bringing them to life! How convenient!
At this point, things get pretty zombie-movie generic.
The living try to outwit, outplay, and outlast the undead, and even
each other, all for the prize of survival, and that bag of jewelry
that was still at play. Throughout, we are treated to more zombies
munching on human innards and body parts, a subplot involving a
past relationship, a Lara Croft-esque gunfight, an unintentionally
hilarious Michael Jackson Thriller rip-off (you have to look closely,
around 58 minutes into the film), and more topless shots of the
zombie who is revealed to be the Queen – who unbelievably,
sometime during the third act, gets a kick-ass leather outfit (complete
with matching leather knee-high boots), a platinum-blonde wig, and
contact lenses (twice!). I’m not gonna tell you how it ends,
because that would be like giving a fish a bath. You already know
how it ends. Trust me.
bad acting (especially from the American "actors"), unrealistically
gory violence (everything looks rubbery) and monumentally
bad dialogue (here’s a prime example – when Akira sees
the doctor and another soldier arrive at the plant, he exclaims
“Shit! What’s the army doing here?” I
don’t know about you Akira, but two people, an army does not
make), are several reasons why Junk simply does not work.
It’s sloppy, to say the least.
The editing is quite decent (probably the only decent thing about
this film). But it’s the acting that really gets to me. Especially
of Shinamura’s. She has this annoying tendency to get out
of character. One minute, she’s kick-ass, brandishing this
season's niftiest semi-automatic firearm; the next she’s screaming
her head off, running and ducking in a girly fashion. The dialogue
is unforgivable. For example, Kashimoto’s English
is, I’m sorry to say, atrocious. They should’ve just
dubbed over him with something a bit more coherent. Thank God his
English lines were subbed as well, otherwise I wouldn’t have
understood a thing. And the direction – OH MY GAWD!!! I have
absolutely no idea what Muroga wanted to happen in this
film. Every action and reaction from the actors/characters was pointless.
No development, no plot, no excitement.
Having said that, this film does have
its target audience (I ain’t one of ‘em). It’s
a film for those who enjoy zombie movies, plain and simple. It’s
for those who like simple plot lines, in-your-face accessible gore,
and a speedy running time. It’s for those who don’t
want to think about what they’re watching – the leave-your-brain-at-the-door
crowd. It’s for those who love their movies to not have any
redeeming values whatsoever. But for those who are interested in
the genre but want something more, I suggest you pick up Danny Boyle’s
brilliant 28 Days Later as a more intelligent, and a whole
lot scarier, alternative. It’s a film that goes against every
zombie movie cliché ever put on celluloid.
The Japanese Horror Film-loving crowd might hate
me for this review, since Junk is one of the most talked-about
titles to come out of the horror film wave of Japan. But truth be
told, it’s not a very good movie. I came into this film with
the intent of judging it for what it was, not what I expected it
to be. To not compare it to the masterpieces of the genre (Kairo,
Battle Royale, Ring).
I really tried so hard to like this movie, and though several might
think it to have some good points – even guilty pleasures
- I just can’t find them here. It’s not shocking, not
unnerving, it didn’t even spoil my appetite (I was eating
spaghetti at the time I watched this). So clearly, this just doesn’t
work for me.
To sum up, I guess I just have this to say: after
seeing this movie, I now know why it’s called Junk.
Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 2/10
Gore: pure and uncut Heinz Ketchup/10
Explosions: BOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!! WHOOOOMPH!!! BAANNNNNGGG!!!/10
Dialogue: written by 10 monkeys on 10 typewriters in 10 ... minutes
Everybody Fights!: yeah, to be the first to switch off the TV when
the movie starts
Topless (And Pointless) Nudie Zombie Ladies: only the one, sorry
to disappoint you fellas ;-)
Similar Gory Films Of A Genuinely Better Calibre: Wild
Zero, Bio-Zombie, anything from the Guinea
Pig series, Versus, Stacy, Another Heaven
***Only for rabid fans of zombie genre flicks - otherwise, avoid
at all costs***
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600]
Wallpaper credit: Larry Burns, 2003
Snowblood Apple Filmographies
is a film on which, like Evil Dead
Trap, opinion seems to be heavily divided: there are those
who worship this movie as a classic innovator of the Japanese Zombie
genre, as well as others who think it stinks worse than a three-day-old
reanimated topless lady corpse. So, don't just take our word for
it - here's a cross-section of opinion!
- Artsmagic have released Junk on a special uncut
edition R2 PAL DVD - there are some short reviews here, a
really nice gory wallpaper for you to download, and loads of images
from the film
- and while you're there, read this delightfully titled article
"Zombie Nosh: Wild Zero and Junk" by Kim Kiyoma
- our friends at Unearthed Films have also just now released an
NTSC version of the movie which you can also buy here if NTSC suits
you better - there are also some goodies on this site, such as a
downloadable trailer and lots of pictures
- oh dear, Gareth at JPReview hates this movie almost as
much as we do :-)
- a fairly ambivalent review at KFC Cinema, by Janick Neveu
- this review is subtitled, I kid you not, "The Dead Walk....
Slowly" ;-D sheer genius.
- short review in Italian, with some small images
- a thoroughly schizophrenic review from those lovely chaps at Arrow
in the Head, whose conclusion is that Junk is simultaneously
supercrappy and supercool ;-)
- another positive review, for which I am completely and utterly
- ...and another from Keith Allison!...
- ...well, that makes three in a row ;-)
- technical specs and a short summary in German