Saturday, August 05, 2017

Fantasia ’17: Kodoku Meatball Machine

It is sort of like Stephen King’s Under the Doom, but with gallons more gore. The director claims he used four tons of fake blood, but that sounds like a conservative estimate based on what’s on the screen. Regardless, a neighborhood filled with some of the worst people in Tokyo is in for a mutated beatdown when a cosmic bell jar cuts them off from the rest of the city in mad man Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Kodoku Meatball Machine (trailer here), which screened during the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Job never knew how good he had it, compared to poor, put-upon Yuji. The would-be debt collector is a magnet for all the neighborhood’s bullies, grifters, and freeloaders. He was already deeply in debt when he received a terminal cancer diagnosis. He is about ready to just cash-in, but he still finds himself attracted to Kaoru, the pretty girl working at his local used bookstore. Unfortunately, she is involved in an exploitative cult.

The hits just keep coming when an evil little boy in the cult frames Yuji for assaulting him. However, at least he will be safely tucked away in jail when the bell jar lands. The less “fortunate” will have embarrassing body parts sheared off by the impenetrable barrier. Once the neighborhood is cut off, some sort of space parasite starts infecting Yuji’s neighbors, turning them into rabid bio-mecha killing machines. They get to Yuji too, but he is able to maintain control of his new cyborg-like body, thanks to his cancerous blood. Old enemies become allies when the altered Yuji teams up with a dojo of ex-cops to save Kaoru from her infected guru.

Believe it or not, Nishimura actually makes us care about Yuji and Kaoru. They deserve better than they’ve ever got or are likely to get. However, the reason to see a Nishimura movie is the wildly gory practical effects and maybe some bare breasts. He does not disappoint on either score, particularly the former. Four tons worth. However, the bizarre harlequin-witches who usher in the alien occupation are devilishly intriguing, especially since they are played by Eihi Shiina, best known as the femme fatale for the ages in Takashi Miike’s Audition.

Right, at least four tons of fake blood. You can’t say you don’t know what you’re getting into with KMM. It should safely vault Nishimura past Noboru Iguchi to become the uncontested king of Japanese gore. Yet, the fact that he maintains a semblance of a human element amid all the berserk chaos is rather impressive. If you dig Nishimura, this Meatball is your huckleberry. Recommended accordingly, Kodoku Meatball Machine has another high-profile international festival screening coming up at Fright Fest UK, following its Canadian premiere at this year’s Fantasia.