Science Fiction splatter film, 2005

"They use us like pieces of machinery"
"They are attracted to people with negative thoughts. Those who are psychologically disturbed"

Tetsuo: The Iron Man meets Lynch's Eraserhead in an unlikely techno-zombie love story. This film, directed by Junichi Yamamoto is a remake of his 1999 outing by the same name (which he also wrote and directed). It's in Japanese with subtitles, though the dialogue is mostly secondary to the visuals. The plot is simple enough - boy meets girl. Then strange aliens meet mankind, take them over and mutate them into killing machines. Girl also gets mutated, boy seeks to rescue her from a fate worse than death. It's made on a teeny budget, the effects are at the same time cheesy and brilliantly gruesome, with plenty of guts and gore.

The premise is fairly straightforward. Aliens see mankind as an ideal vehicle for some bizarre war games. They take over human bodies using cyborg entities, which implant the alien organism (which looks like a cross between a naked mole rat and an ant lion larva). This causes the host body to mutate and produce a wide variety of weaponry. In turn these mutant "Necroborgs" seek out others of their kind and do battle with them, the winner eating the alien parasite "pilot" as a reward, with overtones of Highlander. According to one of the characters, a classic mad scientist, they seek out the mentally disturbed to act as hosts, enabling the human remains to interact with the pain of battle, and in turn, feeding negative thoughts and memories to the human's brain.

Boy meets Girl

Romeo and Juliet it isn't, but it is a sort of tragically bloody romance. I shan't spoil it by telling you how it ends, but it's quite unexpected and it its way, brilliant. Overall, it's a cheesy piece of schlock, but I was captivated by the brilliance of the makeup and alien machinery. There's a need to suspend disbelief, of course, especially when the 'borgs grow new weapons. Despite myself, I kept asking "where did that flesh, bone and metal circular saw suddenly come from?", but that's just me. The romantic side of the film is a little overplayed in my view, largely because anyone going to see a film about mutant humans eviscerating one another is hardly going to worry about the emotional turmoil of these lovers, although it is just possible that there are a sufficient number of romantic slashgeeks to make up for that.

The transformation scenes are gruesome if repetitive, with much trashing of metal tentacles and bloody closeups of machinery being implanted into eyeballs and such. It occasionally surprises, the outfits are well imagined and created, but it didn't hold me. In addition, there were a couple of occasions when identical footage of the machine working was used and overused. I give it 5/10 overall, mainly because I was neither terribly shocked nor scared at any point. It's a fairly decent work of cinematic art, destined to become a cult favourite. If you enjoyed Tetsuo and Eraserhead, you'll like this one, it's a great little outing into macabre and eccentric science fiction.

Plot spoilers follow:

Yoji is an introvert who works in an engineering factory, who falls in love with Sachiko, a survivor of incest and physical abuse, whom he watches on his lunch breaks. Having discovered a wounded alien cyborg, he takes it home and stashes it in his wardrobe. (Can you say "big mistake"? I knew you could.) Later, after he rescues Sachiko from a would-be rapist, he takes her home, with inevitable results. There's a technically wonderful, though disturbing scene during her transformation that is reminiscent of Demon Seed, in which the alien penetrates her, presumably for cinematic purposes, as there's no plot point to it. Having become a necroborg, she attacks and kills Yoji's father and goes on the run.

So far, so fairly predictable. However, he meets the scientist, who is breeding the aliens to feed his daughter, who was partly taken over and needs them to stay alive. He himself is attacked, but manages to kill the parasite before it fully takes him over. Part machine, but still mentally human, he takes off to seek and rescue his love.

Is it a worthy film? If you're not opposed to a little gore, and like outré Japanese films, it's worth looking out for. You know the score.

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