While the popularity of Japanese horror film remakes has seemed to have died out recently, there was a time not too long ago that horror movie aficionados had a taste for foreign cuisine when it came to their boo-feasts.
Hollywood, for a while, had embraced Japan when looking for guidance on how to build a better scare. From The Ring to The Grudge, Hollywood was churning out remakes of Japanese ghost movies like they were going out of style (which I guess they actually did eventually do).
There were, of course, several themes that permeated most of the Americanized J-horror films.
DROWNING YOUR SCREAMS
From The Ring‘s Samara’s aversion to water to the titular role that it plays in Dark Water, H20 is a mainstay in Japanese horror movies.
It may be because Japan is surrounded by water or it could just be a reflection of the fact that drowning is a really painful way to die, but where there are ghosts, water is surely not far behind.
It seems that in Japanese horror films, one can’t swing a mewing cat-boy around his head without hitting a bathtub that’s mysteriously filled with grimy water.
If confronted with this strange phenomenon, you should always remember to listen to that little voice inside your head called common sense.
Chances are good that the bathtub is filled with some kind of ghostly nasty and more often than not, the dirtier the water is, the creepier the ghost will be. Instead of dipping an appendage into the tub to look for the drain, turn around and walk away.
You don’t need to take a bath; you can just use Febreeze to freshen up.
I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR
It used to be that prepubescent boys could go to a horror film and rest assured that they were about to feast their ever-hungry eyes upon a scantly clad co-ed running from a killer with an almost too-phallic-shaped-to-be-coincidental knife.
Today’s girl-crazy boys in search of some dominance-wish-fulfillment-escapism have it tough though. Instead of nubile young females, Japanese-influenced horror movies feature strong independent women who can more then hold their own in a supernatural smack down. From Naomi Watts to Jennifer Connelly, Japanese influenced horror movies have all had heroines who offer more to a fight than just a good scream.
It’s not clear if this is a reflection of today’s progressive society or more of Hollywood pandering to the cash-carrying “tween” demographic, but one thing is clear: Women can, and often will, kick butt when ghosts are involved.
BETTER LIVING THROUGH MODERN TECHNOLOGY
For such an ancient tradition, ghost stories have been given a technological facelift courtesy of the modern Japanese horror film. Ghosts are no longer content with rattling chains and wearing sheets.
Instead, today’s dead utilize the latest in technological advances to further their scare tactics. When it comes to cursed videos and other tech-savvy ghost shenanigans, nothing is what it seems.
Why the fixation on technology when it comes to horror?
It could be Japan’s dependence on tech gadgets that drives their fear of technological breakdown. The fact that America bombed the country during World War II could also have a lot to do with it, too.
The boom of atomic radiated monster movies in the fifties is surely a reflection in itself of Japan’s paranoia.
Either way, if life reflects art, readers should be wary of anything they read or see in the media least a ghost come out of it.
In fact, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood releases a film about a haunted movie entertainment column.
Bad Movie of the Week — Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay
God bless the Japanese. As a country, they might enjoy technical advancements, social prosperity and a lovely education system but when it comes to monsters, they are shit out of luck.
Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay, or Battle Girl as I will refer to it from now on, is a 1991 Japanese zombie movie scheduled for release on DVD in February from Synapse films.
Japanese female wrestler Cutie Suzuki plays the titular (huh huh) Battle Girl, a woman sent on a rescue mission to help the survivors of a deadly zombie outbreak that has overtaken Tokyo.
To help her combat the horde of deadly zombies swarming the city streets, K-ko, the Battle Girl, is armed with a Battle Suit — a body-armor get-up that comes with all kinds of essential features: bullet-proof pads, hidden blades and retractable sunglasses. Now the epitome of cool, K-ko is ready to kick some zombie tail.
Unfortunately for our heroine, zombies are not the only threat she has to contend with. An evil military genius has gone rouge and is using the zombies in an experiment designed to further his goal of world conquest. Using a version of the very bacteria that causes zombification (a mixture equal parts meteor goop and ocean water sludge), the general is creating an army of unstoppable zombie solders — brain-eating killers that can not only repair any wound but are proficient at using military weapons.
Even worse, K-ko must combat the general’s elite task squad of soldiers — The Monsters. These fools are a group of androgynous football pad-clad warriors with ridiculous looking face paint that leaves them looking like KISS castoffs.
When she’s not kicking in the soft, green goo-filled faces of zombies and evil solders alike, K-ko must gather up survivors and lead them to safety.
Trouble comes, though, due to an invisible shield that was put up immediately after the zombie outbreak. This barrier has not only turned Tokyo into a dark dreary post-apocalyptic wasteland, it fries anybody who tries to cross it — including a poor hapless pooch who finds death at the hands of the granddaddy of all invisible fences.
To the tune of a cheesy synth soundtrack, K-ko uses a variety of weapons to dispatch both zombies and solders with extreme prejudice.
Using all the various early ‘90s gore special effects at his disposal, director Kazuo “Gaira” Komizu showers the screen with all the bright green zombie blood he can afford.
Battle Girl is a bad movie — of that there is no question. What’s debatable, though, is whether or not it’s a fun movie.
While I can appreciate a cheesy Japanese zombie movie as much as the next guy (a bit more then the next guy, some might argue), there was just something missing from Battle Girl that was needed to get my nether-regions all wet with excitement.
Maybe it was the lack of a tongue-in-check attitude or the extremely slow progression of the story, but the film was just not the cheesy exploitation gorefest I had hoped it would be.
It certainly has tone and atmosphere — that’s not in debate. Komizu does an excellent job of building a dark and foggy Tokyo that could be right out of a Ridley Scott film. But that’s about where the comparisons to Blade Runner end.
Not insightful or original enough to be considered a classic for its quality, Battle Girl is also not terrible enough to recommend for its campiness.
If you are a huge fan of Japanese zombie movies or the thought of a live-action anime staring a female wrestler who has body armor designed to accentuate her breasts sounds like your idea of a wet dream, then by all means check out Battle Girl. Otherwise, there is absolutely no need to break down the doors of your video store in an attempt to pick this flick up.
Robert Saucedo is also neither insightful nor original enough to be considered a classic. Visit him on the web anyway at www.robsaucedo.com.
Tags: Bad Movies Done Right, Blade Runner, Godzilla, Jennifer Connelly, Kristen Bell, Naomi Watts, Ridley Scott