|The Plot: Okay, well, this one isn’t going to be the easiest to explain. Essentially, Japan has become overrun with alien creatures. Well, no one knows exactly what they are or where they come from – but essentially they look like giant cockroaches and go from human to human, and use said mammal to host their embryo type creatures that form a massive robotic-like structured around the humans. This process starts with the massive cockroach latching to the human’s chest, then stabbing into the chest while tentacles ravage their body and take control of all limbs – while also drilling through the eyeballs and leaving circular plates over the eye sockets. Yeah, so, we have plenty of craziness here. So, enter our hero. A young man, quiet and still a virgin at the age of 25 and working in machine labor, he spends his days staring at the beautiful woman across the road. When he finds one of the cockroach type creatures injured in the junk yard however, his life changes forever. Will he find true love? Will he or she survive it all?|
The Review: I’ve been meaning to see this film for quite a while but simply kept letting it slip my mind. Since the first time I caught a glimpse of one of the “infested” in a copy of Fangoria (or was that Rue Morgue? Can’t even remember) I’ve been kicking myself for not seeing it before the big magazine publications were covering it! Sigh, I used to be better than that! Oh well, there’s no getting past it, the makeup and FX work in Meatball Machine is simply stunning. The design is so memorable and grotesque at times that it almost doesn’t seem fair to the competition. Although made on a tiny budget, the innovative ideas of the filmmakers created something genuinely new in concept – even if they have unfairly been compared to Shinya Tsukamoto, despite how drastically different this film is to his work. Essentially the comparison comes down to the fact that this is a Japanese cyberpunk film that features mutilated flesh. The entire structure of the plot, the pacing of the film, the love story and even the fact that these are bugs creating these “borg” type creatures rather than metal growing from the inside out – seperate Meatball Machine as its very own film aside the Tetsuo series. However, I will not go all out and say that Meatball Machine is anything simply amazing or even better than director Yûdai Yamaguchi’s previously best known film Battlefield Baseball (a film I think only I really enjoyed sometimes) but it is a very innovative and sometimes fun, sometimes disgusting slice of Japanese underground cyberpunk.
So who would be the target audience for a film like Meatball Machine? Well, that’s the million dollar question I suppose since so many seem to draw something completely different from it. Some folks seem to lump it up as simply a ripoff of everything Shinya Tsukamoto has ever made, some claim it to be a sole excercize in style with no real content within the film. In terms of the latter, there is an argument there I suppose. The plot and motivation for our characters are somewhat thin, but if you will allow yourself to become absorbed with the film – the love that the characters show for one another is truly a traumatic thing and works as a terrible tragedy that can push the audience quite a lot; if you will allow it. The film bears the look of your average V-Cinema entry, with the introductory 3D FX that so many seem to bear, however once the film picks up it loses that stigma almost immediaely due to the cosmetic FX and excellent use of lighting along with cinematography. The look of the film is really great, and the acting my the majority of the cast is certainly passable. There really isn’t room for much scenery chewing or deeply moving performances, which isn’t to say they are just pawns, the story simply doesn’t call for it. This is essentially live action anime, it doesn’t always make sense, you’ll more than likely be left scratching your head – but there’s blood, guts, everything looks fantastic and your hair will stand on end by the conclusion of the film. This isn’t Fellini, but if you’re looking for something different and you’re a big fan of Japanese cinema – how could you pass up the latest and greatest “weird” flick on the block!
Down to the gore, is Meatball Machine really all it is hyped up to be? Well, more than Tsukamoto’s violence I was reminded of the film Organ for Meatball Machine – made by an associate of Tsukamoto oddly enough. The way that film showed the human form to essentially be an endless blob of flesh and organs, this film seems to carry that same style into the violence of the film. Blood and guts are mainstays throughout the duration of the movie but is it as gory as the recently reviewed The Machine Girl? No, I can’t really say that. It is certainly a splatterfest, but if you’re under the illusion that it is one of the goriest films released in years – you might be in for a letdown. However, if you’re expecting a trippy guide through a weird and strange world with a lightning quick pulse and a story that jumps until it breaks through the roof of all things bizarre? You’re in the right spot. I give the film a four out of five, it has it’s pitfalls and is far from one of the best ever – but it is a good bit of fun and one heck of a weird (but interesting!) movie!