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Meatball Machine Kodoku (SXSW Review)

This is just the kind of midnight movie I was waiting for at SXSW! Meatball Machine Kodoku has tons of ridiculous gore effects (actually 4 tons of fake blood were used on the film according to the director), an insane plot that doesn’t need to make any sense, and completely over-the-top action scenes. This is a direct sequel to 2005’s Meatball Machine from the same director, Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police), and by direct sequel I mean it shares almost the same exact plot as the original, but with better effects and a tighter plot (plot, in this case is a very loose interpretation of the term). This movie is a hilarious, blood-filled, wackily Japanese, complete crazefest of a blast!

Meatball Machine Kodoku, as far as one can reasonably be expected to be able to tell, is about a bill collector named Yuji, who has very little confidence and isn’t very good at his job. He is broke and his boss is breathing down his neck when he finds out he also has stomach cancer. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Okay, so then a giant glass bottle comes down from outer space and covers a large portion of Yuji’s city, while strangely dressed women release alien parasites all over the entrapped portion of the city. These parasites take over a person’s mind, blind them, and turn their bodies into metal-infused fighting machines that the parasites use to fight against each other in order to ingest the other parasite (called necroborgs in the description of the film on the SXSW website, but never within the film itself) and grow more powerful. When Yuji gets infected, his cancer cells fight off the parasite leaving him in control of his half machine body ad he vows to protect a friendly young woman, Koru, who he knows from a book store, while carnage and parasite-infected people from his life do their best to stop him.

There are also like 5 different b-plots going on at the same time that sort of resolve and sort of have bearing on the main story, but none of that really even matters, because this movie rules. There are inventive action sequences with characters infected by the necroborgs taking on the physical attributes of the thing they like most (for example, a guy who is seen early in the film jackhammering the sidewalk has now grown a jackhammer arm). There is a beyond-gratuitous amount of blood just gushing out of every wound and from every attack. There is a guy who is part of what seems like an elite police fighting force who uses two small wooden stools as his weapons and at one point slips in some drunken boxing. There is so much out-of-control wackiness going on and all of it is charming, funny, and delightful to observe.

For a movie like this, while things like cinematography, editing, sound design, and the like don’t all have to be really up to snuff, since they are throwing gallons and gallons of blood on the screen and the audience sees only a portion of what is going on anyway, but the film is surprisingly well made. It is leaps and bounds ahead of the film that preceded it in the series, which is appreciated, since the director shows that he has a passion for putting genuine work into this frenzied fever-dream of a film. The use of practical effects is great and very effective, with the costumes of infected people looking very detailed and realistic. The gore effects, while absurdly excessive, are gorgeous and decadent. This is just a well-crafted, completely bonkers, yet easily lovable gorefest.

Obviously, a film like this doesn’t have a very wide audience. It is in Japanese with subtitles, it is firmly within the bananas-level-of-gore Japanese action horror genre, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it is not. But, as a fan of these kinds of things myself, Meatball Machine Kodoku will end up being the kind of thing that I show people I will run across in my life who like these kinds of things and haven’t yet seen it. And we will have a great time laughing and cringing and scratching our heads. I think you should get rid of all your hang-ups and come join us!

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I like to be challenged to think about things, so I studied Philosophy in college. Now I am paying for it.

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