It has been a few years since I’ve had the pleasure of screening a film from the twistedly gory mind of special effects/make-up artist extraordinaire, Yoshihiro Nishimura (Helldriver, Tokyo Gore Police), and his return to my mind comes with open arms. The Japanese director returns to Fantasia Fest with the Canadian premiere of Kodoku Meatball Machine (Kodoku: Mitoboru mashin), the perfect midnight title for a festival such as this.
A reboot/sequel of Yudai Yamaguchi’s splatterific cyberpunk film Meatball Machine, Nishimura’s Kodoku Meatball Machine is a shotgun blast to the senses. The plot is pretty simple: a bunch of aliens quarantine a city and within this walled off zone these parasitic aliens hijack the brains of the humans, turning them into gnarly battle machine/monsters, aka NecroBorgs, that evolve when they win a fight and snort the soul out of the losing victim. The film centers on a pathetic businessman (Yoji Tanaka) who discovers a new lease on life when he falls for a local woman, but when she is kidnapped, he must battle his way across the city in order to save her life and the other residents that live there.
Though it takes some time to get going, once the aliens strap themselves into the humans’ brains and transform them into warriors, the film pretty much puts the pedal to the floor with the action and over-the-top violence. The film has a video game-like approach, with each villain becoming more difficult to defeat and also taking on ridiculous violent attributes i.e. one guy is a violent motorcycle hybrid while a group of strippers later develop machine gun nipples, among other things. Each villain pops up shortly after the prior one is defeated making sure the audience has very little time to recover from the insanely bloody scenes.
The best attributes of the film come from the make-up artist talents of Nishimura himself and the various effects that complement the gore of the film. Even with the ludicrous amount of blood exploding from wound incurred throughout the film, it’s hard not to highlight cool look of the monsters and the practical effects used to make each action scene semi-unique. It’s what really elevates the film from standard B-movie to special B-movie even if very few people ever see it. The costume designs are gnarly and memorable and when people are fighting, shooting bullets from their nipples or creating hybrid motorcycle human/beasts it becomes easy to forget how much work goes into creating those looks versus sticking to pure CG.
If anyone is familiar with the Japanese splatter genre and/or the work of Nishimura then you pretty much know what you’re in for: a wild time with a couple of very noticeable flaws. The movie is too long by probably 20-30 minutes and the overall plot/storytelling attributes don’t really exist once the action begins. Once our lead transforms into a conscious monster, we simply get a violent damsel in distress storyline and a pretty cookie cutter one at that.
Overall, Kodoku Meatball Machine is a mediocre B movie with great practical effects. It isn’t one of Nishimura’s better or memorable works, but it fits perfectly in-line with his other films when it comes to the level of gore you’d expect and the inventive costumes and make-up that made him a notorious name in the Japanese splatter genre.