Tuesday, February 16

The Return of Japanese AV Distributor MAD VIDEO?

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Details are sketchy, my Japanese is awful, but it appears the rebirth of one of the most notorious home video labels is imminent. During the late '80s to mid '90s, V&R Planning's Mad Video released a gamut of brutal shockumentaries mostly comprised of newsreel culled from Asia and South America. Their most proficient series, Death File, ran for fourteen volumes with a final omnibus completing the set. Mad also released several Faces of Death installments and the Guinea Pig compilation Slaughter Special in 1988. V&R became so involved in these shock films that studio founder Kaoru Adachi, who narrated the Death File series, acted as co-director and executive producer of Faces of Death 4 (1990). Even going as far as to travel to Brazil to capture footage firsthand.

Almost understandably, none of these have been officially made available on anything but their original VHS editions in Japan. Although now V&R is resurrecting Mad Video beginning in June. Adachi has been filming a new shot-on-video feature under the working title, よみがえり遊び ひとりかくれんぼ (roughly: Resurrected: Hide and Seek), for debut on the revamped label. It's unclear whether Mad is looking to re-release their prior catalog, but this blog entry seems to indicate they're waiting for a ban to be lifted later this year.

As to what this ban entails? I'm unsure since I always believed their brand of especially insane shockumentary was never formally "banned" even after the copycat crimes of Tsutomu Miyazaki and infamous Charlie Sheen/FBI incident cast shade upon the Guinea Pig series. Along with their blog above, Mad Video has been ramping up their social media presence on Twitter, interesting to note their header is from American Guinea Pig, and a new YouTube channel with a brief interview with Adachi. Japanese cult clothing outfit Terror Factory, that ship internationally, have also released a Mad Video logo t-shirt and hoodie. Guess it's fair warning to get those barf bags ready for summer...

(Kaoru Adachi on the set of よみがえり遊び ひとりかくれんぼ)

Friday, February 12

Some quick thoughts on Zombie Fight Club (屍城 / Dead City) (2014)

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A sudden zombie outbreak occurs in an "anonymous" apartment building in Taipei driving residents, including a SWAT team on a corrupt mission caught in the wrong place, to fight or die. Eventually, "fight or die" becomes the mantra as humanity falls and the living are forced to battle the undead with their bare hands.

Nothing like truth in advertising...or not. Joe Chien's far too serious Zombie Fight Club is godawful, falling terribly short of the light and fun standards of other Eastern zombie outings like fellow Hong Kong production Bio-Zombie (1998), Thailand's SARS Wars (2004), or Japan's Junk (2000). Still being my very-forgiving-toward-zombiedom self, this hyperactive piece of crap obviously aimed at the hollow-headed teen demo has to fail on several fronts to entertain, or make much sense, to earn this much damnation.

The worst sin Chien commits, that's actually quite reminiscent of Uwe Boll, is the flaky structure of even the most basic storytelling. Starting thirty minutes before the chaos, we're introduced to the principals, which only amount to three characters despite throwing in a slew that ultimately only appear important. Model Jessica C. is Jenny, a damsel in distress whose only job is to be attractive at the hip of our hero, the only moral police officer Andy (Andy On, True Legend). Jack Kao (Shinjuku Incident) appears as a father who turns to ruthless means to protect his infected daughter and Michael Wong (Beast Cops) is mostly wasted as the bastard captain of the SWAT team. Everyone else acts as nameless zombie chow in the same few apartments and hallways over-and-over to pad the ninety minutes.

Then suddenly, literally a few seconds into the exact one hour mark, Zombie Fight Club finally becomes a fight club with zombies (original!). On-screen text introduces us to the same world one year later. Kao's crazed father character has gone full Night of the Living Dead Harry refusing to admit the zombified state of his daughter while lording over living vs. dead brawls. Ridiculous, right? A tonal shift so striking it's tough to mentally wrap one's head around. Seemingly as of Chien purposely edited one hour of a film entitled "Emergency! Taipei Apartment Zombies!" to smashcut together with what originally was Zombie Fight Club. The last half-hour picks up after the redundancy of the first sixty minutes with a couple scraps of flashy fisticuffs. However, events play out as expected if you've ever seen Romero's 1968 classic as Jessica and Andy struggle to remain unbitten.

Major plot grumbles aside, Apartment Complex Fight of the Dead does something that will piss most aficionados off even more. Every splatterly squib, blown-off head, or ripped limb is completely CG. That shitty fast n' cheeseball CG too and not the more skillful touch often seen in The Walking Dead. There's a few great zombie make-up jobs, but the computer-assisted onslaught proves impossible to ignore. Nothing involving the red stuff remains untouched. This even extends into gunfire and explosions, so the visceral impact of both the horror and action simply isn't there. Of course, if you can get beyond this, you might be able to find enjoyment while also ignoring the structural frustrations.

Being too hard on what's knowingly popcorn junk? Nah, problem is there's plenty of other zombie flicks that also don't reinvent the wheel but are actually very entertaining. Zombie Fight Club is a mess that constantly prohibits your brain from shutting off. It's bad when the most interesting aspect is the odd choice of having ample English peppered randomly amongst the Mandarin. Sometimes even characters that at first speak Mandarin switch to English, that's not dubbed in, for no reason. For the curious, wait to pick it up used from all those Walmart impulse purchases and don't be fooled by the title, cover, or Scream Factory's straw grabbin' synopsis on the back cover.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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