My notes on Kodoku: Mîtobôru mashin (Meatball Machine Kodoku).The 1999 Japanese cyberpunk/splatterpunk fusion film Meatball Machine – which drew inspiration from Shinya Tsukumoto’s Tetsuo films and early, funny, ultra-gory Peter Jackson in about equal part – founded a cycle of imitations, spin-offs and footnotes, especially after a more elaborate 2005 remake of the same name, but this is the first attempt at a sequel, albeit a thematic follow-up that feels more like a reboot. Gore guru Yoshihiro Nishimura worked on the effects of the original film but stepped up to direct the spinoff short Meatball Machine: Reject of Death and a run of similarly splattery efforts like Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl and Mutant Girls Squad. That he gets a possessory credit for directing, co-writing (with Sakichi Sato), editing and creature effects designing/supervising Meatball Machine Kodoku shows just how much he has become identified with the peculiar, if repetitive sub-genre of shrieking Japanese transforming into weird flesh-metal creations and hacking each other up in creative ways.
A deceptively down-to-earth opening reel has Yuji Noda (Yoji Tanaka), a balding fifty-year-old shlub trudging around an inner city district being crap at his job of debt collection – his boss yells at him so much he taps his own savings account to settle debts when cheating deadbeats won’t even cough up down payments (one old git pretends to be deaf whenever the collector calls). Everyone seems to want to gouge or abuse him, and even Kaori (Yurisa), the bookshop girl he likes, only takes him to a church where a guru wants to tap him for a heavy subscription payment. A trip to a sub-David Lynch stripper bar turns bad when he gets ripped off by the clipjoint and tossed out in the street. Oh, and he’s just found out that guts ache which doubles him over periodically is stomach cancer and he has at best three months to live. Plainly, this is a setup for the ever-popular ‘turning worm’ scenario (cf: Willard, Carrie, The Mask) whereby an all-round victim gets transformed and is able to get gruesome revenge at the cost of his soul … also in the area are a couple of odd women with long white hair and strange tall hats (played by Eihi Shiina, from Audition), who are making a circle with prosaic white-line painting machines while what looks like a large glass jamjar tumbles through outer space towards the Earth, landing in what we might take as a parody of Stephen King’s Under the Dome and sealing off the whole area (incidentally, chopping off the dick of a guy pissing over the line, bisecting a fornicating couple whose lower ends keep thrusting while their waists pump blood, etc).
The hat girls turn out to be aliens and unleash a horde of parasites that land on various characters, transforming them into mutants shaped by their own obsessions – a girl who fiddles with her hair grows giant scissorhands, an automotive sex pest becomes a car-bike, a road worker absorbs his own pneumatic drill, and so on. Yuji is infected, but the cancer kills the parasite pilot (it looks like a set of false teeth with crab arms) and he transforms into a flesh-machine while retaining his sanity. Teaming up with uninfected, undercharacterised martial arts-proficient cops (my favourite is the one whose specialty weapons are wooden chairs), Yuji does battle with the other mutants, with a view to saving Kaori. But if he finds her, will she be in any state to be saved … and what are the aliens about with this whole bottling scheme anyway? An opening caption about distilling poisons by tossing venomous beasties into a pot is a hint, but it takes a hilarious alien commercial at the end to reveal what’s really behind all the gore.
However, before we get to the emotional payoff and the plot resolution there are a bunch of ridiculous scenes to get through – most of which run on too long, as with a fight with transformed strippers (one has huge machine gun boobs) and the weird bit as the heroine whips off her bra and uses it as reins to ride the would-be rapist car mutant like a chariot. A problem with this whole genre is that the amazingness tends to pall after a while and all the gobbets of flesh, showers of gore and stuck-on power tool limbs blur into one big orgy of splat that buries the slender character story in excess. Still, it’s undeniably far out – and Tanaka and Yurisa manage to find moments of sweetness in the carnage.
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