April 3, 2010

Battle Girl (Review)


Battle Girl: The Living Dead 
in Tokyo Bay  (1991)
aka Batoru gâru

Director: Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu


1/5 zedheads

Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay (aka. Batoru gâru) is an incomprehensible dog's breakfast of film-making straight out of the Japan. Released in 1991, Synapse films has put the film on DVD this year for North America audiences. Lucky us. Not only has the film not aged well, but it's clearly a poor film to begin with. Pitiful special effects, a nonsensical plot, and shoddy pacing conspire to sink this film right to the bottom of the bay alluded to in the English title.

A meteor from space (as opposed to one of those meteors from the ocean) crashes into the bay of Tokyo, causing untold amounts off-screen devastation. Through exposition, we learn that the meteor has kicked up a black shield of toxic dust around the bay area. Those in the affected area have become infected with cosmo-amphetamine, a DNA-altering element that turns people into zombies after they die. In response, a force from the Japanese military has quarantined the area. Inside the quarantine zone, K-ko (Cutie Suzuki) is given instructions by another faction of the military to don an advanced Battle Suit and help save the survivors.

As clear as that synopsis may be, the film itself is convoluted as hell. Battle Girl has never heard of character introductions, apparently. When we first meet K-ko, we have no idea who she is, why she's receiving military instructions, or even if the military instructions are coming from the same military douche bags led by General Hugioka (Kenji Otsuki) that we saw earlier in the film demonstrate no restraint in killing innocent civilians. It's not until later we learn that she's working for her father who is leading a noble military rescue mission. On the other hand, General Hugioka is trying to create a race of zombie soldiers and is experimenting on survivors and refugees. K-ko is told that a group of people are hunting both humans and zombies within the quarantine zone. It turns out that these hunters, all of whom are female and dress like the WWF's Legion of Doom, are too working for General Hugioka. Again, none of this is clear until half-way through the film. Also introduced inexplicably into the film are the Battle Kids, apparent juvenile gunrunners who have managed in three days after the meteor strike to create a business and infrastructure for providing refugee camps with weapons. I guess in an apocalypse the Japanese are just way more efficient than the West. The Battle Kids eventually cross paths with K-ko. People fight, people die, and they turn into zombies. We know they're zombies because they jerk around and spit green goo from their mouths.

Speaking of green goo, this film reminds me a lot of the tone and aesthetic of Zombi 3 (review) and Zombie 4: After Death (review). All these films are shot with the same grainy film stock, use poorly lit sets to hide the shoddy zombie makeup and effects, and are sloppily edited. For example, there's a scene in which K-ko, augmented by the power of her battle suit, is holding up a guard against the wall by his throat -- but he's being held upside down. Kind of a cool visual to show how strong she is. However, when she lets go and he falls down the wall, you can plainly see the wire that was holding him up in the first place. Should have cut a bit sooner there, buddy. In other cases, cuts are made painfully too soon, such as when a cut is made that interrupts the score in mid-melody.

The whole production is over-acted with really poor choreography, lifeless characters, and the thinnest of plots. You're not going to find a gem of Asian cult cinema in Battle Girl, not even if you watch it ironically.

Down by the bay
Where the undead zombies moan
Back to my home
I dare not go
Cuz if I do
My mother will say,
"Have you ever seen a DVD
That could make you this sleepy?"
Down by the bay!