Ian Hatch (wererogue) wrote,
Ian Hatch

Fantasia Blog: Mutant Girls Squad

Warning: violent, gory, bad-taste trailer:

[The trailer for Tokyo Gore Police is narrated in Japanese, and shows portrait shots of three teenage girls in blood-spattered white 'armour' watching the camera through fountains of blood, intercut with scenes of fighting, mutilation and, notably, a girl with both upper arms severed spraying blood from the stumps. The trailer closes with a shot of the three girls standing together on top of a white car in front of a white banner; the blood spatter on the banner resembles the Japanese flag.]

Mutant Girls Squad is kind of a Tokyo Gore Grindhouse - a collaboration by three of the genre's master directors. As such, if you're familiar with the genre, the film holds few surprises, but what it does it does extremely well.

Tokyo Gore is really a special effects genre. The aim is to make cheap movies with strong visual impact through shocking and bloody special effects. The believability of the special effects (and of the plot, acting etc.) is a less important factor; the aim is to get a reaction, and the directors of Mutant Girls Squad are very good at that. Their filmographies are packed with latex-augmented limbs, amputations and never-ending arterial spray and way more organs that can reasonably come out of a human body. Now they've come together to make some kind of low-budget, blood-soaked juggernaut.

Apparently the plan was formed on napkins at the New York Asian Film Festival 2009, scarcely more than a year ago. The film is made in three parts, each directed by one of the collaborators, and it doesn't suffer for that at all; the only reason I could tell that the director had changed was the notice for each new chapter, and only then because we were told who directed each chapter before the film.

The film tells the story of Rin, a young girl who, upon turning 16 and having an awful day at school, learns that both she and her Father are HILKO; part of a humanoid race with 'mutated' appendages, hunted down by humans for centuries. At this moment a secret service team (with machine-gun nose armour) break down the door and kill her Father and Mother. The stress activates Rin's HILKO side, turning her into an instinctual killer with an almost hellraiser-esque, clawed, biomechanical right hand. Rin escapes, but a crowd at a nearby economically struggling mall mistake her for a 'legendary barbarian' (local myth says that barbarians live in the mountains) and try to kill and mount her to bring prosperity to the mall. In self-defense she slaughters them all bar one, who is killed by another HILKO, Rei.

Rei takes Rin to a small HILKO commune, where she meets Rei's boss Kisaragi and plenty of HILKO with colourful abilities (from Ear-Hands Girl to Ass-Chainsaw Girl,) and is trained to master her HILKO abilities by Rei. She is sent on a mission with Rei, whose mutation is Mussel Armour (seriously. The shellfish kind) and Yoshie the commune nurse, who has tentacle arms and some kind of facial appendage (possibly an ovipositor.) Together they assassinate the head of the government's anti-HILKO forces, but Rin rebels when asked by Kisaragi to kill the families there, including a former obnoxious classmate. She must then find some allies and rally them to prevent the HILKO from wiping out the human race.

The effects in the movie easily live up to the directors' pedigree, with crushed skulls, severed limbs, impalings, double-impalings, mutilations and plenty of mutations that would all be terrifyingly believable at a larp or murder mystery, and massively under-believable for most b-movies. Mutant Girls Squad, like its forbears, pulls it off with a mixture of camp self-awareness and sheer quantity over quality; you'd never see a film with better quality effects field the budget for this much blood, flesh and hell-borg augmentations.

Tokyo Gore movies have a tendency to focus on girls as the heroines, which is a quality that I applaud in contrast to the Hollywood approach. The films, Mutant Girls Squad included, aren't without their problems from a feminist point of view, though; they are generally still clearly designed for the male gaze, with a sex and violence aesthetic that's sometimes close to conflating the two. I wouldn't call them misogynistic, however. They often portray the heroines as paragons of righteous vengeance, bringing retribution to those who wronged them, whether man or woman. In the case of Mutant Girls Squad, I'd say that the worst offence is the othering of the main villain, Kisaragi, who dresses himself as a geisha and whose abilities are very symbolic of penile erection. In the second chapter, he is shown to have trouble maintaining his "belly sword," and the frustration drives him to greater atrocities against the humans. On the other hand, plenty of seemingly virile humans are shown to be just as despicable. Of course, it's best not to take any life messages from any movie which revels in its bad taste!

While Mutant Girls Squad was easily worth seeing, I wouldn't say that it was the best Tokyo Gore movie I've seen so far. The excellent Tokyo Gore Police had just as much in the way of effects, shock and gore, but also managed to create a future cyberpunk dystopia with enough personality to draw you past the pure delight of the effects and just occasionally forget that the film was completely ridiculous, setting you up to be shocked all over again by the next set-piece. On the other hand, Mutant Girls Squad is almost a more pure Tokyo Gore film; it is completely unashamed of being a virtually plotless excuse to spray blood on everything.

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