Monday, October 10, 2011

Wild Zero

Director Tetsuro Takeuchi's Wild Zero (2000) is an off-beat, garage horror movie that perfectly captures the raw attitude of Guitar Wolf.

The film opens with a fleet of UFOs racing toward Earth. As the radio broadcasts news of a meteorite crashing to earth, young Ace (Masashi Endo) is combing Brylcreem into his pompadour. He's off to see his idols, Guitar Wolf, in concert. As for the Wolves, they've had enough of Captain (Makoto Inamiya), the eccentric and sleazy club owner who gave them their start. Ace interrupts the ensuing Mexican standoff, blurting out the unforgettable line, "Rock 'n Roll is NOT over, baby! Rock 'n Roll NEVER DIES!" After the resulting shootout, Guitar Wolf makes Ace his blood brother. He also gives him a wolf whistle, telling him to blow it if he needs help. For his part, Captain, who just lost several fingers, is out for revenge against the Wolves.

Meanwhile, three friends, Toshi (Yoshiyuki Morishita), Hanako (Taneko), Masao (Masao), are on a road trip to see the meteorite. They pull into a gas station where they find Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai), a young hitchhiker. Suddenly, Masao snaps, pulls some knives and tries to hold the place up. Just then who should show up but Ace? When he opens the door it hits Masao in the face, and the three friends flee. Ace is glad to play the hero for Tobio, and the two take to each other immediately. Elsewhere, a soldier (Haruka Nakajo) waits by the roadside. She's planning to sell weapons to some yakuza, who unbeknownst to her have been ambushed by zombies. As the zombies rampage and the UFOs swarm the cities of Earth, all these characters will intersect in ways they might not have expected.

Like one of Guitar Wolves songs, this movie belts itself out with an energy all its own. Although descended from films like The Return of the Living Dead (1985), it has more of the underground feel of a cult classic like Repo Man (1984). It rides a wave of raucous garage punk by the likes of Teengenerate, Bikini Kill, Oblivians, The Devil Dogs, and of course Guitar Wolf themselves. What the Wolves lack in dialogue they make up for in presence, with Drum Wolf and the late Bass Wolf slicking back their hair every chance they get. Inamiya-san turns in a brilliant performance as the flamboyant Captain, and almost steals the show. And there's a welcome nod to George A. Romero when the characters begin asking if any of them has seen Night of the Living Dead.

The zombies here have a ghastly blue pallor, giving them a garish menace that only adds to the film. Rest assured that their heads explode with the the graphic regularity that zombie movie fans expect. And in a clever twist on conventions, Ace has a moment of erotic panic when he discovers that Tobio is a ladyboy. The spirit of Guitar Wolf appears to admonish him, "Love has no borders, nationalities, or genders!" For surprisingly this quirky splatter flick is ultimately about the power of love to overcome all obstacles.

According to Wikipedia, Guitar Wolf has begun looking for a sponsor for the sequel, Wild Zero 2. After the credits roll we see Captain rise for the dead, still set on revenge. If that second film ever gets made he just might get his chance.

No comments: