TROUBLE CITY

DVD REVIEW: MEATBALL MACHINE

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Meatball Machine CoverBUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: TLA
MSRP: $19.99
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
Maximum Meatball Machine featurette
Necroborg art gallery
Original Meatball Machine short film
Reject or Death short
Trailers

The Pitch

It’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, just with more aliens and tentacle rape. In other words, it’s a better version of Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

The Humans

Issei Takahashi, Aoba Kawai, Ayano Yamamoto, Kenichi Kawasaki and Taro Suwa

The Nutshell

There is a race of crazy alien parasites that resemble chickens. Their modus operandi is to send several of their kind to various planets, infect the native life forms there and then battle it out in a fight for supremacy. They’re like symbiotic Predators – they fight for the love of the sport and to eat each other. Their latest target is Earth and they’re wreaking havoc by turning innocent Japanese citizens into walking monstrosities born out of twisted steel and biological weapons.

Yoji is one of the aforementioned innocent Earth folk whose life is changed forever by the alien menace. He leads a quiet existence working a factory job and masturbating at porno theaters by night. A chance encounter with a girl he admires from afar, Sachiko, leads to tragedy as the alien symbiotes take control of his dream girl and turn her into a “necroborg.” In order to save the life of Sachiko, Yoji will have to become a mechanical monster himself and battle against the evil alien spawn.


And you thought the cenobites couldn't get any lamer.


There’s also a crazy mad scientist with an electric gun out to kill the aliens himself. His daughter was infected by one of the parasites but the mad scientist managed to save her from being transformed. Unfortunately, she still needs to eat the parasites to live, forcing her dad to become a necroborg hunter and find more chicken aliens to satiate her appetite. When Yoji joins forces with the scientists, the necroborgs stand no chance!

The Lowdown

The splatter gorefest genre and the unrequited romance genre seem like such natural fits together, don’t they? No, not really, and it they don’t work together here. Through Yoji’s own inadvertent actions, his one chance at true happiness is turned into a walking machine hell bent on death and destruction. Now he has to sacrifice his own humanity in order to spare his lovely lady from a miserable fate. It sounds like it should be at least a tiny bit moving, but it’s mainly an excuse for the two to beat on each other while shouting “Remember who you are!” It’s an episode of Dragonball Z.

The film’s central appeal obviously isn’t the “romance” angle, which makes it all the more frustrating when it refuses to drop it. By the time people have biomechanical guns growing out of their chests and transform their hands into saw blades to eviscerate torsos with, no one could care less about what these people did in their human state. However, the film refuses to let you just enjoy the carnage and destruction and instead beats you over the head with it.


Evil Dead, eat your heart out.


The filmmakers don’t even seem to take this film so seriously, given that the DVD introduction features the chicken aliens talking about which special features have boobs in them. It seems that the two halves of the film, handled by two different directors, had radically different agendas and don’t really meld together at all. If only one man had been in charge, perhaps the movie would be a more cohesive whole than a jumbled together mess of horror, comedy and human drama.

At least the makeup and special effects that the film is sold on are solid. Produced on a very meager budget, the make-up appliances look great and are pretty much what you would expect were an alien parasitic race to implant you with tons of wires and scrap metal. All the necroborgs looks like linebackers of course, but the appliances don’t wiggle around like cheap rubber in a Troma movie. These are Japanese filmmakers with pride! When they do mechanical necroborg tentacle rape, they do it right! With intensity and vigor!

If you enjoyed the body horror aspects of either Tetsuo movie, you’ll probably be entertained by the “me too” mentality of Meatball Machine. The lead actor, Issei Takahashi, says in one of the features that he believes the movie can work even better as a silent film with no dialogue. You might enjoy the film more if you heed his advice and pay more attention to the necroborg battles than the half baked romance.


That's a spicy meatball.


The Package

Get ready for Maximum Meatball! It may sound like a new sub at Quiznos or some type of multiplier bonus on a pinball table, but it’s really just a standard behind the scenes look at the movie. How disappointing. You’ll get to hear all about the laborious process the filmmakers had to go through to see this low budgeted affair come to completion. For ten million yen, the filmmakers had to complete tons of gory special effects and finish the movie in a span of ten days. Impossible? Yes. After the end of ten days, the film was only half complete and needed intensive re-shoots. Six months later and with a different director at the helm, the movie was finally completed.

There’s a little too much emphasis put on how the film was made as opposed to what the film is all about. The director is content to say he merely wanted to try his hand at re-making Tetsuo, just with more gore and crazy aliens. On the flipside, you have the actors going on and on about trying to bring depth and humanity to the movie. Which is it? A brainless splatter flick or a moving love story? Given that the film features chicken parasites, perhaps the director deserves the benefit of the doubt.


Somebody got into the Viper stash again.


One of the interesting aspects explored by the featurette is the current state of Japanese horror. After the Scream era, Japanese filmmakers shied away from depicting brutal violence against children and teenagers, according to director Junichi Yamamoto. By the time Meatball Machine was finished, Japanese audiences has been conditioned to only accept films with creepy little children and “boo” scares like The Grudge. The film festival audiences that would have eaten up Meatball Machine a decade ago had no idea how to react to the thing. Yamamoto had to take the film to Brussels to find the audience it needed.

This tidbit leads to some disheartening discussion about where the filmmakers intend to go in the future. Producer Yukihiko Yamaguchi talks about his wishes to continue in a more graphic and original horror direction, but ultimately concedes that to raise money, Japanese horror filmmakers must conform to the genre standards that the rest of the world expects from them and deliver more rip-offs of The Ring.

The disc also includes the original short film that Meatball Machine was based on. It basically retells the entire story, just in ten minutes as opposed to ninety and with special effects from the scrap yard. A crazy music video short entitled “Reject or Death” reuses the props from the movie to tell another story about alien parasite battle. It features more deaths than the film itself and also features two characters in bizarre American Indian and African American masks. It could be argued that these masks are sort of racist given the way they accentuate stereotypical features, but that’s a discussion for another time and place and not in a review about a parasitic alien movie.


Some men buy Ferraris to compensate. I have this.


Rounding out the special features are trailers for other TLA releases and an art gallery full of “necroborg” drawings so you can see just how far the final product differs from the initial sketches.

6.5 out of 10