Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Battle Girl: The Living Dead In Tokyo Bay (1991)

The early 90's weren't the best of times for horror. Theatrical films were becoming more scarce, and even calling horror movies horror (the dreaded "Suspense Thriller" tag) was suddenly dirty. Plus, people were tired of the same old hack and slash and endless sequels. That's why home video was now the place to go for the large part. Studios like Full Moon, Troma and others flourished in this era, offering horror fans something that usually wasn't good, but at least proudly called itself horror. One of the burgeoning things to come from this was V-Cinema, a Japanese style of direct to video releasing that saw some of the more outlandish and outrageous titles come into play. One of the films released in the earlier part of this era was Kazou 'Gaira' Komizu's 1991 zombie flick "Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay."

A meteor crashes into Tokyo Bay, leading to a strange cloud being emitted and covering the city-turning many of it's inhabitants into flesh eating zombies. To make things worse, survivalist gangs now roam the city, and the military isn't exactly doing much to help the situation. There's only one person who can save the day, and it's a girl named Keiko (Japanese Female Wrestler Cutie Suzuki, who certainly lives up to her name), who dons a hi-tech body armor suit complete with guns, the ability to give her superhuman powers, and all kinds of gizmos. In the process, she finds herself being hunted by a group of advanced killers, and discovers some dark government secrets.

Though he didn't write it, "Battle Girl" is a bit curious considering that some of Komizu's prior works ("Entrails of a Virgin" and "Guts of a Virgin" for example) were notorious for how grotesque, perverse and all around politically incorrect they were. That's because this movie is a rather dry affair, with only small dashes of gore and not an inkling of nudity on display. In some ways, that's a shame (though it is a bit nice to see a movie from him that doesn't barrage you with sexual violence for a change), because a bit more gore would have made this a more enjoyable affair. The films is also far too short (only 74 minutes in length) and at times feels like a movie with some big ideas that is unable to accomplish all it wants because of it's length.

There's still some fun to be had out of the film. The synthesizer score by Ra is a lot of fun, and adds to the almost comic book like atmosphere of the whole thing. The low tech special effects also add to it's charm, especially the meteorite itself, which brought back fond memories of watching 70's-90's genre pictures from Japan-if I had seen this as a teen, I would have thought it was the best movie ever made. The zombie make up is competent enough, and the movie also tries to get away with some political commentary about nationalism (though it feels a bit odd to have critiques of the military in a movie that so lovingly shows off gun play and explosions.) Oh, and while the fight choreography isn't up to muster, it's nice to see Joshi (Japanese Woman's Wrestling) stars deliver Spinning Back Breakers and Tombstone Piledrivers.

As a whole, "Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay" is a slight affair, and is anything but essential. That out of the way, it's a decent time waster with some bright spots that appeal to the 16 year old in me, and should be seen by fans of Japanese zombie flicks, though it's not as fun or over the top as later movies. Look at it as an appetizer.

Rating: 6/10

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