Wild Zero

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When an alien invasion is precluded by zombies, it’s up to Japanese punk band Guitar Wolf to use the power of rock and roll to defeat them.

I happen to have it on good authority that zombies would never take orders from extraterrestrials, especially ones seeking to dominate the Earth. If anyone is going to dominate the planet at some point, it’s going to be us damn it! I mean sure, we might take orders from creatures like the hunter aliens from Predator, those guys being pretty snazzy dressers and all, maybe the Martians from Mars Attacks if for no other reason than hearing them bark “We come in peace” as they’re ray gunning everyone might be kind of humorous, and I know that I would personally take orders from a Klingon commander were I a part of the crew so as to not get my arms ripped off, plus blood wine always sounded cool, but that’s it. Actually, we’d most likely follow all of the alien species from Star Trek, minus the Borg of course. Same goes for Star Wars, who doesn’t want to be part of a wookie troop? That’s it though, totally no other aliens we’d let lead us. Well, we’d also probably follow an intelligent Xenomorph, as unlikely a creation as that it, and possibly those little, adorable flying saucers that think from Batteries Not Included. How could you not follow something so damn cute? Then there’s the Transformers, they seem pretty cool, at least Team Megatron anyhow. What about Vegeta from Dragonball Z? He was an alien too wasn’t he? Damn, science fiction has created a whole host of extraterristrials we’d be likely to follow. I retract my original statement, we’d definitely let aliens lead us if it came down to it. Of course, if those aliens are facing off against Guitar Wolf, I might have to rethink that.

Our film begins with a fleet of flying saucers heading for Earth, and on the planet proper, the people of Japan are worried about a meteor that touched down, but Ace couldn’t care less. Today is the day he’s not only going to see his favorite band Guitar Wolf, it’s also the day he’s going to make the local club owner, who goes by the name Captain, realize Ace’s potential. When the man decides to make his move, he runs into a problem, that problem being a standoff between Captain and Guitar Wolf over pay. Ace’s interruption gives Guitar Wolf the edge they need, and the band is able to come out on top, thanking their biggest fan for his intervention with a whistle that will call the band to his aid whenever he’s in trouble. His life only appears to be getting better when, on the way to another Guitar Wolf show, he meets a woman named Tobio the very next day, stopping a robbery in the process of their meeting (Ace has a knack for being in the right place at the right time). Ace knows that this woman is the love of his life, but decides to immediately hit the road regardless, his passion for Guitar Wolf overriding his desire for love. His attitude changes when he comes across a group of zombies devouring a man, and, with a little pushing from a ghostly Guitar Wolf, turns around and heads back to Tobio who is already facing off against an ever growing horde that is overrunning Japan. Unfortunately, Ace’s help isn’t enough, and he’s forced to use his whistle to call in Guitar Wolf to save the day. The band quickly hears the signal and sets out to help their number one fan, utilizing unknown skills along the way, but hot on their tail is Captain, still furious over his defeat at the club and looking for revenge. This means that Guitar Wolf is not only going to have to deal with the zombies, but Captain as well, and all the while, the aliens are watching from above and waiting for the right time to strike.

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{Star Crossed Lovers}

Have you ever seen a movie and your first thought is “This flick is bat shit insane when it isn’t being outright silly,” but you can’t help but love it regardless? That’s pretty much Wild Zero. It’s a crazy flick that constantly skirts the line of being too silly for its own good, skirts the line and even crosses it at several times, but it’s still an immensely enjoyable and fun film that has a lot of value to the zombie buff. It does get pretty ridiculous at times, but it didn’t get as ridiculous as a film about alien controlled zombies facing off against a rock band could have been. One of the saving graces is how much fun Wild Zero is coupled with the fact that the insanity is pretty much never ending, so you won’t get much of a chance to even consider how ridiculous it can get, and trust me, it gets pretty damn ridiculous. Those working on the film seemed to understand how outrageous their movie was, from the writers to the director to the actors, and they all just ran with it. What came out was something that has become not only my favorite Japanese zombie movie, but one of my favorite zombie movies period.

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{Doesn’t hurt that there’s more than a few kickass scenes like this one}

One of the other factors that makes Wild Zero such a successful flick is the inclusion of legendary Japanese punk/rockabilly band Guitar Wolf. If you’re a fan of punk and/or rockabilly you will love Guitar Wolf, both in their music and in their style. It’s actually quite a shame that they never drew a bigger crowd overseas because they are a great trio. Consisting of Seiji (nicknamed himself Guitar Wolf), Billy (the original Bass Wolf who sadly passed away in 2005), and Toru (Drum Wolf), Guitar Wolf is an interesting mix of rockabilly, punk, and all out musical chaos, a blend Seiji likes to call “Jet Rock,” and if you haven’t heard them yet, I highly recommend giving them a listen, something you’ll be able to do should you check out Wild Zero considering they do much of the music, with extra songs from some of Guitar Wolf’s influences and contemporaries. Not only is their music a major part of the soundtrack, but their on stage antics and persona are a major part of the movie itself, something that works perfectly for the film with their Ramones style of dress and over exaggerated, rockabilly attitudes. They were the epitome of the cool, collected zombie killer, only much better dressed and with a host of newfound powers such as Super Guitar Pick Throw (dozens of deadly picks fly at the enemy), Electric Guitar Shot (a beam of energy that shoots out of Seiji’s guitar), whatever power is behind their being able to hear the whistle they gave to Ace from any distance, and a host of other abilities including Seiji being able to turn his guitar into an all-powerful sword. They were almost comic book characters in a rock and roll zombie flick, and I absolutely loved them and what they did for the film.

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{Rule Number One When Killing Zombies, Make Sure You Look Cool Doing It}

Now that’s not to say that Guitar Wolf were the only good characters in Wild Zero. I found pretty much all of the players involved in the film to be fun, enjoyable additions who’s equally over the top performances worked within the parameters the film had set for itself. The main one, other than Guitar Wolf of course, is Ace, the biggest fan of our zombie killing rockers. He’s a character stuck in the middle of a transition from being a Guitar Wolf super fan to a rocker in own rights, and actor Masashi Endo takes ever opportunity to ham it up. Then there’s the love of his life, Tobio, the stereotypical, docile woman in distress that needs someone to come and save her. She was almost a caricature of the princess architype. Even the vengeful Captain is enjoyable to watch in his quest to get even, a quest he seems to feel would be better accomplished in a pair of short shorts. If an actor ever chewed the scenery it was Makoto Inamiya as Captain, sometimes quite literally. Two of my favorites though were sort of couple Toshi and Hanako who spent most of the movie going back and forth between tender moments and angry bickering. Though all of the actors may have gone a bit over the top, well a lot over the top, it somehow worked great within the context of a movie that was pretty over the top itself.

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{Captain Proving His Revenge Outfit Fits Just Right}

Wild Zero isn’t entirely perfect though, it does have a few problems, and they all come from the effects and the zombies themselves. I wasn’t really expecting amazing effects, not from a movie like this, but I wasn’t ready for how absolutely awful some of them looked. They weren’t all bad, there are some very disgusting effects that looked revoltingly well done, but there were a lot that made me want to scream at someone for not putting in any effort. A great example is the constant headshots that are prevalent throughout the flick, constant headshots that managed to always look terrible, so terrible I couldn’t tell if they were CGI’d or just awful. The zombie makeup itself isn’t bad, but each zombie has either an odd blue tint that reminded me of the strangely colored zombies from the original Dawn of the Dead (their blue tint making them look kind of cartoonish) or a bright green that you’d be more likely to find in a cheesy haunted house during October. I also wish they had made the zombies just a little more vicious as they mostly wandered around like lost children in the latter half of the movie. They’re fairly aggressive for the first half, but after a while they seemed to lose interest in people, preferring to wander aimlessly when there were people to eat walking right by them.

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{A Blue Tint Makes Sense, Too Bad It Looks Silly}

Though I would have liked to have seen more vicious zombies and a little more effort put into the makeup, I still greatly enjoyed Wild Zero and would recommend any zombie fan give it a watch.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Tetsuro Takeuchi (Guitar Wolf: Red Idol, Flarella)

Starring: Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf, and Bass Wolf of Guitar Wolf, Masashi Endo (19, The Azemichi Road), and Kwancharu Shitichai

Written By: Satoshi Takagi and Tetsuro Takeuchi

Released By: Dragon Pictures, GAGA, Takeuchi Entertainment, and Synapse Films

Release Year: 1999

Release Type: Limited Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Rotten Heads: Three and a Half Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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