Tuesday 28 October 2008

Toronto After Dark 2008 - "Tokyo Gore Police"

A few things you might find in "Tokyo Gore Police": 1) Fountains of blood, 2) Rivers of blood, 3) Cascading rapids of blood, 4) Torrents of blood.

And Snail girls, Crocodile women and a guy with a really, really big...uh...appendage that...uh...well, it's used as a weapon anyway. Oh, and a gun that shoots fists! Almost forgot that one...That was cool.

Though this film is at times a sharply honed social satire, I just can't quite bring myself to review it in any normal fashion. It's incredibly absurd and over the top just about anyway you slice it (ouch) - whether you peel away the layers (ow ow ow), chop it up into tiny sections (yipe) or grind it all up into a big stew (aaarrrgggghhh), it's all about the human body getting mutilated and reconfigured while the scenery gets red.

Don't take that as being necessarily bad though. It's actually quite, well, almost beautiful at times. Take the screencap below...It occurs just after Ruka (played by Eihi Shiina of Audition fame) has just completely severed both hands from this one guy and he can do nothing but stand there and spray blood from both open wounds. She slowly walks towards the camera (with her umbrella wide open of course) while the screen is bathed in reds, pinks and magentas. It's almost hypnotizing...

Ruka, by the way, is a cop who hunts and kills engineers (mutant humans who grow weapons from wounds or severed appendages and can only be killed by removing key-shaped tumours from them). There's a bit more to the plot than that, but it's really all you need to set up most of the action. And that's fine since director Yoshihiro Nishimura is best known as the top special effects man in Japan, so it provides a great canvas on which he can work. Taken like that, it can be gloriously fun to watch at times. You just don't know what kind of weird beastly creature is going to show up next and how the next battle will progress. Whose face will get ripped off this time? Eye sockets gouged out? No problem - replaced by guns!

That's a bit of its problem too though...Somewhere about an hour in, it gets kind of repetitive and frankly tiring. After yet more limbs and blood have been left behind by Ruka, you feel like you've seen it before. If there was one film during the festival I would have bet would have kept me awake it was this one, but I have to say I felt a bit weary around this point in the movie. Another healthy dose of jaw-dropping scenes cleared the cobwebs though...

Beyond the head-shaking moments, my favourite parts were the fake commercials running on TVs and the many big screens dotted around the futuristic city. They all focused either on police recruitment or the selling of suicide. The police have been privatized and bring violence to just about every aspect of their work - something the ads play up. As for the culture of suicide mocked in the other commercials, "Wrist Cutter G - It's cute!" pretty much says it all (young girls and their small fashionable pocket knives - in designer colours).

So overall, beyond it being 15-20 minutes too long and a bit repetitive, the creatures, the satire, the gorgeous saturated colours and the excellent pounding musical score all add up to a pretty freakishly interesting time at the movies.

Oh, and the blood. There's a bit of blood.

The evening kicked off with a funny short film called "BumRush". Each of three friends has had a run in with a local bum who, for no reason at all, has attacked them in some way. Since he's faster, smarter and crazier than all three of the guys, they decide that each of them is to take one of those aspects and focus on it so that together, they can defeat him. The film was the winner of the Toronto Film Challenge this past Spring to make a complete film in 24 hours. That makes the result even more impressive.

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