Sadao AbeHiroshi AbeYumi YoshiyukiHitomi Miwa
Gore From Outer Space
Medium: film
Year: 2001
Writer/director: Hirohisa Sasaki
Keywords: comedy, SF, musical
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese, English
Actor: Hiroshi Abe, Sadao Abe, YosiYosi Arakawa, Tomomi Kuribayashi, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hitomi Miwa, Aimi Nakamura, Hideo Nakata, Yumi Yoshiyuki, Yoshiko Yura
Format: 85 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0321649/
Website category: Japanese SF
Review date: 8 February 2011
It's the sequel to the previous year's Crazy Lips, which was an incoherent load of nonsense, horror, UFOs, comedy and depraved sexual violence. This is similar, but less offensive and more puzzling. Normally I'd try to convey some idea of the story, but in this case there's little point since it's mostly just being surreal and so plays like a deadpan spoof of itself.
Instead I'm going to begin with the biggest problem, for me. This is the sexual violence. On the one hand, there's no nudity. It's superficially more family-friendly than its predecessor, having no imaginative extremes of necrophiliac rape and possibly incest. This makes it more disturbing. If you have a gross near-pornographic film with outrageous sexual excess, fair enough. That's what it is. Here though we have a rape and a sexual assault, yet they're being taken lightly in a film that otherwise thinks it's not disgusting. It's as if it they're intended as comedy. A main character is raped in a throwaway story beat that lasts under a minute and then is forgotten by all concerned, including the victim. (The scriptwriter remembers, but only for plot reasons.) The other sex attack takes place under different circumstances, but again the film makes light of it.
This is just wrong. Crazy Lips didn't make me worry about Hirohisa Sasaki, but this sequel definitely makes him look a bit creepy. I hope he's merely trying to be as brain-bending as possible and so this is one of his weapons to that purpose, but even so there's an attitude here that I don't like.
So there's no nudity. There's also no gore, despite the English-language title. (In Japanese, it's called "Outer Space That Sucks Blood!") It does have one of those headless schoolgirls we saw in Crazy Lips, but you couldn't really put this in the horror genre. Comedy... yes, that's one of the goals. Occasionally I laughed, I can't deny it. SF, undoubtedly. Men-in-black conspiracy theories, you got it. Women in prison singing a musical number, yes, that too, but briefly. Hong Kong action movie, complete with Chinese-speaking fighters, that too. It's quite a sizeable chunk of the last act, lasting maybe five minutes, and it's surprisingly good. Those five minutes make for a better action movie than most Japanese action movies, even if it's being done in a tongue-in-cheek style.
It's harder to take seriously than Crazy Lips, which is saying a lot since that couldn't be taken seriously at all. We begin with Hitomi Miwa, who's one of several returnees from the previous film and still playing Satomi Kurahashi. Others include Yoshiko Yura as the theatrical psychic old bat, plus the double act of Hiroshi Abe and Tomomi Kuribayashi as deranged FBI agents. (Kuribayashi is still wearing a blonde wig and playing an over-the-top American who can't speak Japanese, despite the fact that I don't think she can speak English. That's entirely par for the course here.)
However I was talking about Miwa. She's the protagonist. What's more, for a good ten minutes at the beginning, this looks like a proper film. She's saying that her daughter's been kidnapped, but things get complicated when the police start checking her story. Someone around here has psychological problems and it's looking to be Miwa. This is interesting and dramatic.
However it gets silly when Yoshiko Yura waltzes in and suddenly she's got the entire room, including the police, doing everything she says as she stages a seance with spectral hands and asks Miwa to cut herself with a knife. No one challenges her. Miwa then goes off in a cab to follow the severed hands to the kidnappers of her possibly-imaginary daughter. She finds a house. She stands outside all day, wondering what to do. Now, this shouldn't be a difficult problem. She's been talking to the police. They're the professionals. They know about hostage situations. Miwa though tells no one she's here, be it the authorities, her husband or anybody else, and instead knocks a stranger on the head and steals their clothes in order to try to blag her way inside the house under false pretences. This was where I mentally threw up my hands and accepted that the script was not only talking out of its arse, but that this was clearly the intent and/or genre. You can't call that a plot hole. Theoretically you could perhaps spin it as the mental processes of an unstable protagonist, but in fact it's just the film being random for the sake of surrealism.
After that, things get weirder. Incidentally, I wonder this film was the inspiration for Aarghh! This house has no toilet!, a spoof 40-minute horror film from Minoru Kawasaki, the director of The Calamari Wrestler, Executive Koala and Crab Goalkeeper. Believe it or not, here that phrase is a major plot point.
In the end, the plot makes more sense than you'd expect. All kinds of things get tied up and in some ways it's even quite neat. I liked the mythology it's creating, with American Indians, UFOs, West Virginia, Christian imagery and more. It's rich and rather cool. However that doesn't change the fact that it's like watching a sketch show based around a linked theme. Sometimes it's amusing. The FBI agents are funny in the restaurant, especially with the jelly. The flying house going past in the background made me laugh too.
The performances fit. Hiroshi Abe's the most prominent example of what I'm talking about, although the lady in the horn-rimmed glasses isn't far behind. Abe was in the last film and he knows exactly what to do, which is to give an arch, self-aware performance in which he's posing for the camera and taking the piss out of himself. He does it quite well, actually. Kuribayashi and Yura are playing the most lurid oddballs, though.
Oh, and there's a guy with superpowers. He wanders in at one point, throws people around and then walks out of the film again. However he doesn't feel as out-of-place as you'd think, because that mythology I was talking about creates a conspiracy theory feel in which you know you're only seeing a fragment of the picture.
I should stop there. The more I talk about this film, the more I'm going to make it sound like a must-watch. It's not. It's too arch and arbitrary for that. It's just an exercise in being weird, which has curiosity value but isn't particularly satisfying to watch. What's surprising to me, looking back, is the sheer number of returning characters from Crazy Lips and the way it's arguably spinning off from its finale. For such a frivolous movie, it's being surprisingly serious in its chosen task of following up on its predecessor. Well, that's how it comes across to me. In practice I suspect it's just Hirohisa Sasaki ripping himself off and recycling his favourite characters and ideas from last time. Now I'm wondering whether a rewatch of Crazy Lips would reveal plot holes and/or resurrected characters, but frankly that's never going to happen. It's not that I disliked the original, but I don't remember it demanding more detailed examination. I think I'd be more likely to rewatch that than this, though. At least it's gross.
This film has time loops, mind wipes and surprises for the audience, which is good. The problem is that comes across to me as a bit of an academic exercise in comedic surrealism. Imagine Monty Python doing Japanese SF, but without the talent.