I must admit, I’m quite partial to these Japanese splatter films. This one is probably one of the more plot driven ones out there, which might not be saying a lot. But, as in any case, the plot is mostly there to string a bunch of awesomely ludicrous action and effects scenes together. And boy, does this film have some ridiculous ones. I always wonder how films of this genre can top the action, and more particularly kill shots, of those before them, and yet they always deliver. Here you get a lot of cartoon-style face slicing, some explosions, and my personal favourite, chopping into French bread. I won’t say too much more, however, because it’ll ruin the fun. After all, that’s what these films are about: the spectacle of surprise, nonsensical violence. The film was directed by friends and genre masters Noboru Iguchi, Tak Sakaguchi, and Yoshihiro Nishimura, who deliver on what they promise in a typically fun, referential style.
Written by Iguchi, creator of The Machine Girl, the film has a similar set up but refreshingly takes a different path to reach its climax. Rin, Yumi Sugimoto, is an unpopular high school girl who discovers a mutant power on her 16th birthday. It turns out she is part Hiruko, a once powerful clan of mutants. From there she goes on a rampage, it’s not her fault though: superstitious villagers want to slay her to bring good luck to their mall. Confused and scared, she is taken in, more like kidnapped, by a band of proud Hiruko. The girls squad in question is led by Mr Kisaragi, a cross dressing samurai played by Sakaguchi, who was also fight choreographer on the film. Here she meets other, more bizarre and hilarious mutants, and is trained in preparation for an inevitable war between Hiruko and the mutant-hating government. The genocidal government figures are hilariously portrayed as inept, lecherous and hideous, in a bit of tongue-in-cheek social commentary. A film like this can’t take itself too seriously, but the story develops rather well considering.
What Mutant Girls Squad does take seriously is style. Occasionally colourful elements break up the pastiche horror form, and there’s a surprising amount of variety in sets for a low-budget production. The film is tightly edited and populated by off-kilter shots and a smattering of green screen. It sets a pretty relentless pace from the get go as the girls plough through soldiers and civilians alike. The fight scenes live up to the expectations of such a film, and pioneer Nishimura’s make-up and effects are creepily superb as always: he worked on classics such as Tokyo Gore Police and Suicide Club. The mutant girls allow him to really shine, along with other members of Pabaan: The Image Production Group, creating both hilarious and impressive powers from cosplay nurses to arse chainsaws. There is little difference between each of the directors’ acts, bar some slight style and flavour changes, and they seem to be well and truly on the same page. It’s even hard to pick a favourite fight scene, as each one is as impressive as the last. The actors do well to hold on to some shred of normalcy with their characters too, and it gets a tad emotional at times, although most of the acting is suitably over the top.
Basically, this movie is ridiculously funny, filled with outrageous action and the plot is good enough to keep you in the zone. I would go so far as to say it is one of the better films in the genre, and I’m partial to quite a few of them. The culmination of each director’s talents make for a slick production that plays to its strengths and makes for fun viewing. Granted, not everyone will enjoy what’s on offer, but they’re missing out.
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