HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. Two weeks after his trip to Laputa Castle In The Sky, Dr Lenera is returning to the world of Japanese cult cinema and looking at a decidedly different film, this time from the more exploitative end, the possibly ‘so bad it’s good’ The Machine Girl.
HCF REWIND NO.10.THE MACHINE GIRL
AVAILABLE ON DVD:Now
RUNNING TIME:96 mins
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A group of teenage boys are brutuallly assassinated by a girl called Ami Hyuga, who comes packing a machine gun instead of one of her arms, and claims they killed her brother. Flashing back a few months, we learn that Ami and her brother Yu lived on their own because their parents killed themselves after being accused of murder. Yu owed money to someone who was the son of a Yakuza boss and had a gang after him. After a few narrow escapes they caught up with him beat him up and threw him off a ledge. Ami was also tortured and had her arm cut off but managed to escape. Healed by her friend Miki, she is now after not only those responsible for her brother’s death but the Yakuza group as well, and Miki is helping her………..
It says on the back of the DVD of The Machine Girl that this is “the film that Quentin Tarantino wishes he could make”. Now I’ll readily admit that Tarantino has gone downhill and is just a shadow of the great filmmaker he used to be, but I can never see him making a film as bad as The Machine Girl. I suppose this is what you could have got if Peter Jackson, in his early days, had gone to Japan and made Kill Bill, and I reckon it was inspired by Battle Royale and The Evil Dead too, but that implies that this movie to be pretty good. It’s not. It’s a prime example of what can happen when film fans decide to go out and make a film like the ones they love, but have zero filmmaking skill. Although Nikkatsu had a hand in producing The Machine Girl, it’s mostly made by the distribution companies Fever Dreams and Tokyo Shock. It seems that the mission appear to have been to remove all the supposedly ‘boring’ elements of Japanese revenge flicks, and replace them with a humorous attitude, but the result is that the film itself is pretty boring, because you don’t give a damn about what’s going on, and the filmmakers just didn’t have either the budget nor the talent to make the movie work.
The film does open fairly well with Ami killing off some folk in extreme fashion, removing an arm with a machete allowing for a Monty Python And The Holy Grail-style geyser of blood to erupt, and then riddling them all with so many bullets from her machine gun that faces literally fall apart. The titles appear every few seconds or so when the action is freeze framed, a nice retro touch. Then we get into the back story, except that no scene lasts more than a minute long, so it’s really hard to get to know the characters. Of course it’s not long before we get the torture sequences, and it looks like for a moment we’re going to get a nasty rape scene, but we don’t. Now I’m not a fan of rape scenes, especially of the exploitative kind, but this movie could have almost used one [something I thought I’d never say], just to give the picture some edge. As it stands, there’s no edge to anything, and, although this isn’t meant to be a serious movie, the constant childlike attempts to shock become, dare I say it, tiresome. A good example is when a chef is forced to eat his own fingers. This could have been a really long and uncomfortable scene which could still have been blackly amusing, but it lasts a few seconds and we don’t even see him eating them. The scene just makes no impact at all. The rest of the movie is Ami killing off various nasties, and, yes, there is some invention in some of this, but there’s no tension, no suspense, not even any real sense of pace. A guy called Noboru Iguchi is credited with directing this movie [and he also wrote it], but in a way it hardly looks like it’s being directed at all. He demonstrates zero skill and even less style [which might have helped].
The gore-well for starters there’s a guy being cut in half, an arm turned into tempura, decapitations, and what seems like a recreation of two Lucio Fulci moments in one scene, when a knife enters the back of a head and comes out through the mouth, then blood goes onto a face and dissolves it. Unfortunately, for the rest of the film I just kept thinking how I wished I was watching one of the two movies those bits came from instead. I’ve only mentioned about a bit of the gore, which is constant, but is often sunk by terrible effects. The prosthetics and models look like they have been done by young kids for a school play, and the CGI just looks like a bad cartoon. Some CG spraying blood is probably the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’m not even going to go into the shurikens [throwing stars]. I know the film wasn’t meant to be realistic, but it just looks like no effort was made at all, and you can’t say it’s because of the budget, because I would say just take a look at the great effects in cheap films such as Bad Taste and The Evil Dead. The actual action is vaguely martial arts style, but it’s obvious no one in the cast can actually do martial arts, something which is most hilariously obvious in a sequence involving ninjas, where no amount of quick camerawork can hide the fact that these ninjas are probably the slowest ninjas in the history of cinema and can’t even do decent flips. For the climax they pull out the wonderful title weapon made famous from The Master of The Flying Guillotine, but you’ll wonder why they bothered when can’t do it properly, replete with [dreadful, of course] computer shots of the guillotine being swung.
I’m going to admit something here- I have a great fondness for Asian ladies, and fortunately this movie does have some great looking ones. Apparently some are porn stars, so you wouldn’t expect the actual acting to be much good. Honoka, who plays the evil Violet Kimura, is not only the loveliest is in my opinion but also gives the stand out performance, and I’m ignoring the fact that she’s one of the biggest Japanese porn stars of both the soft and the hard variety. She’s far too young for her role, but does project a real cruelty and has probably the stand out scene involving a, um, drill brassiere. Her scene where she uses this, despite the weapon’s silliness, has a welcome sense of actual nastiness and is almost out of place in the film. I suppose if all you want is tons of blood and gore, no matter if it looks good, The Machine Girl can be recommended, and there are a few good ideas in it, but it really is an inept piece of filmmaking, even of the tackiest exploitation kind. It doesn’t even feel like a Japanese film, rather a film made by Japanese for Western audiences who have a preconceived notion of Japanese cinema and culture. This lot have apparently made other, similar films with titles like Robo Geisha and Tokyo Gore Police, and I think I’m going to avoid the lot. Hell, there weren’t even any tits.