Asian Ghosts & Gore at Toronto After Dark
While 4bia offered the best chills and 'what the eff was that?!' factor of After Dark 2008, Tokyo Gore Police had me pretty much wiping blood spatter from my face and drool from my chin... these two were sure standouts at this year's After Dark festival.
Just as the title implies, this thrilling and perhaps terrifying quadrilogy is done in the same vein as the old Creepshow movies from King and Romero. Four short films, unrelated, each go through some element of fear and phobia, each delivering some clever twist in the end.
If you've ever been a fan of Hitchcock, the Twilight Zone or the Outerlimits, this would be the Thai equivalent... complete with a cheeky sort of humour laced into the haunted stories. The first short, Happiness, uses the Rear Window premise mixed with text messaging to craft one of the scarier shorts. If there's one thing directors Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, Paween Purijitpanya, Banjong Pisanthanakun, and Parkpoom Wongpoom are skilled with it's pacing, which is used to suspensefully draw the audience in towards certain doom.
The third and best story, In the Middle, is the real reason to see 4bia. Director Banjong Pisanthanakun creates a both funny and eerie story of 4 friends camping which proceeds to rip on and completely spoil (yes spoil!) his previous film, Shutter.
There's also lots of good hearted horror cliche bashing, such as a discussion of the overuse of long haired female ghosts in Asian horror films. All these jokes are fine and well until the camping trip turns deadly and suddenly it becomes difficult to keep track of who is still alive.
Other stories include Last Fright, a take the classic Shatner tale Nightmare at 20,000 Feet - but with a mummy, sort of; and also Tit for Tat, which looks at the problem of school yard bullying and how it provokes revenge from beyond the grave. Overall, 4bia's not only frightening, but educational too!
I can totally see how this movie idea was born: Tokyo+Gore+Police = kickass movie, it's pure logic. But even I wasn't fully prepared for this blood drenched flick from directors Yoshihiko Nishimura and Noboru Iguchi of Machine Girl fame.
When it was introduced as one of the goriest films at the festival, and even when we were told that not one but TWO famous Japanese directors would have their faces cut off in different scenes... I still had no idea what delights awaited me in TGP.
In a future time, the police force has been privatized, and through brute force they dutifully deliver divine punishment unto all criminals without mercy - Suteki! Facing lethal 'engineers' - mutated humans that grow weapons wherever they lose a limb, who better to lead the police force to victory than the beautiful and deadly Ruka (Eihi Shiina).
In classic over-the-top Japanese fighting sequences using beautifully shot anime style framing, the opening scene sets a bloody stage for things to come; there's a full 48 second-long bloody spurt from Ruka's first victim (I counted; it's a long time!).
In fact, this characterizes the entire movie, which is shot through blood covered camera lenses half the time. Although I might be used to his sort of thing, it's great to watch a hardcore Japanese horror film like TGP in Toronto; most of the audience isn't used to seeing so much graphic content in one place, particularly when it involves genitals morphing into elephant trunk uzis or alligator jaws of death - Sugoi!
The BEST news? This team of gore experts is already making Tokyo Gore Police 2. Which means that next year's Toronto After Dark is likely to have another offering of quality Asian cult cinema for my twisted delight.
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