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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 1/13/04

Wild Zero
2000 (2003) - Synapse Films

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Wild Zero Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/B

Specs and Features
98 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ?), keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, Guitar Wolf filmography and discography, Drinking Game, "behind-the-scenes" music video, still gallery, Easter egg (interview), animated film-themed menu screens, scene access (14 chapters), languages: Japanese (DD 2.0), subtitles: English

"Rock 'n Roll!"

Wild Zero, the newest release from Synapse, has to be the oddest DVD release of 2003/2004. It's fun, it's cool and it's zombie mayhem made real. Wild Zero, without a doubt (and like it or not), is a very fun flick. Most of that fun comes from the fact that it's little more than an extended music video for Guitar Wolf, the legendary Japanese rockabilly icons, who spend the entire film running around armed with the mystical power of Rock 'n Roll. It also has a creepy and slightly uncomfortable (even if it is morally uplifting) love story as its center, which keeps the uncontrollable grin locked on your face. Adding to all of that is a sinister villain who, clad in super-tight tennis shorts and a collection of awful Dutch Boy wigs, menaces Guitar Wolf from start to finish over the loss of his fingers and a Ben-wa ball. No... Wild Zero isn't high art, nor is it very good filmmaking, but it does have its charms. It's the type of film you either love, with all the fanboy passion you possess, or hate completely.

For those looking for a synopsis: Ace is a young rocker, and zealous fan of Guitar Wolf, who dreams of one day being a member. Armed with his mother's hair comb and his moped, Ace travels Japan's back roads following the band from gig to gig. At one such gig, Ace accidentally lands smack dab in the middle of a confrontation between the band and a twisted concert promoter (mentioned above) who helped Wolf get their big break. Once this stand-off is nipped down, Ace and Guitar Wolf, the band's leader (each band member is named after their instrument: Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf and Bass Wolf) become blood brothers in Rock. Ace is given a special whistle to blow if he's ever in need. That need comes the next day, when, on the road to Guitar Wolf's next gig, Ace stops at a gas station and foils a robbery, thus meeting Tobio, a young girl at the station. After befriending the lass, Ace gets back on the road and bumps into a horde of the undead. Remembering his new friend, he heads back to the gas station to rescue Tobio from the zombie plague and locks himself in an abandoned building with her. When all looks dire, Ace blows his whistle and Wolf comes to the rescue... leading to an epic battle between the undead, UFOs, a hot arms dealer clad in a Burberry One-Piece and a very pissed off Buster Brown clone. And yes, I did say UFOs.

You see, whether they knew it of not, Guitar Wolf and video director Tetsuro Takeuchi made an "alternate view" film to Plan 9 from Outer Space ("alternate" being a new genre of film - think Signs in relation to War of the Worlds). You all remember what Plan 9 was don't you? "The resurrection of the dead. Long distance electrodes shot into the pineal and pituitary gland of the recently dead." That's exactly what happens here - except we don't see any of the interaction with the aliens. Maybe somewhere back in the U.S., Tanna and Eros are busy calling Earthlings stupid for being so close to harnessing the power of Solaranite. Either way, Wild Zero and Plan 9 are two peas in a pod for more than that reason. It's an awful film, made better for being so very awful. Oh... the zombie make-up and CGI effects (for head explosions and missing body parts) are A+ work, by the way.

Wild Zero even makes for a fun DVD. The video quality is top notch, even if it's not an anamorphic transfer. This is most likely do to the source material for an anamorphic transfer not being available. Wild Zero was originally envisioned as a low budget music video that became a long form, which was aired on TV in Japan. The source is a very good-looking digital video with some "film effect" filters slapped on. It ends up being a very nice transfer, and plays well as a cheated widescreen presentation. The sound is a standard Dolby Digital stereo mix in Japanese, which serves the film just fine. The subtitles are very prominent and easily readable.

Extras include a stills gallery (which features art from the band and the film), a Guitar Wolf biography and discography, the theatrical trailer, a behind-the-scenes video cut to some music from the band, and a Easter egg (featuring a last minute interview with the band in NYC). Best of all is the Drinking Game. Synapse has the right idea with this film: treat it like Rocky Horror Picture Show and inject as much audience participation as you can. Just select the option, watch for the beer mug icon at the bottom of your screen and get loaded. But be sure to get a case of beer (and/or a big bottle of Jack), 'cause you're gonna need it. That icon pops up a lot.

Wild Zero features some great zombie effects, horrible acting, an explosive shower scene and forbidden love. It's not good, but that doesn't make it bad either. If it's a Synapse Asian Cult Cinema release, it's a must own as far as I'm concerned. Having Guitar Wolf throwing guitar picks like they were Chinese throwing stars... that just makes it more so.

Todd Doogan
[email protected]

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