(2003) - Synapse Films
by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits
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:
"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
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
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.