Watching JUNK, I’m unsure whether this hybrid of Tarantino gun-play and Fulci/Romero zombie flick simply plagiaries its obvious influences or is intended as homage? Either way it contains nothing new, and I have to say is an over-rated example of Japanese horror. It’s not the first time director Atsushi Muroga has openly shown his affection for RESERVOIR DOGS styled gangsters; SCORE (1998) also featured the aftermath of a botched heist and the subsequent falling out of the gang, not only did the thieves wear the obligatory black suit, white shirt ensemble, they also decided to flee to a warehouse and one of their number also was in league with the cops.
Alas, JUNK is equally derivative, and amazingly steals from the likes of Brian Yuzna’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III, (The military’s use of a chemical to create super-zombies, oh and a sexy zombie girl), Romero’s DEAD trilogy (renegades on the run in an industrialised environment), and even has the Tarantino robbery turned sour, with one of its members being maimed by a woman.
Just to show where these “influences” fit in here’s the plot in brief: We witness two US scientists experimenting with a drug called DNX designed to create a race of super zombies, but things go wrong and the doctors are killed and return as members of the undead. The secret warehouse is now home to wandering flesh eaters, and the army decide to despatch a team of soldiers to blow up the complex. Meanwhile three masked thieves rob a jewellery store, they manage to escape in a getaway van driven by female accomplice Saki (Kaori Shimamura), but not before one of the gang, Akira (Osamu Ebara) is stabbed in the foot. Gang leader Jun (Nobuyuki Asano) takes them to an old industrial site for a rendezvous with Yakuza boss Ramon (Gota Satsujin) but whilst wandering the dark corridors is killed by a beautiful zombie (Miwa).
The surviving gang members are cut down to two when the Yakuza double cross the robbers, but saved when a zombified Jun intervenes. From this point on it’s a three way battle in the complex, as the survivors attempt to escape, unaware that a team carrying explosives is en route to blow the site up.
This main problem with this film lies with Japan’s tendency to avoid the complexities of character development so that you care little whether anyone survives, therefore audiences aren’t taken to the edge of their seats in the same way as watching one of Romero’s efforts. The gore and SFX are handled fairly well (though you can definitely see one or two sloppily applied facial appliances coming loose of the actors skins in a couple of scenes). The shoot-outs are also directed adequately. As a zombie flick goes on its own, it’s passable, but it isn’t the gore-fest some reviewers have made it out to be, and its certainly a disappointment when compared to the likes of several other of Japan’s zombie efforts, Wild Zero (1999) and Versus (2001).
This region 2 disc from Artsmagic is a passable transfer, it does show signs of grain, and not having seen other versions of the film I can’t comment on comparison. The optional english subtitles are nicely typeset and shadowed, as with most of their releases, a pity they clash with the Japanese subtitles for one or two English speaking moments in the film, but it isn’t too much of a hindrance. What is important is that the title is uncut, and relatively obscure in this country, so I guess it will become a best seller for the company for zombie fans and eastern cult film aficionados alike.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Muroga Atsushi
Japanese and English language With Optional English Subtitles
Japan / 1999 / 83 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
An Artsmagic Eastern Cult Cinema DVD release
Region 2. PAL. Dolby Digital Stereo.
JUNK (aka Shiryou Gari)