Yűdai Yamaguchi  

Japanese director of campy, sometime extreme, exploitation movies, some with over-the-top, insane, but humorous violence and gore. He is a pioneer in the wave of 'Tokyo Gore' flicks that offer splatter with an anything-goes approach to plot developments, throwing logic out the window in favor of creative splatter, entertaining shock and campy exploitation. 'Meatball Machine' kicked off the genre, and he made 'Battlefield Baseball' a decade before 'Shaolin Soccer' made a splash. Stands out from his peers like Noboru Iguchi in that he doesn't just make repetitive movies involving schoolgirl heroines and computer-game fight scenes for fanboys, but tries a little variety, some of them goofy comedies or action movies. He also occasionally directs cartoonishly over-the-top wacky live-action manga films such as 'Cromartie High' and 'Elite Yankee Saburo'.

Of Some Interest

ABCs of Death, The
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Battlefield Baseball  
A crazier and sillier Shaolin Soccer only with baseball. This one is based on a manga and features high schools competing in something loosely called baseball, where teams meet on a field and kill each other, sometimes with baseball bats. The teams are comprised of freaks, physically talented masters, the undead, a kung-fu mother, a robot, and a principal obsessed with victory. Players fly, impale each other with bats or on poles, inject with poison from a bat, etc. but the dramatic scenes are even more cartoonish, with over-the-top cliches, melodrama, people breaking into horrible songs, tears that save the world and so on, always ending with heartfelt clapping from the onlookers. Unfortunately the action is not as interesting, inventive or well-choreographed, especially when compared with Shaolin Soccer. Goofy fun.

Yamaguchi revisits Battlefield Baseball almost 20 years later with the same lead actor and the basic concept of a killer baseball game. Except, this time, it takes place in a cartoonishly sadistic penitentiary, and the gore effects (by Nishimura) are all about the insane splatter of the recent Tokyo Gore trend. This is a world where actual vomit is served in prison, people seem more bothered by a fly in their throat than from fountain pens being slammed all the way through their skulls, prisoner body cavities are searched with a fist, a literal river of blood from a nose bleed serves as a defensive weapon, and, in a running joke, lit cigarettes appear out of thin air in the lead's hand. Truth is, every scene contains something unusual, warped, insane, gory or surprising in this one, and it only slows down in the increasingly lazy and nonsensical last reel. The splatter unfortunately makes use of very cheap looking CGI this time, as well as Nishimura's crazy effects, one involving fingers moving through a person's head, out the nostrils and through the eyes. Definitely entertaining, but the only scene that made me really laugh was the fight involving a salt shaker, which only demonstrated how witless the rest of the movie was. Nonsense and outrageousness can only take you so far.

Meatball Machine  
Although blamed for starting the Tokyo Gore wave of insane Nishimura effects involving body modifications and biological weapons, this one is more interested in reproducing the look and feel of dark Tetsuo-cyberpunk splatter. The result, however, is something in between, and the low-budget makes it feel like a GWAR remake of Tetsuo. Some would even call this a gory Power Rangers due to its focus on clumsy fight scenes and not-quite-serious costumes. More importantly, the comparisons to Tetsuo are superficial and this doesn't have the artistic themes and symbolism, nor the cyberpunk 'philosophy'. Instead, the focus is on exploitation, splatter, fight scenes, and a potentially interesting and nightmarishly bizarre sci-fi horror concept of aliens using humans as vessels and weapons, realized only as a low budget splatter-fight b-movie that explains everything to death. That said, what elevates this movie is the drama, acting and love story of two sweet youths lost amidst perverts, aggression and finally, alien mecha-parasites. These 'perfect' parasites take over their bodies and minds, linking with their emotions and pain, using memories, and mutating their organs into various bio-mechanical weapons, but discover that humans can achieve even more given the right emotional circumstances. But all this just to fuel a video-game fight scene with low budget effects that look too much like cardboard and rubber rather than bio-mechanical. What a pity. There's also a completely illogical and gratuitous alien rape scene. In short, a mixed bag, and almost great, but the lost potential hurts. If you approach this with lower expectations, it's good. On the other hand, imagine what Cronenberg or Del Toro could have made with this. Based on an earlier obscure 1999 film which was converted into a short.

Rokuroku: The Promise of the Witch  
Even though this film is presented as a cohesive horror movie, it is basically an anthology of shorts, each one revolving around a spooky encounter, Yamaguchi style. Which means the ghosts, witches and whatnot are fantastically weird, sometimes more goofy and entertaining than creepy. There is not much in terms of plot, basically filming an encounter by another random character and focusing on the special effects. Some are more ordinary ghost stories like a painter seeing a woman in a balcony with long hair and strange eyes. Others are decidedly weirder like the 'head-contained-in-a-safe' ghost, the 'sea-creature with female faces for eyes', a 'one-legged hopping ghost', a witch with a snake-like neck, etc. It's mostly about bizarre creatures than a bizarre movie, but towards the end some characters are transported to another dimension where anything goes, including strange alternate dimension sets, and a walking hotel.

Yakuza Weapon  
This 'Tokyo Gore' craze was never much more than fanboy, superficial, cartoonish entertainment, and now it's getting tiresome. This movie is like a live-action Roadrunner cartoon with splatter and genitalia. Cartoons are amusingly entertaining for 20 minutes, but 100 minutes? That said, Yamaguchi is one of the best in this genre and he knows how to keep it wildly creative, and at least he doesn't use the really played out device of half-naked chicks as kick-ass heroines. This installment is a Yakuza action flick taken to its most cartoonishly extreme, 'Tokyo Gore' style. Shozo is a moronic Yakuza that thinks nothing can harm him, and nothing actually does. He avoids bullets, survives mines, bazookas and even nuclear bombs with willpower. There is a typical convoluted Yakuza plot about warring factions, gangs, the government, his family and nemesis brother, but who cares? It's all about the fight scenes, the splatter (CGI blood again as well as Nishimura splatter), a wide variety of them with endless variety of weapons, leading to the final reel involving body parts turned into Gatling guns and grenade launchers, and a naked-girl-weapon with weapons emerging from all of her various orifices.


Present, The (Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater)  
Most previous entries in this horror anthology of 50 minute movies could almost have been horror movies for kids, but this one is decidedly a splatter movie. The theme is the often used evil Santa, in this case a serial killer who chases after a teenage girl who has been warned about being punished by Santa as a child. Her friends get picked off one by one by Santa with sharp Christmasy objects like stars, which he uses to chop off limbs and slash his victims before processing them and taking them apart even more in some kind of abattoir. Nothing really stands out though, and there are several uninteresting twist endings.

Tebana Sankichi: Snot Rocket & Super Detective  
Completely random silly nonsense, and not the funny kind. A series of sketches and shorts that seem to be all about random plot elements and slapstick without an actual plot. The first half covers a friendship between two oddballs, one that uses snot projectiles from his nose as a weapon, and his odd friend who says everything twice (sometimes infinite times, or only half a time), and who is like Kenny from Southpark, constantly dying and coming back in different forms. This makes it sound like there's a structure but there really isn't, with random interactions, flashbacks, repetitions, random chapters, and the only way to describe describe this is by listing the random elements in a long list. Just as one example, one scene has Shiro explode from a bomb and come back as an evil dude that repeats the same sentence 999,999 times. There are no laughs, just head-scratching. Another has them have a goofy fight with some creatures in masks but we have no idea what it's all about. The second half has a 'super-detective' strike a pose and uncover various random criminals and horror elements in campy scenes, including a mad doctor and an evil doll, but it's about the high-energy style, goofing off with no plot, and spoofing random whims that only they seem to know about.

Ten Nights of Dream
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