31 Days of Horror: Day 15 – Wild Zero (1999)

I am doing the 31 Days of Horror Challenge. Every day in October, I will watch a different horror film I have never seen before and write about it here on the blog.

Movies that set out to intentionally be cult films annoy me. There is the tendency to go immediately over-the-top from the start, leaving logic, believable characters, and a sense of humor in the dust in an effort to make everything as randomly insane as possible. Even worse are the films of this variety that have come out of Japan in the last fifteen years. They are the film equivalent of getting hit repeatedly over the head with a frying pan. I still shudder when I think of the time and brain cells I wasted watching Robogeisha a few years ago. That is why I had never watched Wild Zero, despite several people recommending it to me over the years. After watching the film, I’m not surprised that it failed to work for me. Where I am surprised is how much I did appreciate moments in the film, even if the completed picture isn’t that good.

Ace (Masashi Endô) is a wannabe rock guitarist who worships the band Guitar Wolf (the actual member of the Japanese rock band playing themselves). When he inadvertently saves the life of Guitar Wolf, he is made a “rock n’ roll blood brother” to the band and given a whistle he is to blow whenever he is danger. Meanwhile, an alien invasion is turning people in a small town into zombies. Of course, Ace, Guitar Wolf, the band’s vengeful former manager, an arms dealer, and an assorted collection of gangsters, losers, and one mysterious character looking for love are all headed for the town.

Questions abound in the packed narrative: Will the ultra-cool and deadpan Guitar Wolf save humanity from the aliens and the zombies? Will Ace find true love with the mysterious Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai)? Will Captain (Makoto Inamiya), the band’s degenerate former manager, get his violent just desserts? And why is it so hard for characters in zombie films to realize they have to destroy the brain to keep a zombie down for good?

All of the elements of the kind of intentional cult film that I hate are here: loud, ridiculous characters; a nonsensical plot; and cheap digital effects. But where the film avoids going completely off the rails—and almost won me over—is that it actually has a heart and sympathy for some of its characters. It’s hard to completely dislike a film that suggests rock n’ roll can save the world or that love can overcome obstacles both extraterrestrial and more based in actual human hang-ups.

Despite the occasional pleasant surprises, I still can’t recommend Wild Zero and will never revisit it. Overall, it’s just too obnoxious and suffers from the same short attention span of many of the self-proclaimed cult films of recent years (although the editing thankfully was restrained enough that I didn’t feel in danger of having a seizure). It does have some laughs—most courtesy of Ace imagining Guitar Wolf shouting advice to him when he is frozen with fear—but it’s too desperate to entertain to worry about holding the audience’s interest by telling an actual story.

You can contact me at obsessivemovienerd@gmail.com and read all the extraneous crap that goes through my head by following me on Twitter.

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