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Wild Zero

Wild Zero

Wild Zero is a great, fun, impossible-to-take-seriously film that combines rock&roll, zombies, and superheroics a la Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. And it's in Japanese.

Surf rock/punk band Guitar Wolf are playing a local club. Guitar Wolf is the name of the band as well as the guitarist/lead singer; the other two members are Bass Wolf and Drum Wolf. Sporting black leather jackets and greased pompadors (although Guitar Wolf himself wears his hear down, looking like a Japanese Ramone), the band is an actual musical group, one of the leaders of the retro/rockabilly music movement in their country. Anyway, the club owner threatens them with a gun, and just then a young GW fan called Ace bursts in, foiling the club owner's extortion attempt and clipping off two of the guy's fingers in the process. Grateful, Guitar Wolf give Ace a whistle to use whenver he is in trouble, so that the band can come to his aid (just like Jimmy Olsen's signal watch called Superman). On his way to the next GW gig, Ace stops at a gas station and accidentally foils a robbery simply by walking in the door, as he had at the club. He falls in with a grateful bystander named Tobio and the two become flirtatious.

What no one yet knows, however, is that a fleet of UFO's have descended upon the nearby town, turning its residents into flesh-eating zombies similar to the ones in Night of the Living Dead. Whoever they bite also becomes infected and turns into a zombie. The would-be gas station burglar's two friends come across a group of zombies eating their now-dead companion, and run; Ace, having left the gas station, also runs into the zombies on the highway and, after a moment's hesitation (and spurred on by his thoughts of what Guitar Wolf would do) goes back to help Tobio.

Guitar Wolf, arriving by flaming-afterburner motorcycle and red sportscar, arrive and take on the zombies. They are assisted by a weapons-dealer chick who drives a military humvee and had been attacked by the zombies in her home. Ace overcomes his fear and insecurities - as well as his own narrow viewpoints - to tackle the zombies and find love. The movie ends with the zombies - and their alien masters - defeated, and Guitar Wolf riding into the sunset, cool as ever.

This movie exudes craziness and hip rock&roll sensibilities from every frame, similar to what Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl did, but with a more simple, friendly atmosphere. The band Guitar Wolf are presented as superhuman, the power of their rock music giving them the strength to overcome anything, even Earth-threatening zombies; even when outnumbered by unstoppable enemies, the guys remain unflappable and cool. Ace and Tobio are likeable young people, and even the more over-the-top characters like the club owner and the weapons dealer are fun to watch. The movie isn't non-stop action, though it does have a lot of violence and gore; it's an atypical zombie flick in that while the monsters are implacable cannibals, the story is light and zany rather than somber.

The Japanese seem to have little trouble making a movie like this. American filmmakers would either make it too dark, or too campy, or too stupid, or too this, too that; it's hard to even imagine a movie studio putting up the money for such a project without filling it with their own bad ideas of how it should go. Wild Zero is just one more example of the fun types of films that can still get made overseas when the right people get together, and how the American system only seems to be able to crank out the same drek time after time.

"Love has no boundaries, race, or gender." Bass Wolf died of a heart attack on March 31, 2005. Guitar Wolf is currently seeking funding to make Wild Zero II. You can visit their official (English) website here.

Wild Zero - 2000
Direction: Tetsuro Takeuchi
Screenplay: Satoshi Takagi
Featuring: Seiji (Guitar Wolf), Billy (Bass Wolf), Toru (Drum Wolf), Masashi Endo, Makoto Inamiya

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