Aliens are invading the planet and turning humans into zombies. After saving his hero, Guitar Wolf, and having the honour of becoming his blood brother, wannabe rocker Ace finds himself caught up in the carnage.
Directed by: Tetsuro Takeuchi
. Starring: Guitar Wolf
, Drum Wolf
, Bass Wolf
, Masashi Endô
, Kwancharu Shitichai
, Makoto Inamiya
, Haruka Nakajo
, Shirô Namiki
, Yoshiyuki Morishita
, Tawaki Fusamori
, Akihiko Murata
. Music by: Guitar Wolf
Tetsuro Takeuchi's Wild Zero (Japan, 2000) is a wonderfully unconventional zombie horror film that has genuine heart and depth that make it much more than just another gory Asian horror actioner in the tradition of Ryuhei Kitamura's ultra-violent Versus from the same year, for example. The film is almost a musical, an occasionally quite gory horror film, an action film, a comedy and heart warming drama at the same time and it is about one of the biggest and most universal things in life and thus in cinema, too: love.
Masashi Endô (All Night Long 2: Atrocity ) is Ace, a young guitar player who has an idol in the form of the lead in a rock 'n roll group named Guitar Wolf. The band includes Guitar Wolf himself, Drum Wolf and Bass drum and they are dedicated to their beloved rock music despite their greedy and untrustworthy producermanager who also gets things and the plot going from the very first scenes. At the same time, many (I mean, many!) UFOs are invading the Earth everywhere, turning people and corpses into zombies who naturally crave for human flesh. Many new and colorful characters appear and the film has many nice and surprising plot turns that are not going to be detailed any further in here. Before the viewer can even notice, the film's first 30 minutes have passed by meaning the story and its telling really work in the hands of Takeuchi.
The film has a heart warmingly large and straight-from-the-heart theme about love that cannot be reached by certain kinds of selfish people living on Earth, like the manager and "head villain" of the film. The protagonist Ace and his sweet love he meets by a choice of fate (or God as he prefers), Tobio, are the film's most important characters as their relationship and its development over a crisis and some acts of prejudice is exactly what the writer and film makers wanted to give to the world. Simply to tell and show us, how "love doesn't have boundaries, nationalities or genders" which is all true and what real Love is about. Whether you're human, an alien or a zombie, the power of real love can be and is enormous and this unique little film shows that in a way that most shallow horror comedy efforts and other films should even shame in comparison. Wild Zero is a small film about great things and depicting these things doesn't require big budget or big stars, and most importantly, realistic settings and other elements often related to term and genre "drama."
The film is a very unusual zombie horror film with plenty of comedy and elements of musical in it, too. Considering the fact how big and serious theme this film has, the scenes of graphic (albeit very tongue-in-cheek and comic) scenes of gory zombie blasting carnage and other action scenes may feel out of place or unfitting to the rest of the film, but that is not the case since this is a horror comedy which naturally requires those scenes. But a horror comedy can also have something to say other than just the action and this film has a lot. The music by various Japanese rock bands is great and fits to the film's young and hopeful atmosphere very greatly. The character Guitar Wolf is the one who helps Ace to grow up and see those important issues and values of life, and when he has done his job, he can vanish as his mission has been completed. He may not even be a real person since we are deep in the film's own wonderful and also possibly surreal world. His character also reminds me of Val Kilmer's "Elvis" in Tony Scott's True Romance (1993) written by Quentin Tarantino.
The film is also a good commentary on those greedy people, producers and the like who want to limit the creativity and artistic freedom of their money makers, like the rock 'n roll band(s) in this film. The film can be seen as a tribute to that one music genre, but it is at the same time a tribute to all the arts that are to be produced freely without any restrictions and thoughts of business. The central villain in Wild Zero learns it the hard way. The film has also a very nice parodic scene of West meeting East as they start to talk about Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) as they could fight the zombies much better if even someone had seen that US zombie film! Still, they soon learn to aim to the head which also means some negative sides for the film.
The frequent usage of CGI effects in the gore scenes, that consist mostly of heads exploding with very "tasty" sounds at the soundtrack, may seem quite irritating as they are so visibly made by computer and used alot but in my opinion they are not so bad and kind of add to the film's fairy tale like atmosphere which never gets too nasty as it wouldn't even work that way. The film has plenty of violence and some gore (other than those exploding heads) but none of the scenes are so explicit that they should have any negative effect even on the most squeamish viewers I would say. If they do and one feels a need to judge this film, then try to look under its surface and see the big things there inside.
The various characters are definitely quirky, personal and everything imaginable but they are never just irritating or overacting as some were in Versus very annoyingly. That is because Wild Zero is not at all as dead serious in tone as Versus tries to be and so when Versus has those scenes of "entertaining" slapstick, they just feel very gratuitous and unnecessary as they don't fit to the film that has been created before them. But in Wild Zero, every act and sentence (which also include an incredible amount of the "F" word!) tells something about the character in question and their relations. They work in the film's own magical world and most importantly, they are definitely not as brainless and "messy" as in Versus, not to speak of the overacting and "humor" in many Hong Kong films of perhaps any genre.
Wild Zero is among the most surprising, wonderful and rewarding low budget representatives of the horror genre I've perhaps ever seen. At least it must be the world's first life affirming and thoroughly warm zombie gut muncher from anywhere! Japanese cinema is brilliant with masters like Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo, Tokyo Fist, Gemini), Takeshi Kitano (Sonatine, Hana-Bi, A Scene at the Sea) among many others and when gem of a films like Wild Zero appear, it is even clearer for me which country in cinema I admire the most.
Review by Bogey Man from the Internet Movie Database.