Stop-motion animation is one of those things that you thought might die-out with the Nineties, much like shell suits, Aston Villa footballing success and that Prince song. But, while sometimes employed due to budget constraints, has created some very effective moments in cinema, giving many works a charm not possible with modern CGI. Takehide Hori's debut feature "Junk Head" may be lacking in certain areas, but charm is certainly not one of them.
Essentially self-made, with the help of Yuji Sugiyama and Atsuko Miyake, much like Nick Park with "A Grand Day Out" which took years to make, "Junk Head" is four years in the making and a clear labour of love. And while watching a stop-motion film in 2017 may feel a bit backward, the fact that it takes you back to the days of yesteryear is part of the attraction to "Junk Head", with a soundtrack and style that feels straight out of the Nineties.
Humans have modified themselves to the point where they can live with vastly expanded life-spans; though the price for this endless living is the loss of ability to reproduce. With the need for greater manpower, human clones were created to take on the workload, though inevitably they rebelled. Forced to live underground, the "unstable" clones have taken on a number of differing forms: some mad; some evil; some funny; some friendly; all seemingly straight out of a creative art studio.
With the need for humans to learn more about how to reclaim the ability to reproduce, volunteers are sent underground to learn how it may be possible again. One such volunteer accidentally crashes underground; only his modified head surviving the journey.
Found by a trio of eccentric hunters, the head is taken to a doctor who transfers his mind into that of a boy robot. Understanding that he is of human form - the master race of creators - the clones revere him as a god. But confused by his new body and surroundings, the human runs in panic. To start, this leads to many scenes of running through seemingly endless corridors, trying to avoid the monstrous clones that lurk behind each and every corner.
Eventually plummeting further into the depths of the Earth, he is again found in a heap on the floor in need of reconstruction - his next incarnation as a mute worker robot. Getting lost on an errand, he again finds himself in an endless maze avoiding monsters everywhere, before being reunited with the original hunters to try and find the secret of reproducing.
Plot-wise, with a newly created world, there are many gaps, and we are thrown into a scenario knowing about as much as our dazed and confused hero. To start, there is a feeling that this could be two hours of endless running through corridors to Nineties-esque electro. But as the bumbling hero's story develops, you do follow him on his journey, with the animation style soon feeling less of a novelty as it progresses. Sadly, however, just as you're getting into the characters and their various quirks, the film comes to a somewhat abrupt, and inconclusive, end.
Humour is laced throughout "Junk Head", from the movements, to character traits, to the down-right strangeness of the character design, particularly the hunters. The obscure, distorted language in which all characters speak starts off as potentially irritating, but gradually you feel as if you almost comprehend it. Indeed, "Junk Head" is a film that you grow into in the unique environment, much like the human in the underground setting.
But for all its charms, "Junk Head" perhaps needs a more satisfying conclusion, particularly with the running time in a challenging style to hold an audience's attention. Originality of themes may not be as strong as it could be also; many ideas feeling likes those you may have seen before. In that sense, developed from a short, as a feature it is a little lacking overall.
But in a day and age where "quick and easy" (I say with no authority) computer graphics are starting to rule, the heart and soul of "Junk Head" are there to see, despite its hero lacking either. The sped-up shots of the three man crew during production over the end credits are a nice touch, though with so few people working on the film, these are over far too quickly. A shame for a film that took so long to make...
Review by politic1983 from the Internet Movie Database.