Uncompromisingly Manic, WILD ZERO Is The Perfect Movie For Any Halloween Party
Only legendary Japanese garage rock band Guitar Wolf can stand between a race of aliens from destroying earth with an army of zombies.
Director: Tetsuro Takeuchi
Cast: Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf, Bass Wolf, Endô Masashi, Kwancharu Sitichai, Inamiya Makoto
Runtime: 98 minutes
Wild Zero contains aliens, zombies, tons of explosions and Japan’s answer to the Ramones. It’s a film with its priorities right. Instead of spending its budget on making zombies look convincing, it splurges on unnecessary explosions and flame-spitting vehicles and microphones. Forget hacks like Kurosawa and Mizoguchi, films like these are why we should be thankful for Japanese cinema.
Wild Zero begins with a Mexican stand-off between Guitar Wolf, an underground punk rock group, and a shady club owner only known as Captain (Inamiya Makoto), after he decides to replace the club’s line-up with J-pop given the decline of rock and roll’s popularity. Ace (Endô Masashi), a superfan of the punk band, inadvertently barges into the scene and saves the leather jacket wearing trio.
Grateful for his help, the band gives Ace a dog whistle to use any time he is in danger, promising that they will look for him wherever he may be – a whistle that he uses almost immediately. In true B-movie fashion, aliens soon start raising the dead and what follows is a handful of zany subplots that all culminate with its truly outrageous final act.
To describe Wild Zero as over-the-top would be an understatement – this goes to 11. Most of the film’s charm comes from its starring band. For those missing out, Guitar Wolf are actual punk rock legends in Japan. The three members of the band – Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf, and Bass Wolf – essentially play themselves in the film, bordering on ridiculous and always brimming with manic energy.
Flames spurt out from their vehicle’s exhaust pipes. Guitar Wolf (the guitarist) passionately screams about rock and roll, and of love having no borders, nationalities or genders before disappearing into the night. He shoots at zombies while the rest of the band nonchalantly combs their hair in the background. At one point, he leaps off an exploding building – with guitar in hand – before landing with a pose. I wish I was making these things up.
Soundtracking the movie is the gnarly, rampaging sounds of Guitar Wolf (the band) – think the devil-may-care attitude of the Sex Pistols mixed with the pounding rhythms of the Ramones. Coupled with its liberal use of slow motion and fast forward, Wild Zero is suitably zany for its premise. Sure, its special effects are hilariously awful and the acting is corny but I felt like they are all part of its charm.
Believe it or not, there is a strong, progressive message about the LGBTQ community amidst all the madness on screen. The romance between Ace and a young girl Tobio (Kwancharu Sitichai) soon evolves into a sincere message about love transcending genders. The movie deals with the theme with maturity, treating their love as equal without resorting to the all-too-common fare of preachiness which tends to plague modern films tackling such issues.
Wild Zero, however, does slightly falter with its limited budget cutting into its pace. Such constraints forces its more far-out elements to be mostly kept for its third act, with its various subplots simply not engaging enough to carry the rest of the movie whenever the undead aren’t on screen. Fortunately, the film’s brisk runtime means that lunacy is always around the next corner.
Wild Zero is an uncompromising ball of fire filled with equal parts absurdity and passion. It may have the premise of one but it is far from being a schlocky film where entertainment is mostly found in their awfulness. Much like punk rock, sometimes attitude is all that is required – musicianship and virtuosity be damned. Wild Zero is a blitzkrieg bop that is the perfect way to spend the Halloween season with friends and a few (too many) drinks.
Get a dose of the film’s madness here: