Review: Meatball Machine Kodoku

Meatball Machine Kodoku/蠱毒(こどく) ミートボールマシン

There’s something comforting about the insane body horror of Yoshihiro Nishimura. The veteran Japanese special effects makeup supervisor is perhaps best known for Tokyo Gore Police and Mutant Girls Squad, and the myriad of over-the-top gore effects that came with them. For that, the world gives thanks to him.

MEATBALL MACHINE KODOKU (蠱毒(こどく)ミートボールマシン) is totem pole in the centre of a complex history of Japanese body horror. A sort of sequel to 2005’s cyberpunk Meatball Machine, itself a reworking of a 1999 film of the same name. Not that any of that really matters once the film gets going, rolling out like a fever dream of penetrative bloodletting. 

Meatball Machine Kodoku/蠱毒(こどく) ミートボールマシン

The film ostensibly follows the “50 years young” debt collector Yuji (Yoji Tanaka), who is so down on his luck that he is in way over his neck in loans himself. Shortly after learning he has cancer, Necroborgs invade the Earth. Turning humans into bizarre machine-beast hybrids by drilling directly into their brains, the afflicted are driven purely by their obsessions. Yet Yuji fights off the worst of the process and retains his conscience, and he must use his new powers to save the young Kaoru (Yuri Kijima) and the rest of the world while he’s at it.

MEATBALL MACHINE KODOKU is an absolute mess of a film, but that’s kind of the point. To try and categorise it within typical narrative conventions is folly from the start. In short order, we have a white-haired, pleather-clad witches painting lines around town, summoning a giant glass case to cover the city. The immediate result is the painful removal at least one penis, the halving a policeman, and the sight of the still humping bloody lower halves of a couple caught in the act.

The combination of this intense body horror and nonsensical cutaways, including the dwarf/angel cabaret that’s a cousin to Eraserhead‘s Lady in the Radiator, emphasise the unreality of Nishimura’s vision. By the time a topless woman drives a bio-organic motorcycle man, while dragging another Necroborg controlled person behind her, you’ve totally learned to just go with it.

It would be possible to pen a lengthy think-piece about why Nishimura’s film is about embracing your inner strength, and defying conformity. Indeed, in light of the ‘twist’ ending and its comments on commercialism, this reading may not be too far off. Yet it is far more pleasurable to simply view the film as a lengthy celebration of chaos and unrestrained insanity. That’s not a bad outlook on life either.

SUFF 20172017 | Japan | DIR: Yoshihiro Nishimura | WRITERS: Sakichi Sato, Yoshihiro Nishimura | CAST: Yoji Tanaka, Yuri Kijima, Eihi Shiina | RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes | DISTRIBUTOR: SUFF (AUS) | RELEASE DATE: 17 September 2017 (SUFF)