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29th Jul 05
Following a jewellery robbery a gang of thieves drive to an old, out-of-town factory, unaware that the place is full of dead bodies about to be reanimated.
How cool it is that a simple, no frills zombie film should seem so fresh. There really isn’t very much to Junk. If you like Tarantino, zombies and are willing to overlook a low budget (and the flaws that naturally accompany a low budget) then you will lap this one up.
It involves a group of four thieves who steal some jewellery then arrange to sell them for a million yen to a dangerous gangster at an old factory outside of town. Unfortunately for all of them, the factory is not as derelict as it seems. The US army have been using it as an experimental laboratory to develop a drug called DNX in an effort to defeat death. A recent incident at the lab when the only two scientists there were attacked by one of their reanimated corpses renders the place seemingly derelict.
Shortly after the thieves’ arrival at the factory, they are preyed upon by the factory dead, and after the big-time gangster and his posse arrive with the intention of killing the thieves and bagging the loot, a bullet frenzy ensues. As a result of the destruction at the hands of the gangsters, containers of DNX crash and spill onto the floor near a multitude of corpses who then rise as a Fulcian army of the living dead. What ensues is the struggle of the only two survivors of the original group of thieves to escape from the factory with not only their lives, but also the loot.
Junk looks like a homage to the older zombie films we know and love. It really doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but that’s ok. Made on what looks like a very low budget, the makers have done an incredible job of making this basic story into a totally exciting and enjoyable 83 minutes which flies by in what feels like half that time.
The characters are strong enough for low budget fare, especially that of the troubled (and unlucky) Akira who provides great comic relief, and Saki, who we naturally care about, even though she’s involved in this type of crime. Her dream of buying an expensive car is her reason for doing this job – she’s a frustrated nurse who just wants a little taste of luxury and we can’t blame her for that. We naturally want to root for these two characters and stand by their side every inch of the way as they battle against the gangsters and the zombies. And the zombie gangsters.
The zombies are no let down, either. They are in the tradition of Romero’s prototype shufflers, slow moving and very hungry. One zombie mealtime scene is directly lifted from Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters as two survivors find a colleague being munched on slowly by crumblies, who are sat on the ground around his body, calmly picking off pieces of his internal organs. Shocked, they turn to run away in the other direction and are suddenly face to face with the undead approaching them. This is exactly what happens in a notorious ZFE scene when the principal cast find Olga Karlatos’ body at Dr Menard’s house. This is no coincidence – more of a tip of the hat to Fulci. And why not?
The background story depicting a mild-mannered general practitioner with a shady past (Takashi) involved in playing God with the dead is well conceived and enriches the overall flow. It transpires that Takashi initially developed the DNX serum in an attempt to bring his wife back to life, so when the authorities ask him for his help, he has no alternative if the world is to be saved from a full-scale living dead apocalypse. He is further convinced to help by knowing that the intelligent zombie who hijacked their attempted auto-destruct of the facility must be his wife. Why she is super-intelligent isn’t explained (perhaps she’s the prototype zombie), though instead of questioning why, it’s better to just sit back and enjoy the action.
Don’t get me wrong – Junkis flawed. Some of the acting is very poor, most notably anyone who speaks English at any point in the film. The American actors act like they would feel more at home in a Bruno Mattei film. The character of Takashi speaks English when he’s working with the US Army and if you don’t read the subtitles then you would have no idea what he’s saying. Thank God for the subtitles then.
But let’s not quibble. Junk is worthy of your time if you like low budget zombie films inspired by the likes of Romero and Fulci. Short on plot and long on gore action of the living dead variety, this one gets a definite thumbs up. Nowhere near as good as Versus though. Or Wild Zero. They take some beating.
26th Apr 04 It’s not all bad of course. This is Tarantino, after all, and there are plenty of highlights. Action scenes are handled very well, (the fight between Black Mamba and Darryl Hannah in particular, is a poke in the eye to any who doubt that),