Sunday, July 17, 2022

BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL (1995) (Visual Vengeance Blu-ray Review)

Collector's Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Visual Vengeance
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 62 Minutes
Audio: Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Director: Shinichi Fukazawa
Cast: Shinichi Fukazawa, Masaaki Kai, Masahiro Kai, Aki Tama Mai, Asako Nosaka

I will just say it here at the start, this no-budget homage to the Evil Dead films, which is alternately known as "The Japanese Evil Dead" for good reason, is probably my favorite film discovery of the month of the July! I know we're only two weeks in but I would be hard-pressed to imagine anything topping this gore-tastic and dementedly lo-fi tribute to Sam Raimi's seminal cabin-in-the-woods flick.  

The scuzzy-looking SOV gem opens with a couple quarrelling violently, with an angry woman holding a knife to her lover (director Shinichi Fukazawa), upset that he is threatening to leave her. She stabs him superficially but he manages to overpower her, killing her by plunging the knife into her chest. He then chops up her body with an ax and buries her corpse, along with a keepsake necklace, beneath the floorboards of the home - but not before she curses him. Thirty years later the man had died and his son Naoto (Fukazawa, again), who knows nothing of the murder, shows up at his father's now abandoned home after agreeing to meet his ex girlfriend Mike (Asako Nosako) there. She a  journalist who writes articles about the supernatural, and she brings along a dime store psychic named Mizuguchi (Masaaki Kaji) to explore the home, which is said to be haunted.

While exploring the dilapidated house the psychic senses the evil within and quickly becomes possessed by the demonic spirit the murdered mistress, with loads of bloody Evil Dead splatter inspired horror being unleashed up on the former couple, who are now trapped in the violently haunted house. As the blood soaked insanity unfolds it falls upon the Naoto, a body builder of sorts, to save himself and his ex from the voracious demonic deadite who is hell-bent on killing Naoto, who just happens to be the spitting image of his late father. 

While it is not original in the slightest this is still a big-time entertaining slice of gore soaked cinema; we have a single-location, a minimal cast, and loads of stop-motion and practical gore-gags executed on a shoestring budget which plastered a smile on my face starting at about the 20-minute mark and stayed there till the end - it's only 63-minutes long and it flies by. The flick is an earnest love letter to Raimi's first and second Evil Dead films, from a guy who only ever made this one film, and who wears his love of  those films on his sleeve, not even bothering to try to hide it. As a fan of those films and of tenacious low-budget cinema I was just having a great time watching this and I am pleased as punch to see it get a proper extras-laden Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance so more horror nuts can lay eyes on it and love it like I do. 

Gore-gags include the demonic blue skinned zombie being stabbed in the skull with a butcher's blade, the eye then popping out of socket on the tip of the blade, a sweet decapitation by shovel, various reanimated limbs including a severed foot that taunts the protagonist - which was a fun spin on the possessed hand from Evil Dead 2, plus a biting flying head and loads of melty gory claymation shenanigans. It basically has all the evil dead plot elements; we get the remote location, demonic possession, the father reaching out from beyond the grave to warn about the evil, the protaganist interrogating the severed head, the element of the necklace, and some rudimentary but awesome stop-motion animation. The hero even says "Groovy" while brandishing his weapon of choice - it's all there, just slightly rewired and a little bit crappier, but in a fun and inspired sort of way that the horror-obsessed will love. It also helps that it has a real 80's splatter vibe about it, even though it was made in the mid-90's, the SOV patina of it feels older and scuzzier.

Audio/Video: Bloody Muscle Body Builder In Hell (1995) debuts on region-free Blu-ray from Wild Eye Releasing's premium Visual Vengeance imprint in 1080p HD fullscreen (1.33:1), sourced from archival 1995 SD master from original tapes. This was originally shot on 8mm film and then transferred to video tape for editing, it makes for a not ideal image with smearing. clumpy grain, compression,  fluctuating density levels, and murky blacks, but on the whole I thought colors looked pretty decent given what it is, particularly the blue-skinned undead and the copious amounts of the groovy red stuff. I am assuming the original 8mm film elements are long gone, or could not be used to reconstruct the film, so what we get is an authentic looking SOV (Shot-On-Video) horror flick, not great but still cool. Audio comes by way of uncompressed DTS-HD MA or lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles. I thought the uncompressed track was solid with obvious source limitation, and I had no issue deciphering dialogue, and it was much stronger than the lossy Dolby Digital companion track. 

Onto the extras, we get some nifty bonus junk for this gem, starting off with a pair of commentaries, the first is an Audio Commentary with directors Adam Green (Hatchet and Joe Lynch (Mayhem), and the second is an Audio Commentary with Japanese film historian James Harper. I have only previewed a few minutes of the Harper track, it's a bit dry but well-informed, but I did take in the the Green/Lynch track and it is fun. They note that they're watching a non subtitled version of the film and just sort of wing it, having a blast while they add their own dialogue and effects sounds to the proceedings, it's more humorous than info-packed.  

We also get a brand new Interview with director Shinichi Fukazawa that only lasts four-minutes but is packed with cool tidbits like how he had been a horror fan ever since seeing George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead at the theatre as a kid, the excitement if seeing Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness, the influence of the Evil Dead films on thi sone, and how his blue-faced zombies are more a nod to Japanese ghost stories than Tom Savini's make-up effects work in Romero's Dawn of the Dead. He also gets into the extended 15 year process of making the film, which started filming in 1994 and wrapped in 2009,then doing a few reshoots in 2010, before self releasing it as a limited edition (of 100)  DVDR in 2012 with a theatrical and wider DVD distribution following in 2014. 

Other extras include 2-minutes of Outtakes with some cool scenes of  bloodwork and decapitation-by-shovel, 2-minutes of Special Effects Video shot for the film, which includes fun stuff with a severed hand, a corpse bursting through a floor. Disc extras are buttoned-up with a pair of fullscreen Theatrical Trailers that are about a minute each, 4-minutes of Behind-the-Scenes Images that offer a glimpse into the making of the film, plus a 3-min Image Gallery of stills from the movie. 

The single-disc releases arrives in a clear Viva Elite keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork. Inside there's a 4-Page Illustrated Booklet with the 'Spawn of the Dead: The Roots of Shinichi Fukazawa Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell (1995)'  essay by Matt Desiderio which digs into the far reaching pop culture influence of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise, as well as paying homage to Fukazawa's
determination and tenacity. We also get some cool packaging ephemera like a 'stick your own’ VHS Sticker Set, featuring the same set of stickers we got with Visual Vengeance's The Necro Files Blu-ray, plus a limited edition Fold-Out Mini Poster, and a cool vintage style laminated 'Eye4Video' Video Store Rental Card! The first print run includes a limited edition Slipcover that features what is easily my favorite of the Visual Vengeance artworks I've seen or that have been announced so far. I continue to be impressed with Visual Vengeance's collector's treatment of these no-budget gems, they know what collector's are looking for and they have once more delivered the goods. 

Special Features:
- Archival 1995 SD Master from Original Tapes
- Uncompressed DTS-HD MA and Dolby Digital Audio
- New Interview with Director Shinichi Fukazawa (4 min)
- Audio Commentary with directors Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen) and Joe Lynch (Shudder’s Creepshow, Mayhem).
- Audio Commentary track with Japanese film historian James Harper
- Outtakes (2 min)
- Special effects video (2 min)
- Original archival trailer #1 (1 min)
- Original archival trailer #2 (1 min)
- Behind-the-Scenes Image Gallery (4 min) 
- Archival Image Gallery (3 min) 
- Four-Page Illustrated Booklet with Liner notes 'Spawn of the Dead: The Roots of Shinichi Fukazawa Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell (1995) by Matt Desi
- Limited Edition Slipcase
- Collectible Mini-poster
- ‘Stick your own’ VHS Sticker Set
- Vintage style laminated Video Store Rental Card
- Visual Vengeance Trailers: Slaughter Day (1 min), Moonchild (1 min), The Necro Files (1 min)

Screenshots from the Visual Vengeance Blu-ray: 




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