Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Foreign,Horror Attack Girls Swim Team Versus The Unliving Dead (Joshikyôei hanrangun – 2007)

Attack Girls Swim Team Versus The Unliving Dead (Joshikyôei hanrangun – 2007)

CoverAfter thoroughly enjoying the visual lunacy that was Tokyo Gore Police (2008), I decided to immerse myself further into the murky terrain of extreme Japanese horror cinema. So fittingly my next choice was Attack Girls Swim Team Versus The Unliving Dead (2007). Directed by Koji Kawano and starring Japanese adult entertainment star Sasa Handa, expectations were deservedly high regarding this film due to the recent successful release of a number of extreme horror films from Japan.

The orphaned Aki (Sasa Handa), arrives at a new school only to discover it has suffered the outbreak of a mysterious virus. Quickly the virus transforms all those infected into flesh eating zombies, with the only exceptions being the girls swim team (immune due to their constant exposure to chlorine). It is the responsibility of Aki, with her deadly expertise as a ‘water assassin’, and the rest of the swim team to battle the undead swarming their school and defeat those responsible. The plot is clearly an over-the-top irrational affair, characteristic of extreme Japanese and exploitive cinema, which suggests something of such promise. The title alone is simply brilliant, alluding to the possibility of a film that is even more creative and bizarre than Nishimura’s recent cult hit. However this is unfortunately where all positives end.

Plot or characterisation is never the priority for filmmakers within this style of filmmaking but within Attack Girls… it is particularly ridiculous and very underdeveloped, almost to the degree that it feels the script was being written on a napkin while filming. Aki’s training as a ’water assassin’ is never fully explained and just seems too illogical even for a film of this style, as well as the reasoning for the outbreak of the virus. This haphazard style unfortunately also dominates the film technically. Visually it feels like it has been shot on a mid-level HD camera more suitable for home video, the pace of the editing is particularly disjointed and shots frequently dip out of focus throughout. Yes, low budget filmmaking is expected to look shoddy and have that ‘DIY’ feel to it but it is also supposed to possess a charm and self-awareness that makes it bizarrely appealing; take Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (1981). The frequent carelessness is epitomised during the opening credits where the word ‘directed’ is misspelt ‘d-e-r-e-c-t-e-d.’ Such an amateurish mistake is unforgivable and should have really been heeded as an indication of what was to come. The film simply feels like an extremely poor attempt at filmmaking akin to a clumsy low grade student effort.

While narrative is predominately subservient in exploitation cinema, any positives are usually found in grisly special effects, some degree of erotica and bizarre comedy. Unfortunately Attack Girls… even manages to disappoint on what it is supposed to fundamentally provide its audience. It resorts to typical zombie neck bites with very little blood and any blood that does appear is usually sprayed onto a wall from off-screen. The minimal moments of on-screen gore involve the tired act of ripping and revealing the disembowelled guts of a victim, which are a bizarre neon pink in colour. The few severed limbs that do appear also bounce ridiculously when dropped into shot and look incredibly inexpensive even for a low budget film. Realism is not the problem here but it is the lack of any creativity or inventiveness. The disgusting effects in Tokyo Gore Police are never intended on being realistic and technically appear poor at times, but it is the originality of the action on-screen and unashamed relentless manner in which it is forced into the spectators face, that makes for a more enjoyable and superior film.

The few other visual effects in the film, such as the pixelated explosions at its climax, would even appear embarrassing on a 20 year old 8bit games console. Echoing the lack of creativity in its effects, humour is also notably absent from the film. The only memorable moment comes from the zombie Maths teacher who constantly juggles rulers and uses his trigonometry set to deadly effect. For once, the film shows a spark of ingenuity and a moment of potential, but one genuinely humorous instant is not enough to save an entire film. What also furthers the film’s continuous downward spiral is its softcore sex scenes. Its no surprise with an adult video star as the lead protagonist, that there is frequent nudity, lesbian sex and even rape scenes throughout. However they are tedious, perversly linger for too long and are in no way ever titillating. The only people seemingly getting any perverse pleasure from the on-screen displays are the director and camera operator. A persistently annoying factor to also note in such scenes is the high pitched orgasmic moans of Sasa Handa. She is an undeniably beautiful woman, but her grating groans sound like helium being blown through the rectum of a tortured weasel. I know the acting abilities of adult entertainment stars are typically non-existent but they should at least be able to moan believably (and humanly) mid-coitis.

I never take pleasure in lambasting a film and I really wanted to enjoy Attack Girls…. Its basic premise and title sounded both intriguing and fantastic, and after recently watching Tokyo Gore Police I had very high expectations for this film. But unfortunately the title falsely lures you in and the film disappointingly fails to deliver. I would doubt even the staunchest advocates of exploitive cinema could take any pleasure from it. Technically it is extremely poor, while the special effects are persistently pathetic and lack any innovation. And in terms of sex appeal, it is as sexy as Norman Bate’s mother in high-heels and suspenders. Deservedly it is destined to remain in the shadows of its superior extreme counterparts. The moral of the story; never judge a book by its cover or a film by its title.

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