31 Days Of Horror 2016: Guest Writer Andrea Subissati on Wild Zero (1999)
Fall has officially fallen, a fact that means several things to this pro-horror fan. One, I can dust off my favorite hoodies, boots and beanies that have collected dust since last March. Two, I can actually find some decent horror-themed housewares and sundry in mainstream stores that would consider them “seasonal”. And three – the horror movies. Oh, the horror movies. I don’t get cable at home anymore (not legally, at least) but I have fond memories of calling in sick to work because of an unmissable TCM marathon. Rep cinemas eschew the standard Brad Pitt fare in favor of horror classics and any local record or video store worth its salt displays a section specially dedicated to the genre that’s usually reserved for the shelves in the back. It’s a truly magical time of year for horror fans.
Anyone familiar with my academic background or my decidedly cerebral horror podcast, The Faculty of Horror, knows that I’m a classic over-thinker when it comes to movies. A cigar is never just a cigar with me, so to speak, but October is typically the time where I try to hang up my horror journalist/scholar hat and put my Jason Voorhees mask on. I watch horror movies all year long but always with some pointed purpose in mind – be it a review for Rue Morgue, an upcoming podcast episode, or research for a Q&A with some horror icon at a convention. Now, I’m not complaining – my life rules. But it’s something of a treat when I have the time and inclination to pop in an old favorite to watch just for the hell of it, without a deadline or ulterior motive attached, and that’s a luxury in which I tend to only indulge in October.
To that end, my October viewing recommendation for Biff Bam Pop! readers is a fun, freaky little number called Wild Zero, directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi. Released in 1999, this oddball J-horror entry not only crosses boundaries within the genre, it blasts them to smithereens. Is it a zombie movie? A rock ‘n roll, road-trip comedy? An alien invasion flick? A touching love story about a psychobilly fan coming to terms with loving a transgendered person? Incredibly, it’s all of the above, and then some.
In the film, a young leather-clad greaser called Ace (Masashi Endō) is attending a concert by his absolute favorite band, Guitar Wolf (an actual, amazing real-life J-punk band – look them up and for God’s sake, see them if they come to perform in your home town!). Suddenly, a meteorite crashes into the Earth, causing many of its inhabitants to turn into flesh-eating zombies, so Ace teams up with the band to battle the monsters and happens to fall in love with the gender-fluid Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai) along the way. Also, there’s an evil music business exec in shiny hot-pants after them. And did I mention the flying saucers? Damn, this movie is nuts!
Trying to describe the plot of Wild Zero is like trying to describe a dream sequence from Twin Peaks; it’s best not to try to make sense of it – just let the absurdity wash over you. Truthfully, the film still makes a lot more sense than the current presidential debate (and is a lot less terrifying, to boot). So if you find yourself craving something cool and unusual to watch this Halloween season, give Wild Zero a spin and see if you can sit through the batshit-crazy climax without pumping your fist at least once. And if you’re in the mood for a Wild Zero viewing party with friends, Synapse Film’s DVD release includes a guided drinking game so you can swill PSLs (pumpkin-spice lagers, I mean) while you watch. Bottoms up, and rock and roll!
Andrea Subissati is a sociologist, journalist and podcaster. In 2010, her masters thesis on the social impact of zombie cinema was published under the title When There’s No More Room In Hell: The Sociology of the Living Dead. She joined the staff of Rue Morgue magazine in 2014, to which she is a frequent contributor. She is co-host and producer of The Faculty of Horror podcast with writer Alexandra West, as well as co-curator of the Toronto-based horror lecture series The Black Museum, which she founded with Paul Corupe. In 2015, she launched the horror YouTube channel THE BATCAVE. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.