Junk has one the most most memorable tag lines I have ever seen, which is “Everybody Fights.” It’s simple, to the point, and sums up everything this gem is all about. Junk tells the story of a military experiment to raise humans from the dead with a neon green serum called DNX, which of course was “terminated” due to subjects being resurrected in the form of flesh hungry monsters we affectionately know as zombies. After the research is “stopped”, the United States military, operating from a base in Japan, moves the science project to a restricted and abandoned building in the middle of Japans countryside. When some shoddy jewel thieves decide to use the same building as a meeting point for an exchange of some recently stolen goods with a Yakuza gang, things become quite hectic when the dead harbored there accidentally get exposed to some remaining DNX. What follows is 90 minutes of pure fun full of references to zombie film royalty such as Zombi 2, Re-Animator, Evil Dead, and The Beyond.
From the word “Go”, Junk slaps us silly with an abundance of cheese, so much so you’ll probably want to pour a glass of wine to go with your viewing experience. It starts with a naked chick (I assure you, the breasts are impressive) being injected with DNX (pictured above), which initially proves to be successful. That is until, the chick kills the doctor and his assistant. We are then introduced to our bands of thieves, who have names like Akira and Jun. Whoever wrote this must of really liked Anime, video games, or possibility both. After a botched smash and grab job in a fancy jewelery store, our thieves contact some shady Yakuza types, let by a guy named Romero (Gee, I wonder where they got that name from). Within that surly bunch is an Asian dude with red hair. I’m serious, I can’t make this shit up. I’m going to go ahead and assume that it isn’t his real hair colour. The cast of characters are brilliantly brought to life with the standard “larger than life” personalities we have come to love and expect in any Asian crime flick. For whatever reason, the oriental theater of film has a way of making even the most sleazy and paper thin of characters at least distinguishable if not downright memorable, and Junk is no exception. Think of everyone playing their roles, but then doing caricatures of those roles.
Aside from the fun and lovable characters, Junk propels itself forward into legendary status with a blitzkrieg pace that only increases as the flick chugs along. It does so by increasing the number of zombies, and keeping the body count blissfully high. To go along with the ever rising death toll, we are treated to some of the finest examples of old school prosthetic gore seen outside of the spaghetti horror film craze of Europe in the 70’s and 80’s. We’re talking mammoth squibs, exploding heads, blood spraying out of wounds like fountains and geysers, and hordes gnarly, decaying, lumbering, and gut munching undead. Junk wears its heart right on its sleeve, not for a moment denying the movies that have preceded it and provided a source for inspiration. I commend this kind of worship, instead of passing itself off as some kind of new breed of zombie films, it merely takes what the Japanese already do well (in this case, feverishly fast paced and violent crime dramas) and combines it with the lore and novelty of scientifically created zombies. Besides the absolutely sublime film Versus (actually the first review I ever wrote for this here blog), Junk is the only film I have seen that fuses together the best of what John Woo has to offer in terms of electrifying action with the campy fun that horror has so geniusly made its own.
The sound and visuals all reek of cheddar, with some seemingly intentional low-fi quality to the picture quality, and a soundtrack that borrows just as heavily from the techno thumping made popular by films like The Matrix as it does from the Goblin and Tangerine Dream soundtracks of yesteryear that provided and eerie warmth to classics of the horror genre. It is also abundantly clear that this was made on a moderate budget, and maybe even a shoe string one. With that in mind, the a sheer amount of on screen chaos becomes even more impressive and a careful eye can see how clever use of quick cuts and editing makes what must have been a small squad of extras come across as a shuffling army of cannibalistic death. Gunshots and dialogue are all clear as day, even though you’ll spend a bulk of your time reading the subtitles as I have yet to encounter a DVD with dubbing, and don’t really want to. In short, even its technical aspects sound and look like a love letter to the days where light hearted horror carried just as much as water as the heavier, more psychologically scorching material.
I’ve seen Junk about 5 times now, and have to say that each and every time, it has wowed and entertained me on a level few films ever have. It’s fun for the sake of fun, it never takes itself too seriously, and it slams its foot down on the accelerator and assumes that you can keep up. I like moving, heady, and deep films just as much as the next guy, but there is something to be said for slabs of cinema that don’t try to tug on your heartstrings, or scare the living daylights out of you, but instead warm your innards with the joyous beams of light that only a tale of silly Japanese mafia types vs. the recently resurrected can bring. Junk is a masterpiece of carefree supernatural shoot em ups, a film that you can laugh at and with, and seems to wink right back at you and confirm your suspicions with a giant, shit-eating grin. Junk is built for speed AND pleasure, and is just begging for you to take her for a ride. Five out of five stars.