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Synapse Films presents
Wild Zero (2000)

"I'm not like Guitar Wolf. I can't even save one girl. I'm nothing. I can't even play guitar. I'm so uncool."
- Ace (Masashi Endo)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 02, 2004

Stars: Masashi Endo, Shitichai Kwancharu, Guitar Wolf
Other Stars: Bass Wolf, Drum Wolf, Makoto Inamiya, Haruka Nakajo, Shiro Namiki, Taneko, Yoshiyuki Morishita
Director: Tetsuro Takeuchi

Manufacturer: Cinepost
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, extreme violence, gore, drug use, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:38m:28s
Release Date: September 30, 2003
UPC: 654930302996
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Much of the recent resurgence of Japanese horror (Ju-On, Ringu) has been atmospheric rather than gore-driven. But the Japanese can also do extreme, outrageous (if not cartoonish) violence with the best of them, and when you combine that with a setting of George Romero-type zombies and punk rock, there are hardly any limits to what insanity you might find on the screen. And that's a snapshot of Wild Zero, from music video director Tetsuro Takeuchi.

Pompadoured Ace (Masashi Endo) is a devoted fan of the punk band Guitar Wolf (which is also the name of the lead guitarist). But when Guitar Wolf gets into a dispute with Captain (Makoto Inamiya), the bullets start to fly and Ace gets caught in the crossfire. In honor of Ace's injuries, Guitar Wolf makes him a blood brother. Although Captain has had a couple fingers blown off, he still is after revenge and pursues Guitar Wolf. But he's not the only one, for hordes of alien spacecraft have started turning humans in the town of Asahi into zombies. Ace and Guitar Wolf try to fend off the plague of zombies as well as the deranged Captain and violent arms dealers, all to a thrash-and-surf musical score, and quite a few laughs.

The screenplay is a bit of a mess, and there's little in the way of character development or logical justification. What it does offer is plenty of loud, raucous music (with contributions from the venerable Dick Dale, among others) and jaw-dropping violence and gore spouting everywhere. While the effects work is frequently spectacular (especially the many exploding heads, among other excesses), the zombie makeup itself is pitifully amateurish, usually just a layer of turquoise makeup with some gore effects to vary the display.

Guitar Wolf (the musician) is an oddball hero, with more than a little of Fonzie on display in his ability to get the better of just about everyone and still be ultracool. Ace is a fun counterpoint to this character, as he's at heart a poseur who has to find real depths to himself. Tobio remains pretty enigmatic throughout, though she manages to prompt quite a reaction from Ace. The carload of comic relief thrill-seekers is pretty amusing too, especially the couple who remain romantically involved even after they've become gut-munching zombies. Their zombie kiss is a pretty unforgettable segment of celluloid.

The zombies don't, on the whole, make a lot of consistent sense. Most of them are your standard-issue shuffling mindless eaters of brains, but every now and then one will retain a personality (such as the kissing couple) or even be able to talk and form deceptive plans, which seems more than a little out of character. But looking for logic here is probably a bad diea. The picture is at its best when it turns into a parody of itself; there are some very funny over-the-top bits such as Ace constantly combing his insanely-large pompadour and the flames erupting from the heroes' tailpipes for no particular reason. This is pretty much all about fun in a sometimes revolting way, and to that extent Wild Zero succeeds admirably.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Although Synapse usually provides top-notch transfers on its discs, for some reason this widescreen presentation is in nonanamorphic format. As such, it looks okay, but it surely could have looked much better. The picture is rather soft and murky, lacking in fine details. Color is good and black levels are acceptable. Aliasing is frequently an issue but I wasn't troubled by edge enhancement or digital artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 Dolby Surround track is plenty loud, with the music frequently distorted (though I'm guessing this is intentional, based on the kind of music it is). Explosions are lacking in beefiness and depth. Dialogue is clean enough, and there's little hiss or noise. Surround activity is fairly limited.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:19m:09s

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
  2. Guitar Wolf Discography
  3. Drinking Game
  4. Behind-the-scenes music video
Extras Review: The most interesting extra, an interview (7m:05s) with Guitar Wolf, is hidden as an easter egg on the Special Features screen. There are also a substantial bio and discography for Guitar Wolf (the band), as well as a gallery of CD artwork and about a dozen stills. There's a trailer (also nonanamorphic widescreen), a 2m:28s collage of behind-the-scenes footage billed as a "music video" and a drinking game. The game is designed to get you obliterated quickly: one of the many cues for a drink (highlighted by an optional beer mug onscreen) is whenever anyone combs his hair. You don't need to be drunk to enjoy this movie, but I'm guessing it's pretty entertaining under the influence.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Weird and uncategorizable punk zombie film, given an iffy nonanamorphic transfer and a few good extras.


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