WWS 02: The Monster Squad

Kev and Trav pick up the torch for cult movies once again as they review the 80s cult classic horror/comedy THE MONSTER SQUAD!

Our cinematic servants delve deep into the brain matter of this beloved kids movie from an era when it was cool for gradeschoolers to drink, smoke, cuss and talk about Wolfman’s nards. Join us, won’t you, as we send up another B-movie masterpiece!

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Kevin Strange’s Top 6 Japanese Splatterpunk Movies

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One of my favorite sub-genres of horror, and a HUGE aesthetic inspiration to my movies and books is the little-know wacky genre known as Japanese splatter punk. This type of movie has been around for some time, but didn’t really kick into its current batshit crazy incarnation till the mid 00s when a group of Japanese filmmakers raised off ultra-violent 80s anime and the “video nasties” era of 80s gory horror movies in America came into their own.

See, every generation builds off of the craziness of the last. It’s why I love bizarro fiction so much. It’s an answer to the splatter punk fiction of the 90s which was an answer to the rise of horror fiction in the 80s. Same is true for Japanese splatter punk. How do you answer ultra-violent anime? You turn it live action and add even MORE blood and guts and crazy monsters. That’s how!

So with that in mind, here are my personal 6 favorite Japanese splatter punk flicks:

6. Ichi The Killer (2001)

You can’t talk crazy Japanese movies without mentioning Takashi Miike, the veritable master of Asian weird cinema, so we’ll start things off with him. My favorite Miike flick is the off-the-wall gorefest known as Ichi the Killer.

This flick is interesting for a lot of reasons but one of them is that the main character, and the character used in the marketing of the movie isn’t Ichi at all. It’s the villain of the film, Kakihara.

Ichi came out right at the tail end of the body modification craze of the late 90s when absolutely everyone (myself included) was getting tatted up and experimenting with extreme piercing, branding, scarification and skin suspension.

Ichi has a little bit of all of that, but Kakihara in particular is a shining example. He’s had his cheeks split open so that his mouth opens extra wide. This is a type of ritual punishment in some gang circles, but Miike makes it extra cool by keeping the wounds open and holding them together with piercings. This, in addition to Kakihara’s extensive facial scaring makes him a unique and unforgettable character from the first time we see him on screen.

Ichi, for his part, is a deranged violent psychopath who’s given a pair of bladed boots which he uses to kick/chop his way through a veritable cornucopia of gangsters throughout the flick.

The violence and depravity builds to an insane creshendo which includes dipping people in human feces, suspending them from their back skin and, at one point, Kakihara even cuts off his own tongue for failing his gangster boss. This ain’t one for the squeamish, folks. Highly recommended. 4/5 Strangeheads

5. Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

This is the movie that turned me on to the fact that there was a group of filmmakers in Japan creating ultra-violent live action homages to 80s and 90s anime utilizing mostly practical gore and monster effect.

And MAN does Tokyo Gore Police have some monsters and gore in it! What little plot there is involves a scientist who creates a virus which turns those infected into monsters who sprout huge weapons from any wound they receive. How fucking cool is that?!

The monsters in this flick include a girl with a crocodile mouth for a lower half, a girl with arms and legs made of katana blades, a girl with eyeball stalks and a snail shell and a girl with penises for hair. Yes you read that correctly.

This is the movie that normalized gratuitous amounts of practical blood and gore and ushered in the Japanese splatter punk genre, but, to be honest, it’s mostly just an incomprehensible mess.

The story involves a female cop out for vengeance for the death of her cop dad. There’s a special task force to kill the infected “engineer” monsters, and of course the mad scientist who’s pulling the strings of the whole thing, but all of this is merely an excuse to put as many cool looking monsters and sexy mutant girls on screen next to brutally over-the-top gore as possible. And really, what’s wrong with that? 3/5 Strangeheads

4. Robogeisha (2009)

Robogeisha is the flick I most often show to people when I want to introduce them to the Japanese splatter punk genre. Not because it’s necessarily the best or goriest of the genre, but because it’s one of the lightest and most fun.

We have robot geishas who have machinegun tits, asshole katanas and a whole lot more surprises along the way as two sisters named Yoshie and Kikue Kasuga are transformed into cyborg assassins by an evil corporation.

Of course one of them remains good while the other turns evil and sides with the maniac who runs the company that turned them into killer machines.

The insanity reaches its peak when the big bad actually transforms his castle into a giant robot and scales Mount Fuji in order to drop a bomb inside that’s “17 times more powerful than an atomic bomb.”

The two sisters make up and actually form a two-bodied kick-ass robo assassin to fight the robo-castle. Yeah, my kinda flick. 5/5 Strangeheads

3. Meatball Machine (2005)

This flick is extremely derivative of a classic body horror flick that for sure has served as an inspiration to the entire Japanese splatter punk genre. That film is Tetsuo: The Iron man which, in short, is about a couple who grow machine parts, including a drill-dick, and proceed to spend the movie fighting to the death.

THIS movie, Meatball Machine, takes that premise and turns it up to 11 by making a series of small puppet-aliens which infect human bodies, turning them into mindless meat-robots whose only purpose is to wreak havoc and destruction in their attempt to kill any other aliens present in the vicinity.

The aliens infect an awkward boy who has a distant, weird crush on an even more awkward girl who works in the same factory who also gets herself infected with a puppet-alien.

The ensuing carnage is both beautiful and heart wrenching as the minds of the boy and girl fight against their meat-metal bodies as the aliens inside of them seek to destroy each other. It’s actually a REALLY sweet love story if you can get past all of the decapitation, dismemberment and horrific, twisted body modification.  4/5 Strangeheads

2. Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl (2009)

This is one of the craziest movies I’ve ever seen in my life. And that’s saying something A. coming from Kevin Strange and B. coming from Kevin Strange’s list of some of the craziest movies ever made. Yes, Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl might be the weirdest monster movie ever made, and I’m gonna tell you why.

First, in lieu of trying to explain the almost incoprehensible plot, I’m just going to refer to the wikipedia plot synopsis:

In a typical Tokyo high school a perpetually teenage vampire named Monami (Yukie Kawamura) falls for her classmate, Mizushima (Takumi Saito), who happens to already be the reluctant boyfriend to the vice principal/science professor’s daughter, Keiko (Eri Otoguro), a leader of a Sweet Lolita gang. The ensuing love triangle leads Keiko to seek the assistance of her father who, unbeknown to his daughter, moonlights as a Kabuki-clad mad scientist with the school nurse as his assistant. The pair experiment on students in the school basement hoping to discover the secret of reanimating corpses (akin to the work of Victor Frankenstein). Their hopes are answered when they discover a solution of Monami’s blood holds the properties to bring life to dead body parts and inanimate objects.

Yeah, so. We have a vampire girl just because we do. Her blood reanimates body parts. Even severed ones. The girlfriend of her crush is actually in a gang of girls who slit their wrist for fun AND in an aesthetic turn that would have the filmmakers put in front of a cultural firing squad if the film had been made in the US, her gang features Asian actors in BLACKFACE who RUN VERY FAST as if the blackface itself wasn’t offensive enough!

And their teacher happens to moonlight as a mad scientist with a lab in the basement of the school. Yeah. That’s the movie. The blood gushing sequences here are among the BEST I’ve ever seen in a movie. When Vampire Girl bites the neck of her victims, the blood spews out and up so far and so hard that it creates a blood rain above the girl.

There are several beautiful sequences where she’s dancing in slow motion underneath the torrent of blood and gore until she’s been turned completely red from the sheer amount of bodily fluid raining down on her. If you’re a gore freak like me, that’s heaven.

So blah, blah, blah, shit happens, the jealous slit-writ club girlfriend throws herself off a roof, dies and is reanimated by her mad-scientist father as Frankenstein Girl and the two monster girls proceed to fight and fight some more. It’s a fight that features a helicopter helmet made of body parts and a blood-spike armor suit.

If you like your gore mixed with a healthy dose of WTF!?! then this flick is for you. 5/5 Strangeheads

1. Helldriver (2010)

This isn’t the movie I start people with when I show them the Japanese splatterpunk genre, but it is my favorite. Follow me here, it’s gonna get weird REAL quick:

Kika’s mother and uncle are SERIAL KILLER CANNIBALS who set Kika’s father on fire and get set to killer her too when a METEOR FALLS FROM THE SKY and plunges through Kika’s mother’s chest, obliterating her heart.

She then RIPS OUT KIKA’S HEART and, as if all of this wasn’t absolutely, totally insane right from the jump off, Kika and her mother then BECOME COCOONED do to the magical powers of the meteor.

Also as an effect of the meteor, a black ash covers the top half of Japan turning half the country’s population into zombies. But not just any zombies. Zombies with weird forked stalks that jut out from their foreheads. And those stalks? Yeah, they’re EXPLOSIVE.

Kika is found by a group of people who give her an artificial heart while her mother breaks out of the cocoon and becomes THE QUEEN OF THE ZOMBIES. Absolute and total insanity results and Kika is outfitted with a badass, form-fitting leather costume and CHAINSAW SWORD with which she fights off the zombie hordes lead by her deranged uncle and zombie queen mother.

As if all of THAT wasn’t totally bonkers enough, this movie features a car chase with a car made entirely of zombie body parts, a sword fight featuring a zombie with 20 arms, and features a climax with the zombie queen controlling a giant zombie made of zombies which transforms itself into a jet by grabbing hold of two nuclear missiles.

This is by far the most imaginative and insane of all of the Japanese splatter punk flicks and for sure my top recommendation. 5/5 Strangeheads

Kevin Strange’s Phantasm: Ravager Review


Fresh off a theatrical screening of the new 4K restoration version of the original 1979 PHANTASM film, I decided it was high time to man up and give the latest sequel of one of my favorite horror franchises a go. So I rented PHANTASM: RAVAGER and held on to my balls. So to speak. Get it? Balls? Spheres? Anyway.

As I finished watching the original Phantasm the other night, I couldn’t help but remember the words of a prominent horror fiction editor about “it was all a dream” trope endings. He’d said, more or less, that if your book ended with all of the happenings turning out to have just been a dream or a hallucination, don’t bother sending him your work for publication. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically he said that it felt cheap, like he’d wasted his time reading the story because none of it “really happened.”


As Phantasm ended, I couldn’t help but think that this is maybe the only horror franchise in existence that sort of hinges its entire mythology on “it was all a dream” logic. I laughed as I exited the movie theater, thinking of how cool it was that a horror franchise had thrived and became a cult favorite off of a reviled story telling trope.

So imagine my glee when Phantasm: Ravager started and within the first five minutes of the movie, a startlingly old Michael sat with an even older Reggie at a retirement home and told him that everything they’d ever been through in THE ENTIRE PHANTASM FRANCHISE had been nothing more than Reggie suffering from early onset dementia. Forty years of storytelling right down the fucking tubes for that horror editor. A lifetime of fandom just… poof, up and gone, just like that.



So this 4th sequel of the Tall Man franchise is every bit a loving tribute and fan service to a four decade long franchise full of head popping shiny spheres, creepy mausoleums, hooded dwarves and quadruple sawed off shotguns. Just look at the end credits. David Hartman was basically a one man band here. He directed, co-wrote with series creator Don Coscarelli, shot it, scored it, edited it, and did the visual effects for it.

I’m not gonna lie. When I heard that this movie was basically David and Reggie and a camcorder, shot over long periods of time when money allowed it, I was not at all excited to see the final product. But seeing it play out with all of the jumps in time and setting, it turns out that was the perfect way to shoot the script that David and Don wrote.

And so the film plays with this idea that Reggie is suffering from dementia, casting him in and out of vivid post-apocalyptic landscapes with awesome gigantic spheres laying waste to everything in sight.


Angus Skrimm, The Tall Man, to his credit, old as the goddamn stars in this film, hits all his lines note-perfect. It’s like he was born to play the sinister Tall Man. And die playing him as well. Which is fine by this Phan. The man in the suit screamed BOOYYYYYYY! one last time, and it brought a goddamn tear to my eye.

PHANTASM: RAVAGER is cheap. Man, is it cheap. There are long passages of the film that reek of a made for Sci-Fi channel original. And much of the film’s visual effects are jarringly bad CGI. But you know what? Having just watched the 1979 original, there’s a fucking puppet fly monster that Michael and Jody beat to death inside a jacket.

This wasn’t a series based on fancy visual effects in the first place. It was about atmosphere and unique storytelling. And while much of the acting is stiff and lines are delivered halfheartedly, Reggie and Angus–really the two most important players here–play their roles with the utmost sincerity.


Did PHANTASM: RAVAGER need to be made? No. But I’m glad it was. I’m glad Reggie got to fire that bad mother fucking four barrel shotgun one last time. I’m glad Reggie, Michael and Jody got to cruise in the ‘Cuda one last time. And I’m glad Angus’s Tall Man got to menace our heroes one last time.

Very few franchises get to keep their heart, their soul and their enthusiasm over the decades without being taken over by different writers, directors, or studios who want to change or re-imagine, remake or recast the characters and drastically alter the story.

The PHANTASM franchise went out on its own terms with its integrity intact and that, for me, was worth every goddamn sequel. I give it four out of five Strangeheads.