Continuing this month’s unofficial zombie theme, as kicked off by Army of The Dead, is the new Bluray re-issue of director Tetsuro Takeuchi’s Wild Zero. In it, we follow Masashi Endō as Ace, a die-hard fan of the Japanese rock group Guitar Wolf. Aping their 1950s rockabilly taste for black leather and greased-back hairdo’s, Ace is determined to make a splash at their next gig. However, barging into a Mexican stand-off between Guitar Wolf and Captain (a deviant club owner as played by Makoto Inamiya), all hell breaks loose and Guitar Wolf shoots Captain’s fingers off. As the band leave the scene, Captain swears vengeance on Guitar Wolf and yet this might just be complicated by a strange meteorite that has landed nearby Asahi Cho… Let’s see.
... Wild Zero isn't taking any prisoners - especially if you happen to be a zombie.
Sporting a very tasty 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, Wild Zero is a deliberately bonkers ride into cultural homage. Ace and the band Guitar Wolf all take their styling cues from the 1950s and loud-twanging rockers Link Wray and The Raymen. Captain and his bad guys are all drawn from the well-thumbed pages of small-town yakuza’s and the zombies (yes, there be zombies in the distance) have all clearly stumbled out of Goerge A. Romero’s original make-up truck. So, if there is a clear red line pulling you through all the beer quaffing and slick-backed hair quiffing, it is the music.
Loud and frequently discordant, Guitar Wolf’s tracks underscore every scene change, impact hit and groan that happens on screen. That said, if you’re already sporting a headache or anything less than an ultraclear-headed demeanour, this can start to grate and make you long for the next dialogue scene. However, putting their voluble frequency to one side, the one thing that Wild Zero does is present a rock n ‘roll as a code to live by. The chief advocate in this regard is the bordering-on-messianic leader of the band Guitar Wolf. Supported by Bass Wolf on bass and Drums Wolf on drums, it is actually Guitar Wolf who has the most hold over Ace’s development. This is best exemplified by his chastisement of Ace’s reaction to Tobio whom he rescues from a petrol station of zombies only to be later shocked by her gender orientation. So, in what are quite broad, yet crude strokes for a film made in 1999, this is the subplot that actually gives Wild Zero its most absorbing storyline. Kwancharu Shitichai delivers a fantastically understated performance as Tobio and if nothing else, she pulls the movie back from a loud abyss with her soulful hurt.
So whilst Wild Zero trucks up and down grainy highways that often feel reminiscent of the first Mad Max movie, the appeal here isn’t in the narrative. If anything it’s down to the girls getting progressively smarter and more well-rounded as their (mostly) male counterparts ended splattered on the sidewalk.
In addition to this, either appearing as a vision or answering the call of an ultrasonic whistle that Guitar Wolf has gifted Ace, the band Guitar Wolf are always on hand to instil their rock n’ roll credo: “Love has no boundaries, no nationalities or genders. Believe in Rock n’ Roll! – Because as loud as this midnight movie mash-up might be, Wild Zero‘s themes are surprisingly direct and solid words to live by. So saddle up this Bluray and neck your next beer because Tetsuro Takeuchi’s Wild Zero isn’t taking any prisoners – especially if you happen to be a zombie.