Junk (1999) Movie Review

Do you know who George Romero is? If the answer is Yes, then can you list all 3 titles of Romero’s Zombies Attack trilogy? If you answered Yes to that question as well, then Atsushi Muroga’s “Junk” was made especially for you. (If you happen to answer No to both questions, then steer clear of this film completely.) “Junk” is a Zombies Attack movie that breaks only one notable rule: it’s set exclusively in the daylight!

“Junk” stars Kaori Shimamura as Saki, a female criminal who, as the film opens, is the wheelman (or is that wheelwoman?) for 3 other criminals in a jewel store robbery. The four hoodlums make their way to an old abandoned oil refinery out in the country where they will meet Yakuza mob boss Ramon (Tate Gouta) and his boys. Ramon has agreed to purchase the stolen jewels off Saki and the others for a cool sum of money, which means our hoodlums will be rich and Saki can get that Porsche she’s been dreaming of. But of course, Ramon didn’t get to be a mob boss because he paid everything he owed. It also just so happens that the oil refinery they’re meeting at is actually a secret American military base, and those rascals were conducting experiments to bring the dead back to life. And, as all military experiments are want to do, things have gone horribly awry!

First off, “Junk” is as generic a Zombies Attack movie as they come. The use of the oil refinery (where 90% of the movie takes place) is not the best of choice because it fails to give off any frightening vibes. Besides that, the choice of main locale reminds me of how effective Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” was with just a shanty farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. The fact that Muroga has decided to shoot the movie exclusively in the day (the film takes place over the period of a few hours) also doesn’t help matters. Zombies stumbling around in the daylight? Hmm, not scary. Now I know why almost all Zombies Attack movies take place at night.

I won’t bother pointing out that nearly all of the zombies look like Japanese extras instead of Americans, even though the oil refinery purports to be an American army base, and considering that this is a secret American experiment that the local Japanese authorities don’t know about, I highly doubt that any Japanese civilians would be employed here. I’ll simply pass this off as director Atsushi Muroga being unable to hire enough American actors living in Japan to play extras and leave it at that.

Even if the horror element is not noticeable in “Junk”, the gore element is very prominent, and the filmmakers definitely chose their concentration correctly. Zombie heads explode with large chunk of brainmatter going every which way, body parts get ripped and chewed with glee, and the blood flows freely from every gaping wound. Muroga knows what he’s doing, knows what his audience wants, and he gives them plenty of it.

Although I have to take offense with the Saki character, who is introduced as a tough chick, but actually plays out as too much of a damsel in distress, prone to shrieking for help first and only when all things fail, kicking butt. Maybe the director failed to remind the actress that she’s supposed to be tough all the time, not just some of the time? There’s also a doctor character who used to be part of the experiment, and whose wife is somehow involved.

Running at a scant 80 minutes, “Junk” opens fast, hits the first zombie attack without much prelude, and is a generally well-made film despite its low budget. The use of American actors really brings the film down because, as its proven over and over again, American actors in a foreign movie just don’t appear natural. Although since Muroga is heavily influenced by Romero et al, making the creators of the zombies Americans is a sort of backhanded homage, isn’t it?

I have seen a lot of Zombies Attack movies, but Japanese Zombies Attack films are generally new to me. I’ve only encountered two before — the stylish-to-the-hilt “Versus”, which had a lot of the same elements as “Junk”, and “Wild Zero”, which had no serious bone in its entire body. “Junk” fits in somewhere between those two movies. It mostly tries to be serious, even though it plays out as mostly comical.

With a little bit more money, better locales, and better actors, it would be interesting to see what Atsushi Muroga could do. The man certainly knows his genre well enough.

Atsushi Muroga (director) / Atsushi Muroga (screenplay)
CAST: Nobuyuki Asano …. Jun
Osamu Ebara …. Akira
Tate Gouta …. Ramon
Kaori Shimamura …. Saki

Buy Junk on DVD