When he set out to make what would later become a horror film classic, George Romero, through sheer will and the acquaintance of some foresighted investors, managed to frighten up (forgive the pun) somewhere around $114,000 in order to make Night of the Living Dead. I suspect director Tetsuro Takeuchi, the man responsible for the unbridled chaos that is Wild Zero, had even less money than that. Considering that Romero’s $114,000 was in the 1960s, the actual budget in today’s terms would probably be around 1 or maybe 2 million. Takeuchi and writer Satoshi Takagi, on the other hand, probably had about $50,000 U.S. dollars in the bank and a small team of dedicated and talented computer graphic artists at their side. Which might explain why Wild Zero is more insane than creative, more “let’s see what we can do without killing our actors” than “let’s write a great script and film it.”
You might already have guessed that Wild Zero is a low-budget horror production with nonprofessional actors and a lot — and I mean a lot — of extras, mostly local people in the role of green-skinned (?) zombies. Trying to explain Wild Zero’s plot is a futile effort, since I’m hard pressed to find one within this mess of a film.
Anyway, for those who absolutely must know: Yellow, frisbee-sized flying saucers have arrived on Earth and are somehow turning the citizens of a small country town into zombies (are the zombies originally dead? Who knows). Enter Ace, a would-be greaser and rock-n-roller, whose biggest goal in life is to comb his hair every couple of seconds and worship his idol, Ramones-wannabe Guitar Wolf. A slew of other insignificant characters appear, are eaten, and other stuff happens. See? I told you it was stupid, and you still wanted to know!
Wild Zero is not, if you haven’t already guessed, a very well-written film. It’s not even a very well-conceived film. What passes for story was obviously lifted from dozens of other classic horror films. It’s execution of plot, characters, and situations are amateurish and leave a lot to be desired. Even for a film with a shoe-string budget, Wild Zero is grossly incompetent in almost every respects. The film also has no clear time frame and seems to be a mishmash of eras, although this was the least of its problems.
Wild Zero is what we in the States would call a Grade-Z film (the ‘Z’ standing for ‘zero budget’). Its actors are novices and nonprofessionals, and rather they’re shooting at zombies or attempting dramatic interaction with each other, they look foolish and ill-prepared for the thespian field.
Direction by Takeuchi is one of the movie’s main problems. Continuity doesn’t seem to be a word in Takeuchi’s dictionary. There is little rhyme or reason for anything to be or for anyone to do anything (or in some cases, not do anything). One gets the feeling there never really was a “script,” just a group of filmmakers wondering what they could do that would look “cool.” This, of course, breaks the first rule of filmmaking: The script comes first, stupid!
On the plus side, for a Grade-Z film, the movie had very nice “splatter” effects — scenes of zombie heads literally splattering into goo when shot by bullets. This was all done with computer effects, and is most likely the product of creative graphic artists in conjunction with CGI equipment that is getting cheaper and cheaper every day, allowing anyone with a desktop to add some class to a classless film. The UFO Mothership at the end is also very well done, although the gunshot squibs were weak at best and the appearance of a condemned tenement building that was used over and over for different locales practically screamed “low-budget.”
The trick about making a low-budget film is to not let people know that you have no money. In fact, the trick to making a good film (in general) is to fool the audience into thinking you have more money than you actually did. After all, rather a movie is a Grade-Z film or a big-budgeted Hollywood film means very little when someone pays $7 to see your film in a theater or $4 to rent it from Blockbusters.
Tetsuro Takeuchi (director) / Satoshi Takagi (screenplay)
CAST: Guitar Wolf …. Himself
Drum Wolf …. Himself
Bass Wolf …. Himself
Masashi Endo …. Ace