August 11, 2023

The Weird, Wonderful World of JUNK HEAD

JUNK HEAD (Blu-ray)
2017 / 101 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

Those who prefer closure to their stories should look elsewhere. Though it does contain something resembling a climax, Junk Head practically ends mid-story and filmmaker Takahide Hori has stated that it's the first film in a trilogy. As of this writing, I have no idea when (or if) a second chapter is coming.

However, this stop-motion animated film is such a stunning piece of ugly eye candy that the plot may not matter. Hori presents a dystopian world unlike any I’ve ever seen before, with an aesthetic that achieves a level of beautiful grotesquery that evokes early Tool videos.

That doesn’t mean the story isn’t interesting. In the distant future, humankind has managed to greatly increase longevity, but at great cost. Not only are they unable to reproduce, it appears that they must be encased in a robotic body in order to survive. Deep underground, human-created creatures - once used as slave labor - have been living and thriving beneath the city for over 1600 years. 

"Put your damn hand down. It was a rhetorical question."

In hopes of saving humanity from extinction, an unnamed protagonist is sent down there to learn their secret to reproduction. He discovers an entire, multi-leveled world filled with a variety of unusual beings. Since he’s from above-ground, they assume he is God. However, he’s initially unable to communicate with them because his body was damaged. While they’re able to construct him a new one, he’s rendered mute. 

A majority of the narrative is the protagonist’s Candide-like journey through this dilapidated industrial world. He confronts a variety of ‘people’ along the way, some helpful, others conniving, as well as assorted vicious creatures roaming the corridors. There’s a lot of twisted imagination at work behind the characters, set-design and violence. Still, Junk Head isn’t always drab and dark. The film is occasionally very funny - even sweet-natured, at times -  and some of the characters, including the protagonist, are oddly endearing.

Most importantly, Junk Head is consistently fascinating just to look at. What makes it all the more impressive is that, not-only is this Hori’s first feature length film, he did almost everything all by himself (including the strange, unintelligible voice work). Even with its incomplete story, this one is a must-see for stop-motion animation fans.



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