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Where EAST meets the Northwest

MUTANT MAYHEM. Mutant Girls Squad, a film about a teenager who discovers she has deadly mutant powers and joins a group of similar girls to seek revenge on the humans who have persecuted them, is screening Friday, February 25 as part of the Portland International Film Festivalís "PIFF After Dark" series. (Photo courtesy of the Northwest Film Center)

From The Asian Reporter, V21, #04 (February 21, 2011), page 15.

Gore-obsessed Japanese cult film directors create Mutant Girls Squad

Mutant Girls Squad

Directed by Tak Sakaguchi, Noboru Iguchi, and Yoshihiro Nishimura

Produced by Yoshinori Chiba, Kazuo Kato, Toshiki Kimura, and Gen Sato

Screening February 25 at Portlandís Cinema 21, 616 N.W. 21st Avenue

By Sarah Eadie

The Asian Reporter

Mutant Girls Squad is the self-indulgent vision of Tak Sakaguchi (Samurai Zombie), Noboru Iguchi (The Machine Girl), and Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police). The three directors met at the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival. Over drinks, they discovered a shared love for over-the-top bloodshed and mutated beauties. They decided on a plot and each began working on a third of the movie. When their work was brought together, Mutant Girls Squad was born.

The collaboration features Yumi Sugimoto as Rin, a typical teenage Japanese schoolgirl Ö or so it seems. Rin has loving parents at home, a cruel bully at school, and a pain in her arm that just will not quit.

After a day of merciless teasing and an ominous trip to the school nurse, Rin returns home to find her parents holding her birthday cake. As they celebrate her 16th birthday, her father unbuttons his shirt to reveal a set of revolting growths sticking out from his body ó he is a mutant. Rin recoils in horror, but her fatherís explanation is cut short by a hail of bullets shot from the nose guns of government soldiers.

Seeing her father and mother killed triggers a primal rage in Rin. Her sore arm transforms into a dangerous looking claw. The government soldiers try in vain to wound her, but Rin leaps about with superhuman strength and manages to escape.

Rinís subsequent stop at a local mall sets the tone for the rest of the film. Her grief over the loss of her parents fuels a treacherous rage. Scenes of graphic violence flood the screen in a torrential bloodbath. Unlike American horror flicks Saw and Hostel, the gore in Mutant Girls Squad has a playful quality to it. Sakaguchi, Iguchi, and Nishimura use violence to entertain the audience, not torture it.

Rin joins a group of fellow mutants led by androgynous Kisaragi (played by director Sakaguchi himself), who is hellbent on destroying the human race and trains the girl mutants to be killing machines. One by one they embark on kamikaze missions. Rin recognizes Kisaragiís abuse of power and influence. She convinces her adorable, tentacled friend Yoshie (Suzuka Morita) and her world-weary fighting instructor Rei (Yuko Takayama) to join forces and fight against Kisaragi.

The movie goes back and forth between parodying and paying homage to Japanese culture, American culture, and the slasher genre. One villain is a dead ringer for a demented Astro Boy, Kisaragiís character bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Michael Jackson, and a particularly gory kill references Ruggero Deodatoís 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust.

Sakaguchi, Iguchi, and Nishimura seem to be toying with more than just cultural differences. Tongues firmly planted in their cheeks, the three directors mockingly exploit our human obsession with the grotesque and outstandingly beautiful female mutants, towering humans fused to horrible monsters, a severed head on a birthday cake communicating from beyond the grave.

Ultimately, itís hard to decide whether Mutant Girls Squad is meant to have something for everybody or nothing for anyone. Fans of the genre will doubtless be pleased, but for first-time adventurers into the world of modern Japanese fantasy-slasher films, Mutant Girls Squadís blood lust and elusive plot may be too much to stomach. Are you up for it?

Mutant Girls Squad is screening as part of the Portland International Film Festivalís "PIFF After Dark" series on Friday, February 25 at 11:30pm at Cinema 21, located at 616 N.W. 21st Avenue in Portland. To order advance tickets, call (503) 276-4310. For more information, call (503) 221-1156 or visit <www.nwfilm.org>.