Expanding on co-directing Junichi Yamamoto’s 1999 short “Meatball Machine,” “Battlefield Baseball” helmer Yudai Yamaguchi energizes another outre splatterfest — though this time the laughs and fresh ideas run out long before the gore does. The attempt to mix a tragic love story between lonely misfits with monster combat and somewhat tongue-in-cheek ultraviolence doesn’t quite jell. Still, “Fangoria” types will enjoy the pic’s sheer extremity and vidgame-like qualities as a DVD item.
Shy, seemingly bereft of friends or family, young factory worker Yoji (Issei Takahashi) believes his crush on equally forlorn neighbor Sachiko (Aoba Kawai) is his only hope for happiness. When they finally get together, a poignantly awkward first date turns more so when she reveals a body permanently scarred by parental abuse.
At this already painful moment,a weird crustacean shell Yoji found at a garbage dump suddenly springs to life. It engulfs Sachiko, turning her into a pitiful “Necro-Borg” controlled by an implanted creature (seen as a bloody anatomical-organ puppet with a squeaky nonsense voice), her heavily armored exterior now resembling a “Predator” creature-cum-“Road Warrior” character.
Yoji barely escapes, rescued by a man (Toru Tezuka) and his partially — but not-yet-wholly — infected daughter (Ayano Yamamoto). The man explains these alien parasites use people to fight with each other such, with the winners eating the losers.
Father and daughter deliberately get Yoji infected, but he fights the mind-control, escaping his captors to wander the bleak industrial landscape. He retains enough free will to fixate upon rescuing Sachiko — though when he finds her, the pic devolves into a series of repetitive fighting scenes that basically occupy Jean-Claude Van Damme territory with a lot of encumbering (if outrageous) costume elements.
While “Battlefield Baseball” offered deliberately absurd goriness, “Meatball Machine” misfires in trying to balance camp, gross-out and recognizable human emotions. Script lacks the depth needed to depict the characters’ emotions, while the nasty critters combine familiar “Alien” unpleasantness with comic-strip action that gets tiresome fast.
A coda in which the bloody puppets reveal (in helium voices) their crass motivation isn’t payoff enough.
Tech and design aspects are solid, though pic feels underpopulated due to budgetary constraints rather than story necessity. Credits, as well as subtitles, on print reviewed were in English.