A mysterious package arrives at Starburst HQ, containing a lonely DVDR with no artwork or press release or any other identifying features to tell us what we might be looking at. Our only information is the felt tip pen scrawled across the disc itself - Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder In Hell - which we assume is telling us the title of the disc. With an introduction (and name) like that, how could we say no?
We've no idea if this is the way it's going to be presented in shops – if indeed it will be available in shops, you might need to track some sort of back alley dealer to get hold of this one – but the lo-fi nature of the packaging we received follows on to the movie itself, looking like a third or fourth generation VHS tape that has been left in an attic since the ‘70s, which has then been converted to DVD in the quickest and cheapest way possible. There seems to be a bit of debate about when the film was actually made, with online estimates suggesting from as early as 2007 to as recently as 2014, but either way we're looking at one of those retro-styled gimmicks rather than something that has been unearthed after decades in the wilderness. It really does feel like watching a forgotten video nasty though, and we're massively appreciative of the effort that's gone into making it look this way.
We join the movie during an attempted murder, where a woman is about to stab her husband after she found out he’s got another woman. The tables are turned when he kills her in self defence and buries her under the floorboards. Just as he's about to start filling in the grave, she suddenly comes to life and warns him “you belong to me”, before he cracks her head over the head one final time. Credits roll, and we fast forward 30 years to meet a big hunky stud who is rudely interrupted by a phone call during his morning workout. His ex-girlfriend is researching an article about ghosts, and wants to talk to him about a vaguely-remembered photo of the creepy looking house where his dad used to live. She convinces him to take her to the house, accompanied by a stoic humourless psychic, where she hopes to focus on the house for her article.
To say much more would be totally spoileriffic, other than to say that of course we’re dealing with a haunted house and some unresolved family issues. The special effects are an inventive mixture of practical effects, stop motion, and animation, which look pretty low budget but certainly add to the unsettling style of the film. It's pretty gory, with plenty of spurts and squishes spread liberally around the second half of the film, and there's a fair amount of laughs to be had as well - both of the intentional and unintentional variety.
The film's tag line is apparently “the Japanese Evil Dead”, which we'd be inclined to agree with. It isn't as full-on as Raimi's masterpiece, but we'd argue that Bloody Muscle deserves to gain a similar cult following among aficionados of the world's weirdest. While we can't comment on any potential extra features (as none were included in this early copy), enough craziness is crammed into this 62-minute running time that we're pretty much ready to declare this is a front runner for 2017's most enjoyably ridiculous movie of the year.
BLOODY MUSCLE BODYBUILDER IN HELL / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SHINICHI FUKAZAWA / SCREENPLAY: / STARRING: SHINICHI FUKAZAWA, ASAKO NOSAKA, MASAAKI KAI / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 24TH