BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL (1995) is a movie I watched partly because it was described as “the Japanese EVIL DEAD” and partly because it was called BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER FROM HELL. It’s a short, very low budget movie that does indeed pay tribute to the early works of Sam Raimi. I like seeing his influence reach across oceans and cultures like that.
In a prologue, a woman catches a guy named Naoto cheating and tries to stab him, so he kills her and buries her under the house. Years later, the house is rumored to be haunted. The man’s son Shinji, who is introduced lifting weights with a Muscle & Fitness magazine nearby, has inherited the house, and agrees to bring his ex-girlfriend Mika there, because she writes about hauntings for a living. They bring along an uptight psychic named Mizoguchi for his expertise (though Shinji thinks he’s full of shit).
The movie’s only 62 minutes long, but it could still use some trimming. It’s an ugly location lacking Raimi’s atmosphere or cinematographic artfulness (it doesn’t help that the transfer on the region 2 DVD I rented is very poor, clearly not taken directly from the 8mm elements). So I wish it would skip right to the weird doll holding the blood stained towel, at least. Eventually the ghost of the dead woman appears and does the right thing by haunting Mizoguchi and dropping her necklace into his mouth. He later turns light blue like a zombie and there’s a cool animated shot of the necklace coming out of his mouth and into his eye socket.
When he wakes up he’s possessed by the murdered woman, who mistakes Shinji for his no good murdering sonofabitch father (understandably – they’re played by the same person – director Shinichi Fukazawa), so she tries to stab him (Raimi-an POV knife shot) and then knees him in the nuts. In really the first “Okay, this might get pretty good” part of the movie for me, Shinji is stabbed through the back of the head with a butcher knife and the blade goes all the way through, causing one eyeball to pop out.
That’s when things start to pick up. The ghost of Shinji’s dad talks to him through the TV and explains what’s up: 30 years ago he killed his ex-lover and she’s possessing the psychic and using his powers to keep them from leaving the house. That old story. Shinji seems surprisingly chill about his dad having murdered an ex girlfriend, but I guess he has other shit to worry about right now, like finding the “true weapon” his dad says can stop the ghost.
Shinji battles possessed Mizoguchi and even throws an ax at him – a very Raimi shot – before chopping him to pieces. A hand and foot and stuff fly off, very obviously just solid rubber props like you’d buy for your Halloween lawn display, but I forgive them. There’s some good stop motion body part wiggling, at least.
It’s funny that THE EVIL DEAD was a super low budget movie at the time but here we are talking about it like its special effects are completely beyond the reach of ordinary filmmakers. Here that certainly is the case. Still, there’s some charm to what they try to achieve by such crude means. Mizoguchi’s head is chopped off by a shovel so then we have this rubber head that attaches itself to a rubber hand and starts crawling around. Maybe a head attached to a hand is not a monster that can fuck you up very easily, but it’s one you definitely don’t want to run into. Or at least I don’t want to. I guess I shouldn’t speak for everyone.
In my review of EVIL DEAD 2 I went into detail about the greatness and influence of the montage where Ash builds his chainsaw hand. Not surprisingly, BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL has a scene aping that style. It’s a little less impressive, though, because all he does is load a shotgun! It still ends with the zoom in on his face, and he says the famous line.
For the most part, though, the actors don’t seem to be winking at all, which I appreciate. This includes when their fights with the undead involve repeated punching in the face with exaggerated sound effects.
Shinji blows up the possessed psychic using hairspray and the shotgun. It turns into a pile of red goo that later crawls onto a skeleton and becomes flesh. Now we’re talking! I love the goofy Play-Doh eyeballs and how it switches from rough claymation to a rubber prop.
Unfortunately, poor Mika gets possessed. Impressively, she grabs and lifts Shinji by the balls, calls him “pathetic worm” and throws him down the stairs. Here’s where the title finally comes into play. It has been previously, off-handedly mentioned that the basement is his workout space. (I would’ve made sure to have an opening credits fitness montage set to something like that song “Body Talk” in THE TOXIC AVENGER, but this isn’t my movie.) When Shinji sees his weights he’s inspired and declares that his “true weapon ain’t no gun – it’s my muscles!” and does an Incredible Hulk style flexing-to-rip-his-shirt. Then he spins a barbell above his head. Quite a move!
Although BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL is mostly inspired by THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2, I think Shinji’s exaggeratedly macho attitude in the finale tells us that they’d seen ARMY OF DARKNESS by this point, and heard the line “Gimme some sugar, baby.” It also shows that they were starting to get the hang of the camera and the lighting, because they have some pretty good shots, possibly inspired by the one where Ash opens the door to the shed.
Shinji says “Goodbye… baby!” But he bites Mika, sucks on her neck, and spits out purplish grey blood. Like if she got bit by a snake! Truly heroic. Honestly Ash would’ve chopped her up.
To the monster that was once Mizoguchi, Shinji says “See you in Hell, baby” and shoots it, splashing its blood onto both his and Mika’s faces.
There’s a reason we never heard of this back in the day. Although it’s listed on IMDb as a 1995 film, this review says that Fukazawa shot it over 10 years, then spent another 4 years editing it. (This does not appear to be due to perfectionism.) He distributed it on DVD-R in 2012, and it finally played theaters in 2014 before an international DVD release in 2017.
Unlike Raimi after THE EVIL DEAD or Peter Jackson after BAD TASTE (which was a similarly home made production, filmed with friends over many years of weekends), Fukazawa did not manage to launch into a film career with this, or at least he hasn’t finished any movies in the years since. Not that it seems like that was his goal – this seems more like the work of a hobbyist, which has its own appeal. There’s a certain purity to that. Most of us who aren’t filmmakers never had a movie that played in theaters and has a cool painted cover we can show off when people come over. That must be cool.
Fukazawa did act again, in one movie, VIOLATOR (2018), from the director of MEATBALL MACHINE.
I wonder what he thought of DRAG ME TO HELL?