Directed by Atsushi Muroga
Written by Atsushi Muroga/J.B Baker
Produced by Isao Kurosu
Music by Ushio Yasukawa
Cast: Kaori Shimamura, Yuji Kisimoto, Nobuyuki Asano & Osamu Ebara
1999/83 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 2.0
1.66:1/Japanese with English subtitles/Japan/NTSC Region 0
Comparison review of the Unearthed Films disc (US)/the Artsmagic disc (UK)/ Asian Film Network (Germany)
JUNK can either be viewed as a homage to the Italian gut-munchers of the early 80s or a blatant rip-off depending on your point of view. Many of the clichés of the zombie genre are here present and correct, from the dumb-ass American military to various criminal elements and entrail-devouring zombies. The story is extremely simplistic with nods to Bruno Mattei's HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, Dan O'Bannon's RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and of course Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (which was a huge hit in Japan).
A womans corpse is injected with the experimental drug DNX. This is an on-going attempt by the US military to reanimate the dead, but the drug has one side effect - it gives the reanimated dead a taste for human flesh. Cut to a raid on a jewellery store by four masked robbers. The four flee with their ill-gotten gains to an old abandoned warehouse which, unbeknown to them, was used by the American military as a chemical factory for their DNX experiments, prior to being closed down. The four await the arrival of a gang of Yakuza who have agreed to exchange the hot merchandise for cash. One of the four, Jun, is attacked and killed by a zombie and the three try to flee, only to have their exit blocked by the Yakuza, who refuse to believe their crazy story. Their leader Ramon soon changes his tune when one of his henchmen has his throat ripped out by said zombie. Then all hell breaks loose with the Yakuza, who are armed to the teeth, shooting it out with the robbers. More corpses spring to life when bullets smash jars of reanimating fluid and before you know it the walking dead are wiping out all and sundry. Whilst all this takes place the US military attempts to blow up the factory to eradicate all traces of their incompetence.
What JUNK lacks in originality it more than makes up with its frenetic pace. The film has enough gory set pieces, head explosions and intestine munching to please all fans of the zombie genre. If you dont like zombie films then JUNK is not going to convert you, but it does hold a trashy appeal and is never dull. The soundtrack is reminiscent of DAWN OF THE DEAD and Lamberto Bava's DEMONS and the opening ten minutes is similar in certain respects to RESERVOIR DOGS, with the Yakuza dressed in sharp suits and shades.
Three companies have released JUNK uncut on DVD (with English subtitles) the Asian Film Network in Germany, Artsmagic in the UK and Unearthed Films in the US. Unfortunately I have serious reservations about the German DVD release from the Asian Film Network - the quality is comparable to a bootleg. It has been transferred from a NTSC master, is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen with the option of remastered English or German subtitles which are fine. However, the picture quality is seriously lacking everything youd expect from a DVD, particularly in terms of the flesh tones which veer far too close to orange, which often lessens the impact of the gorier moments. There is also a significant amount of ghosting with characters leaving trails behind them wherever they go and compression artefacting in many of the darker scenes. It also lacks contrast, the night time scenes are too dark whilst the daytime scenes are overly bright. The audio is a basic stereo track and the extras - 11 chapter stops, a trailer for SCORE 2 and an animated picture gallery are nothing to get excited about. Obviously the Asian Film Network were provided with a poor quality master which they had no option but to run with, the DVD suffers as a result and JUNK deserved better treatment.
JUNK has also been released recently by Artsmagic in the UK. They were provided with the same poor quality NTSC master as the Asian Film Network. They then transferred this master to PAL and created their own anamorphic DVD from it. That has led to a serious degradation in the image quality, which is even worse than the Asian Film Network disc. The DVD is exceptionally dark, has all the defects of the German disc and is seriously lacking in detail with heaps of artefacting and pixellation. The gore scenes suffer particularly badly as it is often very hard to tell what is going on in fact the DVD is such poor quality they should give away a free pair of 3D glasses with each copy! All three discs have several scenes where Japanese subtitles are present at the bottom of the screen, burnt into the image. This occurs when characters speak English. Annoyingly the Artsmagic disc has English subtitles appearing throughout the film - even when the characters are speaking English! The extras on the Artsmagic disc are also nothing to write home about filmographies, trailers for three Artsmagic releases and some poor quality movie stills and promotional material.
Luckily Unearthed Films in the US have also released JUNK and their DVD is by far and away the best release thus far (with English subtitles). They had the same problems finding a good quality master as the other two companies. However, they spent a bit more time and effort and managed to track down the films director who provided them with his own master. Most of the defects apparent on the other two DVDs are thankfully gone with this release. It is far more colourful with much more detail (particularly in backgrounds) and most importantly the reds are bright and vivid which make the gore scenes more potent. Its still not brilliant and its obvious when youre watching the film that its from a digital video master. However, it puts the other two releases to shame. It comes with a nice animated menu screen, an effective Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack, in non-anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen, with a photo gallery, production notes, cast and crew information, 18 chapter stops and trailers for other Unearthed Films releases. It is free from regional coding and the packaging is also an improvement over the other two releases. We are now given the choice of a double-sided DVD sleeve with a picture of the female zombie, with a chunk of flesh in her mouth, on one side and a picture of a group of zombies on the other. All in all JUNK is a worthy addition to the zombie genre and if you havent purchased the film already Id recommend seeking out the Unearthed Films release and avoiding the other two discs.
This Film Features:
Review by Brendan Maltman. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©
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