Exploitation cinema wasn’t created on 42nd Street in New York in the 70’s. Many people think this is the case but it just isn’t. There were plenty of European exploitation films made in the 60’s and and in the 70’s a type of Japanese film called “pinky” was quite prevalent. These films were definitely of the exploitation genre and usually focused on a good bit of nudity. It’s hard to find American made films that fall into the exploitation genre these days but elsewhere those films are still being made in force. Attack Girls vs. the Undead definitely wants to be a modern Japanese exploitation film.
A quite awkward young girl starts her first week in a new school at the same time inoculations are happening. The inoculations are botched turning everyone who was injected into zombies. It turns out that the chlorine in the swimming pool protects anyone who swam in it. So the swim team is safe as is the new girl because she was pushed into the water. The girls decide it is their responsibility to hand out beat downs to the zombies. The problem is that they are just a bunch of girls, not martial arts pros. The new girl does have a mysterious past though and it turns out that she has some fairly useful skills when it comes to kicking zombie ass.
This mysterious girl escaped from an evil scientist that used his abilities to make her into a “water terrorist” so she can fight and she can handle herself in a fight. An odd addition to the story that would only work in an Asian film the scientist plays a flute that hypnotizes the girl into well, becoming sexually active. Rape sequences aren’t a new thing in exploitation cinema but there’s an added level of creepiness in many Asian films because the female is more often than not in a school uniform. In real life the actress is of age but the character is obviously in school so she is supposed to appear young. This makes the whole thing a bit uncomfortable even if the age of the actress is obvious. Cultural differences between Japan and the United States can make some situations like this one a bit challenging to say the least. What is the fetish here? Is it to get of age girls in these uniforms for some R rated activities? If that’s the goal then there’s issue there but if the goal is to get of age girls to role play as younger girls in the uniforms having sexual encounters then things get really edgy. Uniforms have been a mainstay of exploitation since it began. From uniforms came subgenres such as Nunsploitation and all of the Nazi based exploitation films.
Another common factor for an exploitation film is blood and guts. This film does offer up some very low budget gore here and there, not to the levels you might normally expect from a film like this one but the whole thing is so low budget the limited special fx aren’t surprising. The practical makeup fx look good but the couple of instances of CGI are just awful. If your requirements to watch an exploitation film are gore and nudity well this film does have both of those things. There’s one other situation that requires mentioning when it comes to the fetishistic nature of the film. A fairly well known fetish in anime (Japanese animated films and television programs) is the panty shot. Again we’re talking about young looking girls often in schoolgirl costumes that through some circumstance reveal their panties. These aren’t thongs either. They’re usually thick cotton looking granny panties. The shots are typically ham fisted into the anime just for the fan service and no other reason. There are a couple of shots, one in particular, that look like they were taken right from anime films. The one that first comes to mind is simple up the skirt shot. I actually got a laugh from it because it just felt so wedged into the film and the [particular scene.
The story here is a huge mess. The pacing is the biggest problem. The other thing that often makes a low budget exploitation film work is that the movie blazes by so fast that you don’t have time to focus on any problems you might encounter as you watch the film. This film is inconsistent a far as pacing. Some segments move along at a nice clip only to slam head first into a very slow moving chapter of the film. It’s at these times when you start thinking, “this story really has no focus and doesn’t make any sense”. But just as you’re reaching for the remote to eject the disc something funny happens and the pace picks up again. There’s one zombie in particular that kills students with giant rulers while working a math problem that is fairly humorous.
It feels like director Kawana really wanted to make one of those old classic “pinky” films with a female hero that kicked ass but also didn’t mind getting nude when needed. To make those films successfully the plots must be simple and the film has to be short and fast paced. This film features a convoluted plot with several goofy twists that never work and the pacing is extremely inconsistent. I thought a couple of times about the Takeshi Miike film Visitor Q. That film, like this one was shot on video. Miike was able to make Visitor Q feel even more disturbing and surreal using that low budget format. It’s almost like we were watching home movies of these people going through some really disturbing stuff. Kawana doesn’t succeed in the same way with this film. Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead just feels cheap because the director couldn’t get enough funding to use film or even HD. The passion to make the film with whatever equipment Kawana could find is commendable too. Unfortunately the movie just isn’t that great outside of a base visual level.
The film is shot on video so you shouldn’t expect much as far as the video presentation. There’s a bit of color blooming and in a few scenes the colors get a little muddy, especially in darker scenes. The image is low in detail in darker scenes as well displaying a layer of grain too. The presentation is comparable to a low budget television series box set. It’s mediocre but the flaws aren’t so bad that the film can’t be watched. If the film were grittier the video presentation might have actually added to the overall experience. Most importantly, the English subtitles are clean and easy to read.
The audio presentation is focused to the center channel in the surround stage and there’s absolutely no dynamic range. The mix is a little muddy but dialogue is generally clean and easy to hear over the sound fx and score. Dialogue is presented in the original Japanese with English subtitles.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The cover art for this standard amaray case is really basic. Apprently the gola is to simply sell the film based on the campy, and fun, title and that it’s Asian. It’ll work, that’s often enough to garner some attention. The problem is that I’ve seen bootlegs with better home brew art.
The overall DVD presentation is as basic it can be. You drop the disc in and after the expected logos appear the movie plays. This is really the way all movies on DVD and blu-ray should start. The problem here is that the default setting for the film is with the subtitles turned off. So the movie starts with Japanese dialogue and no subtitles. So I pressed the menu button on my remote and the movie just started over again. I use a PS3 to review dvd’s and blu-rays and that particular device ahs two options for menus on the remote. So I hit the other menu button and again the film starts over. Finally I hit the subtitle button on the remote and the English subtitles appear. Amazingly, the DVD has no menu at all, nothing. So there are no bonus trailers or any other bonus feature.
Having the film just start by default is a good idea but there should always be some sort of menu option. Some viewers won’t think to hit the subtitle button on their remotes. Some people need to click it from a menu. Also it blows my mind that a small distributor dealing in niche films wouldn’t want to include a bunch of trailers for other upcoming releases to someone that just spent money on one of their niche films. This is marketing 101.
Overall (Not an Average) 3/10
The Movie 3/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features (Not an Average) 0/10
Overall (Not an Average) 3/10