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Junk Head

Entry updated 24 January 2022. Tagged: Film.

Japanese stop-motion animated film (2017; rev 2021). Yamiken. Directed and written by Takahide Hori. Voice cast includes Takahide Hori and Atsuko Miyake. 100 minutes. Colour.

Initially released as the short film Junk Head 1 (2013), which became the first 30 minutes of the 2017 full-length film discussed here (a revised version of which was released in 2021). Junk Head 1 took four years to produce and was made entirely by the self-taught Hori, an interior decorator; he had some help with the longer version.

In the future, "mankind has achieved longevity through gene manipulation [see Genetic Engineering] ... however, the ability to reproduce was lost". People are now heads housed in bodies resembling showroom dummies (see Cyborgs). This proves a hindrance when an epidemic strikes; a news report tells us it has already killed 200 million or 30% of the population (see Pandemic). Labourers called Marigans had once been created to work deep Underground; they rebelled 1,600 years ago and, due to unstable genes, have evolved into many forms (see Evolution). The Government hopes they hold the answer to staving off extinction.

A researcher (Hori) descends into the Underworld, but his body breaks up when he is fired upon; the head is discovered by three mole-like Marigan junk collectors and taken to The Doctors, Scientists who recognize him as human, and so an ancestor (on hearing this, the moles call him God). They provide him with a small Robotic body; adventures follow as he travels deeper into the Underworld's realm of concrete corridors and Steampunk constructions. Different Marigan societies, friendly and otherwise, are encountered; as are the strange, usually hostile, Mutants that share the habitats. A hairless creature's tail proves to be a red herring when our protagonist mistakes it for a penis; more positively, romance blossoms with one of the Marigans (Miyake), who joins him. He meets the moles again; after clarifying the penis/tail issue, they explain Marigans are born from the fruit of tree-like Marigans. A search for one of these tree creatures begins; however, when two moles die protecting him, the injured third departs to rejoin the Doctors. At which point the film ends.

The various Monsters' appearances recall the work of H R Giger, Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) and the pre-Cambrian Hallucigenia. Though the imagery of this impressive work is frequently grotesque and there is much Horror – at one point living body parts are harvested for food – the tone is often light, even farcical. Hori says the film is part of a trilogy: as things stand, the plot is largely a McGuffin that justifies the protagonist's journey. The dialogue is deliberately incomprehensible, but subtitled. The short version was praised as "a work of deranged brilliance" by Guillermo Del Toro; the long version won awards at the 2017 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas and the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada. [SP]


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