Opens Fri July 30
Clinton St. Theater
The bad news? Neither Living Hell nor Battlefield Baseball--the two supposedly "shocking" films included in the Clinton Street Theater's "Japanese Shock Week"--are, in actuality, shocking. The good news? One of them, at least, is worth watching anyway.
Living Hell follows Yasu (Hirohito Honda) and the two worst roommates he has ever, or will ever, have: a creepy young woman (Naoko Mori) and an even creepier old woman (Yoshiko Shiraishi). The two torture the wheelchair-bound Yasu--first serving him his dead pet bird for lunch, then stun gunning his junk and using his chest as a dartboard.
Living Hell sounds more disturbing than it is, thanks to a laughably melodramatic directorial style cribbed from the campy Hammer horror films of the '50s--plus, Yasu's whiny and stupid enough that one can't feel too bad for him, regardless of the overly imaginative torment he's going through. Far from being scary, Living Hell is just kind of cute--it can't ever shake that simultaneously amusing and depressing vibe of a film that thinks it's far scarier than it actually is.
Eschewing Living Hell's heavy-handed attempt at terror, Battlefield Baseball wallows in slapstick horror. Jubei Baseball (Tak Sakaguchi), whose "deadly bullet ball" pitch can kill people, joins the baseball team of Seido High School, facing off against Gedo High's team--which, inexplicably, consists of monsters that literally massacre their opponents. ("The rules?" Gedo's demonic coach shouts, "There are no rules! Just kill each other!")
Battlefield Baseball's script is credited to one guy--Gatar#244 Man--but it feels like it was written by a group of hyperactive first graders. Instead of constructing an actual screenplay--one devoid of character inconsistencies or half-assed explanations of senseless plot developments--Man and director Yudai Yamaguchi were content to throw in as many jokes as possible, plus a kung fu fight or two. It's a blast, and probably the one film on earth that contains a samurai sword battle using baseball bats--if major league baseball wants to keep fans from abandoning the sport in droves, they should talk to Yamaguchi.