Hmmm. If I was to describe this film as 'offal' do you think I might get a few laughs? There's certainly plenty of it on show in place of expensive CGI. In fact, if you paid the full £15.00 RRP for this disc, you'd probably have contributed around 25% of the total production budget. But despite the lo-fi video-shot nature of the film, it's actually not too bad. Sure, it's full of cyber-punk cliché's and the narrative is pretty two-dimensional but for all of that it remains a grimly watchable gore-fest.
So what's it about? Yoji is a loner who works on a dreary factory on a bleak industrial estate somewhere in Japan. (It's shot pretty much on location so an industrial estate probably helped keep the spend down). During his breaks he sits and looks over the pollution strewn river at an equally lonely, but strangely attractive female - Sachiko. It's a thankless life and even his spare time is futile. He visits a porn theatre but is accosted and then beaten by a transvestite and left amongst a load of rubbish. It's there that he finds what looks like a cross between an alien and an insect (where's David Cronenberg when you need him?) - which is almost exactly what it turns out to be. He stashes it in his cupboard at his humble home.
The following night he sees the girl with some men from his work who appear to be trying to rape her. He intervenes and gets another beating. She goes back to his apartment with him and when she's there she tells him of her terrible life, being held prisoner by a father who brutally beat her leaving her breasts horribly scarred. But before she leaves the alien thing / pod attacks her, turning her into a bio-chemical monster machine, a half-human half battling robot with a compulsion to meet others of its type and battle them to the death.
What follows is pretty much an over the top gross out that occasionally works well, but generally looks too much like security camera footage to frighten anybody. No amount of hyper-fast editing can compensate for the lack of production value and decent special effects here. Just because you're only allowed to see an effect for a couple of frames isn't fooling anyone. Sadly, the original intent, shown in the extras by way of illustrative storyboards, just couldn't be met by such a low-budget and this must have been very frustrating. But the attempts are admirable and somehow it just keeps up enough momentum to stop you turning off; no mean feat for such a cheap movie, especially given the hackneyed and cynical state of this particular reviewer! Although you witness amputations, decapitations, eye drilling and general gore gross-outs, it's all unconvincing enough to mean that you will never completely suspend disbelief, but rather will end up watching it as a cultural curio - which is fair enough.
You get a 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen image which looks as good as it's going to given the NTSC video source material, and the Dolby Digital stereo is workmanlike and perfectly acceptable - unlike many low-budget video movies.
For such a humble production, the extras list stacks up well. There is the de rigeuer 'making of' which lasts for just over 30 minutes, where cast and crew talk about the project as if it really was a Hollywood blockbuster after all.
You also get the original Meatball Madness shorta 10-minute Super VHS 'student movie' which shows much of the eventual intent though is too technically shoddy to be taken seriously in any way.
Then there's another short called "Reject or Death," essentially the back-story about the infected young girl and her obsessive father who sets out to kill all the 'aliens' in the main movie. I guess this was originally intended for the original (as without it we never really understand the significance of these two) but was probably cut in an effort to tighten the movie up.
Maybe 'Meatball Machine' will gain some sort of cult status one day. It's certainly 'cheap' enough to be considered a schlock horror b-movie. It's an interesting enough way to spend 90 minutes, and probably not for the squeamish (of either violence or sex, or in some cases, both). Hopefully I've given you enough background to decide whether you're a 'Meatball Machine' kind of person or not. If you're unsure, maybe try a rental first.