Sushi Typhoon is aptly named. Every September, at least for the last few years, they blow into fantastic fest like a true force of nature and liquefy our eyeballs with a completely unhinged romp through the most twisted of psyches. Films like Tokyo Gore Police, RoboGeisha, and Helldriver have dropped our jaws and made us seriously question the limits of decency. This year, Sushi Typhoon will be bringing not one, but two films to Fantastic Fest: Zombie Ass and Karate-Robo Zaborgar.
Zombie Ass is about a plague of colon-dwelling worm monsters that turn people into zombies or some other manner of meat-based gore puppet. We sat down with director Noboru Iguchi, mad special effects scientist Yoshihiro Nishimura, and actor Demo Tanaka who all plied their respective trades on both films.
Enjoy reading as we shoot the shit, in a manner of speaking.
BAD: Where did the idea for Zombie Ass come from? Did you eat a really horrible burrito while watching Evil Dead?
Noboru: (laughs) I wanted to make a film about someone being infected by parasites, and wherein a lot pretty girls fart. I love zombie films and I’m also a big fan of scatological humor. Mixing the two things always intrigued me.
BAD: There certainly are plenty of cute, farting actresses in this film. No one can deny that.
Noboru: It’s the biggest collection of farting beautiful girls in any film to date.
BAD: I think it’s a Guinness record, yes. What’s interesting is that no matter what’s going on in the film, anytime a girl character farts, she feels the need to apologize or talk about how unbecoming it is. Is there a bit of cultural satire going on there?
Noboru: Typically young girls in Japan are brought up to believe they should be embarrassed by that type of bodily function. But there’s the tendency for the Japanese to enjoy that embarrassment when girls fart. There are very few people in Japan who can fart with ease, without having any kind of embarrassment attached to it; male or female.
BAD: That’s actually quite unfortunate.
Noboru: There’s a culture in Japan called moe, based on anime, which means to become excited or to become inflamed. In that culture, the whole idea of embarrassed girls is really popular. You see it in a lot of anime, you’ll see a girl’s panties and she’ll act all embarrassed, you see it quite frequently. I wanted to mix that into a zombie film and make it also kind of a teen love comedy.
BAD: I have a question for Yoshiro, the Sushi Typhoon movies are well known for being visually wild, can you talk about the mix of practical and digital effects that you used in Zombie Ass, because it seems like there are more practical effects in this film than in your past films. Of course the visual effects that we recognize are still there, but there were more practical effects this time around.
Nishimura: Well we had no money; it was very low budget so we had to add more “analogue” effects. And I really like the old-fashioned type of effects. And the zombie movies that we like from the 80s use practical.
BAD: Were you a fan of the Italian zombie flicks? Fulci?
Nishimura: I love Fulci, in fact we’re seeing the Zombie screening tonight.
BAD: The restoration they’ve done is incredible. Where did the design of the flying worm monster come from?
Nishimura: I wanted to make something with small wings. The design was in my usual style and shape, but with cutesy, tiny wings.
BAD: To go along again with the cute, farting girls. So even when they’re monstrous, they’re still cute.
Noboru: I think farts are very cute.
BAD: I guess that depends on whose they are. There’s the scene where we see the slug monsters’ nest, and it was this weird mass of coiled slime and viscera. It’s a great physical effect and I was really interested to know what materials you used for that.
Nishimura: It was a practical effect, but augmented with visual effects. Foam latex is what I usually use, so I sculpted it from foam latex.
BAD: Demo, I’m assuming your scene was not the most pleasant to shoot, can you tell us a little about that process?
Demo: Very difficult scene. I’d get underneath in the water tank where they had all the fake shit, hold my breath with makeup on, and countdown until it was time to slowly reveal my face. The stuff that they made the shit out of was really greasy and oily, so even after taking a shower I couldn’t get the grease off my face and out of my hair. Twenty times it ended up taking me.
BAD: That’s insane. Noboru, given the standards of outlandishness that you’ve set, do you ever feel the need to outdo yourself from film to film? Do you strive to be more extreme or more over-the-top?
Noboru: I don’t always want to top my previous films, it’s not that. I always want to challenge myself, and I want to go places I have never gone before. In this case, I wanted to do a butt kind of movie; different things coming out of butts. That’s my personality; I really like that sort of thing. I was thinking, boy imagine if things came out of a butt and became a zombie. Would that be scary?
BAD: Certainly sounds terrifying to me.
Noboru: (laughs) This is something I thought about and wanted to see if I could actually do it.
BAD: Well then I have to ask all of you, have you seen The Human Centipede?
BAD: There’s a scene in Zombie Ass that’s strangely reminiscent of The Human Centipede; to the point that I wondered if it was a send up. It was the scene where a slug monster comes out of the one girl’s ass and into the other’s mouth, and then it’s clear that “materials” are flowing through the tube and down her throat.
Noboru: Long ago I thought of that same idea, of women connected butt-to-mouth. I was sort of depressed when they got to the idea first.
BAD: Wow, two people on the same planet with that same idea? I’m terrified. So, your films always have a considerable amount of dark comedy to them, and Zombie Ass is no exception. Did you think people were taking zombie cinema too seriously?
Noburu: I loved 28 Days Later. I thought it was stylish, but also a little too serious. I wanted do a film more in keeping with the silliness of the Italian zombie films. (Grabs at his own throat) I wanted the violence and gore to be really weirdly cruel like in those movies.
BAD: That gesture you just made translates very easily. Fulci always went for the throat…or the eye. It’s like the international sign for Fulci.
Noburu: Yes, exactly.
BAD: This is a question for everyone. Zombie Ass is a Nikkatsu release stateside. This is an amazing studio that is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary. I’m a huge fan of this studio. I was curious to know if you grew up watching a lot of their films and what some of your favorite titles were.
Noburu: When I was young, their Roman porno boom was happening. I liked that. And even though it was before my time, I love Nikkatsu action like Stray Cat Rock. I also like the gangster and youth gang films. I’m a big fan.
Nishimura: Difficult question to answer, they were so prolific. I like Seijun Suzuki.
BAD: Branded to Kill?
Nishimura: Oh definitely.
BAD: Jo Shishido from Branded to Kill is one of my heroes. A Colt is My Passport is among my favorite films.
Noburu: We love Joe.
BAD: Sushi Typhoon is no stranger to Fantastic Fest, you’ve had several films here over the last few years. What is it that makes you keep coming back to this fest again and again?
Nishimura: The audience is great.
BAD: Do you feel they embrace your films moreso than at other film fests?
Nishimura: Definitely. These audiences are crazy.
BAD: I will take that as a compliment. Have you guys gotten to experience Austin outside the festival? What do you like about the city?
Nishimura: The barbecue.
BAD: You’re goddamn right the barbecue! Delicious!
Nishimura: And girls with tattoos.
BAD: You’re a man of taste, sir.
Noburu: I love the theater itself, the physical theater is beautiful. I like that I can eat a hamburger in the theater. You can’t do that in Japan.
BAD: In most places in America you can’t do that either. That’s something uniquely Drafthouse. Noburu, you have a second film in the fest this year. I’m assuming Karate-Robo Zaborgar is going to be quite a change of pace from Zombie Ass.
Noburu: Absolutely, Karate-Robo is a family movie. It’s a remake of the 1970s television show. It was a family show, so when they decided to do the movie version, we wanted to appeal to the same audience.
BAD: Like the Man-In-Suit television shows?
Noburu: Yes, only not giant; a human-sized robot. So it was a movie I made that people could watch with their families. Zombie Ass on the other hand will probably make people angry at me.
BAD: I doubt this audience will get mad. Nishimura, what unique challenges did you face trying to adapt the Karate-Robo television series for the big screen?
Nishimura: I used to watch the show as a child, so it was a very special project for me. I wanted to keep the effects looking like they came out of a 70s TV show, but without being too intentionally campy. I redesigned the robot a little bit, but left it fundamentally the same.
BAD: Demo, who do you play in the film?
Demo: I play a police officer. Actually, in the film, I fly by means of fart. So there’s the connection between the two movies.
BAD: Aha! A common theme, then?
Demo: It was kind of the birth of Zombie Ass. We did Karate-Robo first and Noburu thought that scene would be funnier if it was a pretty girl farting.
BAD: So you don’t have to be covered in shit this time?
Demo: Yeah, (laughs) I don’t want to do that every time.
BAD: You don’t want to get stuck in a rut like that. Change it up every now and then.