Before Japan’s direct-to-video film industry exploded into the V-Cinema phenomenon that defined much of the 1990s, filmmakers during the 1980s were testing the limits of gore and taste with a wave of horror videos that were short on runtime but long on trauma. This collection celebrates this “V-Splatter” era with six hard-to-find classics, many of which are presented here for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD in the West.
Taking inspiration from the mini-monsters that became popular in American horror films of the 1980s, Masayoshi Sukita’s Gakidama features a reporter who is possessed by a forest spirit and spawns a gruesome little humanoid monster that torments him and his wife. Next, Akihiro Kashima’s Biotherapy combines 1950s science fiction with Italian giallo killers as a group of scientist are stalked by a murderous alien monster who hides its identity beneath a black hat and trench coat. Shigeru Izumiya’s seminal cyberpunk film Death Powder features an android hunter who finds his consciousness radically altered when he breathes in a replicant’s powdery remains. Kazuo “Gaira” Komizu’s Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken by God – Part 1 merges The Thing with the “young women in peril” slasher film to create the prototypical Japanese tentacle-horror film. In Takuro Fukuda’s Conton, a young man is harassed by gangsters and plagued by dreams of a creature hunted by monstrous knights until his dream and his reality combine. Finally, Jôji Iida’s Cyclops takes place in a world where mutants hide amongst us and where The Terminator is spiked with a violent dose of body horror.
Running just 30 to 60 minutes each, these mind-blowing, stomach-turning Japanese nasties pack a fleshy punch for horror fans and Japanophiles alike.
Special Edition Contents:
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all six films
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio for all six films
Optional English subtitles on all six films
New interviews with director Masayoshi Sukita and visual effects artist Shin’ichi Wakasa, actors Hirohisa Nakata and Jun’ichi Haruta, director Shigeru Izumiya, and director Kazuo “Gaira” Komizu
Interview with director Jôji Iida
Newly filmed appreciations by critic Kat Ellinger and special effects artist Dan Martin
Extensive image galleries
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writings by Japanese cinema experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Maya and the Three.
An epic animated event told over nine chapters, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three is the story of a brave and rebellious warrior princess whose fifteenth birthday ceremony is interrupted by the gods of the underworld who claim her life is forfeit to the God of War, Lord Mictlan. While coming to terms with her family’s secret past, Princess Maya embarks on a quest to recruit three legendary fighters, fulfill an ancient prophecy, and save their four kingdoms from the gods’ vengeance. With its Mesoamerican inspired fantasy world, its frame-breaking action spectacles, and its impeccable collection of performances by Zoe Saldaña, Alfred Molina, Allen Moldonado, Stephanie Beatriz, Gabriel Iglesias, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Rosie Perez, and Rita Moreno, Maya and the Three takes its inspiration from cinema’s great works of fantasy to produce a dazzling tribute to Gutierrez’s Mexican homeland.
4K digital transfer, approved by creator-director Jorge R. Gutierrez, with Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the 4K UHD and Blu-ray editions
In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and two Blu-rays with the film and special features
Audio commentary featuring Gutierrez and creative consultant Sandra Equihua
Spanish language alternate soundtrack with newly translated English subtitles
Extended interviews with the Gutierrez, Equihua, Zoe Saldaña, Diego Luna, Gabriel Iglesias, Stephanie Beatriz, Allen Moldonado
Picture-in-picture storyboards and production artwork for the entire film
What’s scarier than the exploitation of capitalist culture, our societal collapse into a dystopian nightmare, and our inexorable march into cosmic obliteration? Answer: Nothing. And so MMC! celebrates this All Hallow’s Eve with a trio of animated mind-melters from Canadian animator Nick Cross. First up is The Pig Farmer (2010) – “a simple tale of a wayward soul, awash in an ocean of tragedy and regret.” Well, that and various pork-related gags. Don’t be fooled by the fairy tale-vibe and cutesy look; this short ain’t for the kids!
Next up is Perihelion (2013), “a sort of animated tone poem” inspired by German Expressionist and Surrealist painters of the early 20th Century like Otto Dix, Richard Oelze, Ingrid Griebel-Zietlow, Rudolf Schlichter, and Max Ernst, as well as Francisco Goya. The short operates as something of a Möbius strip tracking a cycle of human downfalls. The effect is amazing in execution and awful in vision. You’re welcome!
Lastly, we wrap up this dispiriting tribute to Nick Cross with The Clockwork Elves (2020). Cross’s summary of the short is questionable: “The Clockwork Elves could be a pyschotropic exploration of spirituality and death – or it could be a tale of a little goofball hopped up on goofballs. Either way — it’s a cartoon.” Made single-handedly over seven years, the short takes the animator’s critiques of late capitalism deeper into the psychedelic nightmare than ever before, creating a vision quest montage that is amazingly spectacular, shockingly vibrant, and exceptionally apocalyptic. This is the squished and squashed, cutesy-pie version of Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” video and it’s just as bracing.
If all of this is a bit too nightmarishly heavy for you, then MMC! recommends revisiting Over the Garden Wall (2014), a modern Halloween classic that perfectly celebrates American colonial folklore, historical commercial art, and East Coast animation. Cross worked as the series’ art director and it should be required viewing for any Halloween fanatic.
READY YOUR EYES. READY YOUR SOULS. PREPARE TO MEET YOUR MAKER.
Follow the Assassin, Mad God’s silent soldier, on his mysterious mission through Miltonesque worlds filled with grotesque monsters, mad scientists, and savage war pigs. This darkly surreal realm where nightmares roam free is forged from the subconscious mind of legendary visual effects and stop-motion craftsman Phill Tippett (contributor to the original Star Wars trilogy, Robocop, Jurassic Park, and Battleship Troppers). Commenced over thirty years ago and later resurrected at the behest of animators at Tippett’s Berkeley studio, this ambitious personal project employed hundreds of puppets, dozens of environments, and a crew of more than 60 artists who painstakingly animated every set, creature, and effigy in this macabre masterpiece.
Each element of Mad God is independently created and hand-crafted from its creator’s heart. At times, that heart bursts with love for its craft, while at other times it is morbidly gruesome, punctured and left bleeding. Altogether, Mad God is a testament to the power of creative grit and an homage to the timeless art of stop motion animation.
Limited Edition Contents:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio
Introduction by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
Audio commentary by filmmaker Phil Tippett and special effects artist Dan Martin
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Triplets of Belleville.
French whimsy goes through the looking glass in this imaginatively offbeat animated wonder by animator Sylvain Chomet. A boy named Champion trains relentlessly for the Tour de France with the help of his diminutive and club-footed grandmother, Madame Souza, and their overweight dog, Bruno. When race day arrives, Champion and a few of his fellow racers are kidnapped by a pair of square-shouldered henchmen and taken across the ocean to thronging Belleville where they are forced to pedal as part of an illicit gambling operation. Bruno and Mme Souza follow to save their boy and find unlikely help from the renowned Triplets of Belleville, a trio of eccentric music hall stars turned elderly experimental musicians. Filled with twisted imagery and proceeding with the measured pace of a dream, The Triplets of Belleville is a strange, loving, and very French tribute to silent comedy and to bygone eras of traditional animation.
New 4K digital master, approved by director Sylvain Chomet, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary with Sylvain Chomet
New conversation between Chomet and animator Bill Plympton
The Making of The Triplets of Belleville, a 36-minute documentary discussing the film’s production
The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet, a brief discussion with the director on designing his characters
Before The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and The Illusionist (2010), Sylvain Chomet made the award-winning The Old Lady and the Pigeons (La Vieille Dame et les pigeons, 1997). The animated short features an impoverished and starving gendarme who dresses up like a giant pigeon in order to be fed by an old woman (and that barely scratches the surface of how hilariously bizarre the short gets). Chomet was inspired to make a film of his own after seeing Nick Park’s Creature Comforts (1989) and set upon his production after pitching the concept to Didier Brunner of the French animation studio Les Armateurs. Backgrounds were designed by Chomet’s comic book collaborator Nicolas de Crécy, although the two would later fall out over Crécy’s view that Chomet improperly copped his style for the designs of The Triplets of Belleville. The Old Lady and the Pigeons is silently comic and strangely surreal and establishes many of Chomet’s characteristic styles and themes, making it an easy access point to Chomet’s limited filmography. It is also a quick 24-minute scratch for those of us still itching to see his next film, The ThousandMiles, a Fellini-inspired story about the world’s most beautiful road race, Italy’s Mille Miglia.