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Sunday, November 18, 2018

BAFF 2018: VIOLENCE VOYAGER is the grossest children's adventure ever made


Have you ever found yourself watching a Studio Ghibli movie and thinking, "I wish these child characters suffered a strange bodily transformation"? Or perhaps you were watching The Fly and lamented the fact that Cronenberg hasn't made a children's body horror film. If you fall into either of those categories, boy do I have the film for you!

Violence Voyager tells the story of Bobby, a 12-year old American boy living in the mountainous regions of Japan. When he and his friend Akkun decide to hike over the mountain to visit their friend on one of the last days of Summer, they happen upon a strange amusement park. Though the park seems empty, the man and his daughter that run it seem friendly enough, so the boys decide to check it out. After having fun making their way through, fighting robot decorations with water pistols, they soon discover that the park is a cover for something much more sinister and real.


We can't talk about this film without first talking about its style, because it's so super unique. The film is done in what is called Gekimation, which is sort of a mix of animation and puppetry in which all the characters are flat drawings that are physically moved around against a drawn background. This allows for some really interesting depth that traditional animation can't achieve, and also means things like real water, blood spatter, etc. can be used in conjunction with the puppets. It also means it must have taken an enormous amount of work (three years from director Ujicha, I believe), as each character has thousands of different drawings to cover each scene in the film.

This style initially gives it a very whimsical feel that matches how the kids feel finding a cool amusement park that they can explore all to themselves, but then works as a perfect counterpoint to the grotesque body horror that is to come. This movie is messed up, in the best possible way; without spoiling it too much, lets just say that some kids are turned into weird creatures that resemble half-robot-half-insects, and there are numerous scenes involving an acid that melts skin. Even in the most dramatic and horrifying moments, though, it nearly always manages to keep the tone of adventure, making the whole thing a bizarre and singular experience. I never knew how badly I needed to see a hideously transformed boy go on a mission with help from his animal friends to rescue other children from a monstrous facility in the guise of an amusement park.


Violence Voyager is wild, weird, and wonderful. From the beautiful animation style to the score that is reminiscent of an adventure game with dark undertones, it is a movie that can't be easily categorized–except that it seems Ujichi is making it his own (his previous film, The Burning Buddha Man seems to have a similar style and tone). Long live the Cronenbergian Children's Adventure!


Violence Voyager played at the Buried Alive Film Festival 2018, and is making its way through the international festival circuit. Check out their website for more updates on where you can see it!
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