JUNK HEAD (2017) Review, Fantasia 2017

Junk Head Review

In the distant future, mankind begins research on clones that live underground in search of lost genetic information.

“Junk Head” began its life as a short film in 2014, with Takahide Hori essentially making the entire movie himself – from writing to directing to sculpting and so on. Not surprisingly, it was a great success just begging for a longer representation of this world and its style. Three years later, Hori is back and again more or less running the show solo, even creating the music. Love it or hate it, you cannot help but respect the daunting amount of time that went into this.

What we have is a dystopian world, something like an inverted “Wallace and Gromit” where everyone is either dead or at least dead on the inside. Love, friendship and everything that makes life worth living is long gone. For this reviewer, the film seems very much like throwback to the 1990s when there was a steady undercurrent of nihilism and the idea of humans as machines in both film and music.

The music of “Junk Head” seems very inspired by the nihilistic music of the 1990s, the techno-industrial strain that went mainstream with Nine Inch Nails, but had dozens – even hundreds – of similar bands who were taking the concepts of despair even further. The music and films had a Nietzschean streak, and “Junk Head” picks up where that decade left off. If there is any doubt about this, we have to look no further to the humorous reappropriation of a classic Nietzsche idea, “God is dead… and we killed him.”

The world is not completely hopeless, however. There are hints that a “tree of life” exists in an area called Kaapvaal. This may be one of the more clever, subtle touches of the film’s script. Most likely the name “Kaapvaal” means nothing to 99% of the people who will see the film. But a quick search reveals that it is the name for a section of the search located in southeast Africa. Anyone who is familiar with basic anthropology will know that the evolutionary “tree of life” has humanity beginning in southeast Africa. Rather than say “Kenya” or some other familiar country, Hori cleverly used an obscure name that would make the region timeless to changing national boundaries.

“Junk Head” is great fun, and a welcome addition to the growing world of adult animation. Unlike the recent “Anomalisa”, this is a story for adults that blends fantasy, science fiction and humor. And, despite its dystopian themes, never manages to be depressing. We even get pixilated feces for some reason, which is always good. “Junk Head” screens at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 3, 2017 and is destined for great things.

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