Thursday, December 2, 2021

Robokill Bloodbath: Mikadroid (1991)

Mikadroid (Japan, 1991) (AKA "Mikadoroido", "Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Discoclub Layla") 
Rating: ***
Starring: Hiroshi Atsumi, Sandayû Dokumamushi and Yoriko Dôguchi

From Japanese film, theater production and distribution company Toho, which many of us would know best as the producer and distributor of kaiju and tokusatsu movies, comes this relatively interesting yet clumsy scifi horror flick about killer cyborgs and mutant soldiers.

Opening in 1945 Japan at the near end of World War II, we see an underground research bunker assigned to create armored super soldiers getting violently shut down under the orders of the Japanese army. When the scientist in charge of the project retaliates and gets shot for his defiance, he spends his last moments setting two test subjects free and activating Mikadroid, the only finished armored cyborg of the project. Allied bombers eventually rains down on Tokyo and the bunker gets destroyed, burying the lab and everyone in it. Years later, a disco club is now built over the bunker's remains, unbeknownst to its patrons that Mikadroid, pretty much still alive and functional, would reactivate one night due to the club's faulty generator and starts massacring anyone that happens to get in its way. 

The history behind Mikadroid (1991) is that it's originally a horror film titled Mikado Zombie, in which an undead WWII soldier rises from his grave to continue fighting the war by pretty much killing anybody on sight. The film was only in talks when Japanese serial child killer Tsutomu Miyazaki was caught and, thanks to the shmuck's massive collection of splatter films, horror movies went through a bit of a witch hunt and production for Mikado Zombie was put to halt. The concept was soon redeveloped with more scifi outings by replacing the zombie with a war android and the resulting product would become one of Toho's lower budget films made for the direct-to-video market.

The first half of Mikadroid practically shows the story's horror origins, with the cyborg returning back to life after decades of being buried, making its way to a disco club's parking garage and killing people left and right in a manner not unlike a maniac in a slasher flick. Teens gets stalked and shot down with a submachine gun and/or hacked down with a sword, with one kill going a bit artsy by having a victim repeatedly slashed with a sword until their clothes get sliced away, leaving them bloody and swirling around like a naked ballerina before ending the scene with a darkly comic sight gag. The fact that these slayings are all done by a uniquely designed killer cyborg fittingly resembling a 1950s robot adds a welcome cheesy charm to the carnage, which is fortunately balanced out by the movie's atmospheric visual direction and creepy location choices.

After a while of people getting chopped and gunned down by a manic mechanical man, the film shifts gear into a slightly more action oriented second act once the two freed test subjects, both rendered ageless by the experiment, arrive armed to the teeth to stop Mikadroid after sensing its revival, in turn saving and tagging along a young repairman and a distressed clubgoer. This is where the movie hobbled in its run as while the gunfight between the mutated soldiers and the cyborg do boasts some energetic fun with all the pyrotechnics and the underground ruins set is pretty impressive in its details down to the giant tank machine left to crumble in dust, the pacing here often lacks momentum with some characters either just standing there amidst the gunfight or them spending a good chunk of time wandering around, looking for an escape. It also doesn't help that all of this leads to a lackluster finale that may have gone way better if it didn't went a tad too far on the random twists but, little mercies, it could have done worse.

For a movie made with relatively small budget, special-effects connoisseur-turned-director Tomoo Haraguchi put a lot of good work around the production's monetary restraints, mainly utilizing odd camera work and editing to emphasize the somber yet hammy tone of the film. At most, Mikadroid's serviceable special effects managed by Shinji Higuchi of the Heisei Gamera trilogy make up for most of the film's flaws, treating us with fair highlights of an impressive looking design for the Mikadroid, savage kills and explosive firefights against a killer bot. With the film's short running time of just 73 minutes, the acting is fair and decent for most parts though really isn't much to speak of in terms of character development, a point I'm fine with considering the net result is still a fun little guilty pleasure flick that delivers grue and gunfire. All in all, an underrated yet spiffy scifi horror tailor made for lovers of kitschy fiction.  

1 male shot, bled to death
1 male shot dead with a submachine gun
3 males killed in bombing
1 male shot dead with a submachine gun
1 male shot dead with a submachine gun
1 female shot with a submachine gun, slashed with a sword
1 female slashed to death with a sword
1 male beaten to death against a water fountain
2 males shot death with a submachine gun
1 male succumbs to injuries from a gun fight
1 male stabbed though with a sword, caught in explosion
1 male destroyed in an explosion
Total: 15

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