One of the joys of film festivals is discovering something that is totally off your radar. Takahide Hori’s JUNK HEAD is a fine example of that. Screening for the first time outside of Japan at Fantasia 2017 this entirely stop motion animated film is a maniacally surreal trip into the future.
Expanded from a 2013 short of the same name, JUNK HEAD is set centuries from now after experimentation and mutation has rendered man immortal but unable to reproduce and after the clones created to do their manual labor revolted and fled underground. Discovering that the clones have found a way to reproduce, the humans send an expedition underground. What they find is beyond anything they could have expected.
My first thought watching JUNK HEAD was of an old British kid’s show THE CLANGERS about strange stop motion creatures living on the moon. Indeed this could be that or FRAGGLE ROCK designed by H.R. Gieger and directed by David Lynch. That’s about as close as I can come to describing it, it’s so off the charts weird. The dark, disturbing themes are lightened by humor that ranges from goofy slapstick to dark and philosophical.
The creatures that amble through JUNK HEAD are so varied and inventively designed from the bio-mechanical beings running the underground world to the bizarre animals scuttling around and burrowing through it. It’s a diverse and impressive cast of characters all given their own unique traits. They’re also well animated, stop motion has a reputation for looking jerky at times, but JUNK HEAD has very fluid animation, even in the scenes with several charecters which must have been a nightmare to do.
Perhaps the most unbelievable thing about JUNK HEAD is that it’s the work of one man. Takahide Hori wrote, directed, animated and voiced the entire film. He released the original short online to garner interest so he could crowdfund the feature and retain his independence. He was that committed to realizing his vision as he saw it and without interference. And in doing so he’s created a film that should be an inspiration to DIY filmmakers everywhere.
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, so the best advice I can give is watch the trailer. If you’re like me that will be enough to have you wanting to see it.