Mikadroid (1991)

Class: Staff
Author: J.L. Carrozza
Score: (3.5/5)
November 24, 2006 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Tomoo Haraguchi is a talented individual. Like a Japanese Tom Savini, he's both a special effects master and a director, doing everything from creating the sickening gore in the abhorrent torture flick All Night Long to making the monster suits in Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy as well as directing a few films himself, including the fun Sakuya: Slayer of Demons. Mikadroid is his directorial debut, a highly entertaining and interesting, if flawed, low budget sci-fi/horror hybrid from Toho's direct to video line. The film was originally going to be about a deceased Japanese soldier coming back from the dead as a zombie, but the sudden headline grabbing rampage of perverted child killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, one of whose obsessions was horror films, stopped that project in it's tracks. Haraguchi was forced to go back to the drawing board and invent a new, albeit similar project, this time involving a modified cyborg superman instead of a zombie.

The film opens in 1945, toward the end of World War II, showing us an underground bunker where the Japanese army was trying to create an army of supermen. With Japan losing the war, however, the army orders everything destroyed. The scientist in charge of it sets two of his test subjects free and activates his greatest creation, Mikadroid, a half man/half cyborg creature made from the modified body of an Olympic athlete, before being shot dead. Years later, a disco club is built over the ruins of the underground bunker. Mikadroid, however, is still alive and reactivates one night, whereupon it begins to kill the disco club's patrons. A young electrician and a young woman are trapped in the club's underground garage with the creature and with the help of the two former test subjects, still very much alive and both whom haven't aged a day since WWII, must try to escape.

Mikadroid is quite well made considering it's low budget. Tomoo Haraguchi's direction is quite energetic, with an ample amount of nice camerawork and some brutal murder scenes involving the film's titular creature, most notably one in which a girl is slashed up with the thing's katana and then spun around, that bring Dario Argento to mind. The special effects are by Shinji Higuchi, one of Haraguchi's colleagues and the genius who would give us the eye popping effects in Kaneko's Gamera trilogy. They aren't nearly as incredible as the special effects in those films, but are still quite serviceable with a nice use of pyrotechnics and a cool design for the Mikadroid, looking something like a cross between a 50s sci-fi robot and Daiei's Majin.

The music by Kenji Kawai is decent. Kawai is a very interesting figure, like Shinji Higuchi, he's another one of a handful of figures to go back and forth between the separate worlds of anime and live action Japanese films, when he's not scoring such anime as the excellent Vampire Princess Miyu and Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell, he's scoring such films as Hideo Nakata's Ring (1998).His score for Mikadroid, while at times sounding a tad bit like a direct to video movie soundtrack, is quite effective in parts.

The acting is decent, but nothing to scream home about. Yoriko Douguchi is most noticeable in the film and gives off something of a Sigourney Weaver vibe. The only other notable actors the film features are Masatoh Eve and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the soon to be renowned director would go on to make such films as Cure and Pulse (2001), in a small role. In terms of character development, the film has little as it's only 73 minutes long, but Yoriko Douguchi's character does mature somewhat as the film progresses, toward the end she faces off against the Mikadroid and throws a grenade at it, but other than that there is little character development to be found, which leads us to the film's main flaw, that the film is too short. The characters could have been fleshed out more and I wish the film had more scenes of the cyborg going around killing people, as those sequences are easily the highlight of the movie. The origin of the titular Mikadroid could also have been explored a bit more thoroughly. The film's finale, in which the Mikadroid is defeated by one of the former test subjects, also seems like something of a cop out. Those somewhat glaring flaws aside, Mikadroid is still an underrated and highly fun little indie horror film, and is definitely recommended, though the film's gory killing scenes may turn off those only familiar with Toho's kaiju eiga.