The journey of Takahide Hori’s Junk Head has been a long one. Beginning as an award-winning short back in 2013, it was expanded to feature-length and debuted at the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival. It would appear Hori wasn’t pleased with this cut, because it was re-released last year (again screening at Fantasia) with a “tighter” edit. Although I haven’t seen the previous cut, I can only assume the edit was time well-spent. Junk Head, while not having the strongest narrative, is a feast for the eyes and on its way to being a cult classic.
Set in the distant future, humans have evolved to virtual immortality but in exchange have become infertile. After an epidemic has wiped out hundreds of millions of people, those who survived descend into the underworld where the artificial creatures they created have formed their own society. Through a Tree of Life, these creatures have discovered fertility, which humans are quick to want to examine to save the species.
The premise of the film is interesting and told with some wicked humour, but it can be difficult to follow in some parts and thin in others. But where it lacks in storytelling, it more than makes up for in its visuals.
Entirely filmed using stop-motion, Hori’s film has clear influences as far back as Metropolis and as iconic as Alien. The design of each creature is imaginative with a tactile quality, and the subterranean world feels successfully seedy and dirty. The attention to detail in Junk Head is admirable to say the least.
Classifying Junk Head as a labour of love is a massive disservice to the director. The film is literally a one-man show: Hori is responsible for every aspect of Junk Head, from director to writer to visual effects to editing to sound…you get the idea. With his name all over the credits and the re-release 4 years after its official premiere, we can assume that Hori is a perfectionist and a man in control of his medium — and we thank him for it.
Junk Head screened as part of the 2022 Toronto Japanese Film Festival. Head here for more from this year’s festival.