Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
Not for the first time in an October Horror Movie Challenge, I’ve chosen a film simply because its name grabbed my attention. And what a name Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell is! The alternative title of Japanese Evil Dead is also intriguing, but more in an exploitation way than a WTF one.
I knew literally nothing else about this film before watching it. Let’s see what I was letting myself in for.
Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell is currently available on Shudder in the UK.
Trying to summarise Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell in pure plot terms is futile. While there is sort of a story, it’s more of a gory fever dream. Still, let’s try.
Shinji is a bodybuilder, so the title got that bit right. Unbeknownst to Shinji, his weirdly identical father killed his possessive and murderous girlfriend before Shinji was born, hastily burying her body in the house where the killing happened. Now, in the present day, Shinji has inherited this house, knowing nothing of its dark history.
Even so, Shinji sees this as an opportunity to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend, who writes articles about ghosts for a paranormal magazine. He invites her to examine the house, and she brings along a psychic so humourless that he’s just two pointy ears away from being a Vulcan.
Of course, the house is haunted. The ghost of the dead woman quickly possesses the psychic and violent shenanigans ensue. The following two-thirds of the film is just one bizarre and bloody scene after another, with slapstick and gore escalating to ludicrous levels.
Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell is everything a cult film should be. It’s clearly a passion project, with one man — Shinichi Fukazawa — writing, directing, producing, starring and probably making the tea. This is also the only film he’s made, with just a single other acting credit fleshing out his IMDB page.
It would be easy to mock the film for its ludicrous earnestness and low production values, and I must admit to doing so a bit in this review, but I honestly admire what Fukazawa has accomplished here. The love that’s gone into this film is what makes it feel special. In a world where there are countless Sharknado films and their ilk, trying to artificially achieve cultdom through cynical exploitation, it’s cheering to see a film that’s endearingly terrible in such a heartfelt way.
Apparently, Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell spent years languishing in distribution limbo before finally reaching an international audience over 25 years on. It makes me wonder how many other deranged masterpieces there are sitting on virtual shelves around the world, awaiting similar rediscovery.
Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell is one of the dumbest, most amateurish films I’ve ever seen. And I kind of love it. Almost every aspect screams cheapness, and it looks like it was shot on a Speak & Spell. The acting ranges from wooden to psychotic, averaging out at bizarre. The makeup effects look like they were produced using a few boxes of plasticine and the contents of someone’s kitchen. It clearly cost about as much as a prawn sandwich, but energy and obsession will take you a long way.
You could say that this is a love letter to the Evil Dead films (as the alternative title suggests). Or you might argue that it’s a ham-fisted rip-off. Even if its more of the latter, the sheer oddness of its execution turns it into something unique. I have no idea if the intention was ever to make a serious horror film, but what we’ve ended up with feels like Japan’s answer to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.
The only real flaw is the pacing. Despite being just over an hour, Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell takes a third of its brief runtime to really take off. The early scenes are strange enough to stop them being dull, but it’s not until the characters are trapped in the house, fighting the dead, that the film comes alive.
While I am absolutely going to recommend Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell, do not expect anything like a coherent, polished or even competent film. There is simply nothing else out there like it, and that’s good enough for me.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Dark August (USA, 1976)
- Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
- The Banishing (UK, 2020)
- Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
- Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
- Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
- Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
- You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
- No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
- The Sect (Italy, 1991)
- Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
- Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
- 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
- The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
- In the Earth (UK, 2021)
- Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
- Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
- Older Gods (UK, 2023)
- Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
- Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
- Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
- The Premonition (USA, 1976)
- Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
- The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
- Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
- Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
- Demon (Poland, 2015)
- Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
- El Conde (Chile, 2023)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!