Comedy, Erotic, Films, Horror, Japan, Recommended posts, Reviews

Attack Girls’ Swim Team Versus the Undead

How can any self-respecting fan of Japanese schlock cinema resist a film with a title like this?…

Japanese splatter films are well-known for their blood-soaked, whacky creativity, though in terms of its title at least, nothing comes close to the bizarrely-monikered Attack Girls’ Swim Team Versus the Undead, which also goes by The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers, Attack Girls Swim Team vs the Unliving Dead, Inglorious Zombie Hunters, and the slightly more sensible Undead Pool. Originally unleashed back in 2007, the film enjoyed a surprisingly wide international release, quite possibly just on the strength of its awesome name, though the lashings of softcore lesbianism and amusingly cheap gore promised by the trailer probably didn’t hurt.

Directed by Koji Kawano (more known for romances and dramas like When You Wish Upon a Star), the film stars Sasa Handa (Bloody Chainsaw Girl Returns: Revenge of Nero) as Aki, who persuades her friend Sayaka (Yuria Hidaka) to join their high school girls swim team. When the school nurses call everyone to the office for an inoculation, the two girls instead sneak off to hang out, though on their return find that a strange infection is spreading amongst the students and staff, turning them into flesh-hungry ghouls. Luckily, Aki is a trained assassins of sorts, and she and Sayaka rally the rest of the swim team to fight back.

While it was never going to live up to the promise of its title, Attack Girls’ Swim Team Versus the Undead is still a pretty far-out affair, though at the same time has a surprisingly coherent and consistent structure, with Koji Kawano sticking to a regular pattern of switching between sex scenes and zombie battles throughout, without worrying about the niceties of plot or common sense. It’s fair to say that the focus in most on the sex, with Aki, Sayaka and their friends never missing a chance to undress or to engage in mild lesbianism, though given the context and Koji’s ham-fisted handling of the film, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever finding it even vaguely erotic. The film also features some pretty questionable sexual content through flashbacks to Aki’s training as an assassin, which basically involves a cartoon villain called The Doctor brainwashing her into masturbating every time he plays a flute, though it’s all a bit too ridiculous and inexplicable to be offensive.

The film also features a lot of oddball comedy, mostly in the form of slapstick, with the cast spending a lot of time pulling strange faces for the camera, and for viewers who enjoy this kind of thing it’s reasonably funny in a low-brow manner. The overall shabbiness of the production similarly makes for a decent amount of laughs, whether intentional or not, with the zombie makeup cheap and cheerful, and the gore mostly revolving around absurd blood geysers and rubbery limbs being thrown around, again usually accompanied by the pulling of what are presumably supped to be comic faces. Koji’s refusal to explain almost anything about the zombie outbreak or the character of The Doctor is also hilarious, and helps add an amusingly surreal air throughout.

While none of this is enough to make Attack Girls’ Swim Team Versus the Undead a good film in the traditional sense, there’s plenty here for fans of post-2000 Japanese schlock to enjoy. Despite leaning more towards sleaze than gore, it’s a short, breezy 78 minutes of exploitation fun, and Koji Kawano earns points for an approach that could be broadly described as being unpretentious in the extreme.

Join us every Thursday for the latest in James’ #cineXtremes series.

About the author

James MudgeJames Mudge James Mudge
From Glasgow but based in London, James has been writing for a variety of websites over the last decade, including BeyondHollywood in the US and YesAsia in Hong Kong. As well as running film consultancy The Next Day Agency, James is also the Festival Director of the Chinese Visual Festival in London, an annual event which showcases Chinese language cinema... More »
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