Fantasia International Film Festival (FIFF) – I can’t believe it’s claymation — I totally lost myself inside of Junk Head creator Takahide Hori’s world! Having written the screenplay and directed the film, configured the lighting, drafted character designs, and so much more in order to create Junk Head over the course of 7 years, this film is truly a passion project, and it shows. Junk Head is one of the most impressive feature film debuts in quite some time, animated or not, and I am champing at the bit to see what else is inside of Hori’s head.
In the future, mankind has found the secret to longevity, but as a result, they have lost the capability to reproduce. For a labor force, beings called the mulligans are created in order to live underground tending to and operating the machines that drive the world, however, they eventually rebel and take control of the underground, though they remain there. The humans send one researcher in a pod to the underground world in order to study the mulligans and their ability to reproduce, however, soon after arriving, the researcher is shot down. Luckily, he is eventually saved and brought back to life as an adorable cyborg, and as he continues his mission, he runs into strange monsters and subterranean beings, all of whom take turns helping or hindering his mission to find the tree of life.
The world built in Junk Head looks industrial and choked with decay, yet it seems so expansive and full of possibilities, and each new possibility is more terrifying than the last. The movie is definitely dark, both in lighting and by its dog-eat-dog world setting, but it has some humor that mostly extends from the odd mannerisms of the characters and also includes some seemingly British-inspired humor, the kind of gags with lots of running and chasing. I found the movie highly enjoyable, its epic story containing one adventure after another until its finale — though it felt unfinished, that feeling of wanting more could also just be me not wanting the movie to end. Junk Head is a load of fun, striking gold with its quirky characters, electropop soundtrack, and cute but creepy animation style.
Another dystopian film about the loss of human reproductive capabilities, Junk Head is refreshing in the way that it doesn’t necessarily seem to even focus on humans, but rather, more so on the subterranean class created by humans that keep the world running seemingly without even questioning their repetitive existence; the hierarchy of racial classes presented in Junk Head felt similar to the Eloi and Morlocks in HG Well’s The Time Machine. This claymation movie came to life right before my eyes, boasting some amazing creature designs that show off the untamed imagination of Takahide Hori. The character designs are not necessarily copycats, but I would say they are reminiscent of and therefore on a similar level of inspiring awe and terror as monsters that Guillermo del Toro or Tim Burton would have created. The atmosphere of the film feels lively but also cold and distant, one I would liken to what’s captured in classic science fiction films like the animated Metropolis.
This claymation film is complete with a musical score that thuds like a heartbeat, and I had to legitimately resist the urge to start raving at times — a feeling similarly achieved with The Matrix soundtrack. Like The Matrix, Junk Head shares themes of blurred lines between humans and machines, finding one’s identity through camaraderie in their new world, and the decline of the environmental quality of the earth. Director Takahadi Hori has crafted an instant stop-motion masterpiece with Junk Head, and it is no wonder that it received the Best Feature Animation award at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival. The film looks like a mix of stop motion clay characters, as well as 2D animation and possibly a tiny bit of CGI, the different mediums all give the film different textures and capability to achieve any of the crazy, fantastic shots used in Junk Head.
The film will screen as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival, happening August 5-25.
8.25 out of 10