So Bad, They’re Good: Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell

Have you ever wondered what a Japanese version of The Evil Dead filmed in the 90s would look like? Well, wonder no more, for here it is in Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.

The film’s opening scene is a domestic argument that ends in murder, where the wife’s corpse is hidden within the cramped home. Following this, the plot follows Shinji (Shinichi Fukazawa), an unemployed body builder, after receiving an unexpected call from his unnamed ex-girlfriend (Asako Nosaka). She is a photojournalist whose expertise lies in the world of paranormal. She wants him to come with her and a psychic (Masaaki Kai) as they investigate an abandoned haunted house. But, unfortunately, the house hides a bloody secret.

When the psychic arrives, he senses an evil entity looking down at them from the walls and windows. They are greeted by the ghosts, and once the psychic becomes possessed, shit gets real. What follows is a bodybuilder kicking ass in a haunted house with a set of lifting weights, crushing heads, and popping eyes along the way. There is no apparent reason it is a bodybuilder as the title character, other than why the hell not?

When you come across a crazy titled film like this, assumptions are made about what will arrive on the screen, so Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell has some big boots to fill. And boy does it! This gore-fest lasts only 62minutes and is an above-average fan film by Fukazawa. It’s a full hour of impressive low-budget effects, so much in your face that you can not help but enjoy it. It imitates The Evil Dead, but resembles Sam Raimi’s style in Evil Dead 2, mixed with some J-Horror tropes which make it feel distinctly Asian.

Still from Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.

The practical effects are a little ridiculous and occasionally comedically awful, with floods of filth coming from insanely laughing corpses, fantastic and compelling stop-motion, and excellent gore effects. Yes, the stop motion looks like bits of plasticine, but it still looks more convincing than some CGI.

In addition, the score itself has some disconcerting moments that perfectly suit the film, improving the scares that could have been absurd. But despite (or maybe because of it) Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell manages to get under your skin. Quite an achievement considering its short length.

Still from Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.

It is an excellent show of Fukazawa’s talent in giving us some budget-friendly scares, nods, and winks to the genre. But, is it deserving the subtitle of Japanese The Evil Dead? Yes it is. The film references the Raimi classic, such as how the camera flows, the comedy slapstick, the classic “groovy” line and over-the-top gore. However, it’s not as well made as Raimi’s film.

It is a shame that this is Fukazawa’s only directorial piece, although you never know what he may be working away at behind closed doors. The film was primarily shot in 1995, but it wasn’t completed until 2009. After 15 years, it must have felt like the film would never be released, yet here it is – a great show of patience. It manages to recreate the groovy (you knew that was coming at some point) elements of The Evil Dead, albeit at an even lower budget. To keep the flawless continuity over those 15 years, including reshoots and edits and making it feel like a shorter production schedule, needs to be applauded.

Still from Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.

Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell indulges in aspects of the b-movie cult classics, with a wink and nudge to the audience and a mix of blood and comedy balanced throughout. The grainy effects from filming on Super8 improve the overall grindhouse feel of the film, and it is a throwback to straight-to-video productions with an air of tackiness and tastelessness. The ludicrous plot and over-the-top styling are the film’s appeal and you have to credit the filmmaker for the effort and time he put into this film.

There is no escaping from the fact that Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell is a bad film, but to be here means it is, of course, so bad, it’s good. It’s a perfect love letter to The Evil Dead and its impact on Japanese Cinema. Ultimately, it is a lovely film to share with your mates.

We’ll survive if we all just stick together!

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