Violence Voyager


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Violence Voyager
"Styled like the Ladybird Book of Cronenberg." | Photo: Fantasia Film Festival

If you were out playing with your friend and you came across an old abandoned amusement park, would you explore it? Let's face it: most of us probably would, even (especially?) if we'd been warned off it by a wizened old man with a pet monkey. You may be thinking that you've seen cartoons like this before, and that's true to an extent. There are moral lessons about the importance of children helping each other, there are animal companions who are loyal in time of trouble, and there's adventure with robots who turn out to be humans in disguise. But there's also grotesque dismemberment, mutation, child murder, cannibalism and worse. It's highly unlikely that you've seen anything quite like this.

Styled like the Ladybird Book of Cronenberg, this bizarre piece of gekimation by unpredictable auteur Ujicha is presented in boy's own adventure format, complete with snippets of authoritatively delivered narration which warn us what our young hero, Bobby, is about to experience, or comment on his future. There's marvellous deadpan comedy in this, but you'll need a strong stomach to get through the rest, which gets much more disturbing that you'd think would be possible given the format. It will be especially uncomfortable for Western viewers who have stronger taboos about nudity - Bobby's own horror at losing his clothes partway through is played for comedy, as he really should be worrying about other things at the time.

Copy picture

Suffice to say that the amusement park is not what it seems - but you'll know that the moment you get a glimpse of the obvious mad scientist in disguise who owns it. Once inside, it doesn't take the children long to discover that there's no easy way to leave. The reason for this is more bizarre than anything has prepare us for, but Ujicha delights in surprising his viewers. He also takes great pleasure in occasioning disgust with nothing more than paper puppetry (some may dispute whether it should properly be termed 'animation'), and splashes of various fluids. In a closing scene we also see effects created with flames and what looks like an indoor sparkler. This is seriously low budget stuff, but it's expertly handled. The experience is somewhat akin to reading a comic book with somebody standing behind one's shoulder randomly squirting a water pistol at it.

Violence Voyager is often hilarious but at other times may make you want to throw up. As well as the violence against children there's also a fair bit of violence against animals (though Bobby's cat, Dereck, proves to be tougher than expected). The internal logic of the film is childlike and the story shows the kind of wild imagination that most people lose by the age of 12; this gives it, in spite of everything, a curiously innocent quality. Showing at Fantasia 2018, it's storytelling without restraint - a truly radical piece of cinema.

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2018
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Violence Voyager packshot
An American boy in Japan finds himself facing a legion of horrors when he, his Japanese friend and his cat decide to explore an old abandoned amusement park.

Director: Ujicha

Writer: Ujicha

Starring: Daisuke Ono, Naoki Tanaka, Aoi Yuki

Year: 2017

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: Japan


Fantasia 2018

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