There may be no greater example of an interesting film with a unique aesthetic and loads of potential that falls victim to overstaying its welcome more than Takahide Hori’s Junk Head. A stop-motion animation sci-fi-horror epic, the film clocks in at nearly two hours in length, despite only needing to be around half of that. And still, it’s a pretty damn entertaining piece of art.
Like a glorious hybrid of Alien, Mad Max, and Wall-E, the film follows a group of robotic, mechanical beings trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where terrifying creatures run wild and death is around every corner. There isn’t much of a traditional narrative present, but Hori is a talented enough storyteller that it almost feels as though there is.
By no means is Junk Head a dull film. A significant amount of the film’s running time is spent watching workers walking around factories and having dull conversations, but there are so many quality action sequences around every corner that it’s unfair to be too harsh in this criticism. Still, it’s frustrating that Junk Head is a pretty good 114-minute film when it could be an amazing 84-minute film if some of the excess fat had been trimmed.
Though there is plenty of downtime throughout, the final ten minutes are suspenseful, tense, and even downright emotional. Hori cranks the intensity up to eleven in the closing minutes of the film, and the big finale is one of the most heart-racing sequences of stop-motion animation in the history of the form. Though the color palette is comprised primarily of browns and grays, there’s something really attractive about the film’s aesthetic. It’s both unsettling and strangely cute, as the robots are kind of charming. Make no doubt about it, though, Junk Head is most definitely not a family film, as the monsters are vicious and the death scenes are graphic.
It absolutely must be said how amazing it is that Hori accomplished such an ambitious film with a crew comprised mostly of just himself and a handful of assistants. The end credits of the film feature the man’s name dozens of times, and it truly puts the filmmaker’s passion into perspective. To make a film like Junk Head without a number of key collaborators is genuinely impressive, and Hori deserves major kudos for that.
This isn’t a movie for everyone, but anyone with an appreciation of stop-motion should absolutely seek this one out. It doesn’t have the most compelling narrative, but there are so many incredible visuals here that Junk Head demands to be seen.
Junk Head recently screened at the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.