Trapped inside an old haunted property, a body builder finds himself tormented by a relentless ghost with a 30 year grudge in Shinichi Fukazawa’s tongue-in-cheek splatter comedy; affectionately known by fans as the ‘Japanese Evil Dead‘. Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell pays tribute to the enduring spirit of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series; featuring an incompetent, square-jawed anti-hero and grungy stop-motion effects.
With the assistance of Terracotta Distribution, Attack from Planet B has had the opportunity to interview Shinichi Fukazawa to discuss his first feature-length film, and the inspirations that led him to write and direct Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.
Ken Wynne: Konnichiwa Fukazawa-san, and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. It is most appreciated.
Shinichi Fukazawa: Thank you too. My pleasure.
KW: Let us begin with the origins of Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell. When did the idea occur to you to make a comedy horror film in a similar style to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series?
SF: When I watched Evil Dead in the theater, it inspired me a lot. Then I started to make similar short horror movies. Later then, I watched Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 3 [Army of Darkness] and Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead in the theater at the same time. I really enjoyed such kind of gore and funny and excited horror films, so I wanted to make same style of films. I started to plan to make feature horror film when I heard my dad decided to scrap his own old house in the suburb of Tokyo.
KW: Were there other horror movies that motivated you before or during production?
SF: As I answered above, Evil Dead 3 and Brain Dead inspired me. While writing screenplay, I tried to reach as much gore level as Evil Dead and comedy level as Evil Dead 2. Other horror movies motivated me are Night of the Living Dead that was my very first horror film I watched in the theater, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, Dario Argento’s Deep Red, and John Carpenter’s The Fog.
KW: I understand that Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell was filmed with a Super 8 camera. Why was this format chosen, and were there any difficulties during production (and post-production) shooting on Super 8 film?
SF: Original plan was filming with 16mm or Betacam, but I decided to do with 16mm because I wanted taste of the film. But unfortunately due to financial issue I had to do with 8mm. Different from digital shooting, I cannot check shooting scenes are OK or not until printing the film, that brought me many difficulties to have to shoot again. And I had to change costumes and make ups every time that depended on the story process when I shot again and again. At the time of post production, all the budget was run out. So I couldn’t digitalize all films and I had to postpone production temporary. I tried to make digitalize system by myself but it didn’t go well, so I owed money to order digitalize to professional company. I had to revise colors of all scenes during edit because long time past since filming to digitalize that caused all film’s color lower.
KW: What other challenges did you face during production?
SF: I filmed 80% of the scenes during summer time. That summer was incredibly hot and old house was like a crazy hot spa in hell. There was only one small AC there because electric power was limited. And I had to off AC because using power for lighting. Staff and casts were in the worst condition. Then I checked printed films but its quality was very low that was far worse than I expected. After considered, I decided to scrap all the films and shoot all the scenes again. But it was difficult to arrange cast and staff’s busy schedule, so I had to arrange re-filming in separated steps. As you know my budget was run out, so I had to change schedule again and again, then I spent 7 and half year long to finish shooting.
KW: Along with writing and directing Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell, you are also the lead actor. Was the decision to act as lead always there, or were other actors considered for the role of Naoto?
SF: Evil Dead 3 madly motivated me to act like Bruce Campbell to kick zombies out. So Naoto is definitely for my roll. I told staff I had to act by myself because of saving casting cost, but it was a lie.
KW: The character of Naoto required a strong physical appearance. Did you bulk up (build muscle) for the role, or have you always been interested in lifting weights?
SF: I trained like push up without heavy weight since young days. When I planned this film, I started to use weight that made me macho man. Then I hit upon idea that body builder as a main guy. But sadly I was getting busier for my photo editor job and preparation of the film production that robbed time for workout and sleep from me. I’m still regretting my smaller body that lost 6kg at the time for shooting.
KW: How did you get Asako Nosaka and Masahiro Kai involved?
SF: Hard to find actress for heroin, so I asked Asako who was my daughter’s friend. She was an actress of a member of stage play group Akoka. Masahiro was a friend of mine in the film university who is an amateur actor. He acted many times in private independent films and stage plays, and he acted very well in my splatter film, so I offered him.
KW: The practical special effects in Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell appear to be a labour of love; especially the stop-motion animation used for the more elaborate splatter sequences. Who was involved in creating the SFX?
SF: All SFX were made by myself. Not only stop-motion animation, but also zombie make up, zombie mask, human bodies, and others such as floor zombie broke up, ceiling, knife were made by myself. Like my acting, this is also I told staff I had to make it by myself because of saving casting cost, but just I wanted to make everything by myself. Most of the SFX scenes were shot by myself alone in the old house every weekend after all actors shooting done.
KW: Roughly how long did it take to complete Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell, from conception to its initial release in Japan?
SF: Original plan was about a year for complete, but as you know, I had to take 7 and half years for shooting due to re-schedule, and another 7 and half years for post production, total 15 years. And 2 more years to make independent version of DVD. Theater screening was finally made after 17 years since its original plan.
KW: Once the movie was completed, you mention on your blog, ‘Zombie Theater in Hell’, that Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell was released on DVD independently. How difficult was it to get your movie in the hands of horror fans initially?
SF: I only announced this film on my blog, but unexpectedly more reactions and feedbacks were coming. Luckily initial press of independent version of DVD was sold out only in a day, then I had to rush to make additional copies. Many reviews by DVD buyers were posted on their blogs and websites that became good promotion of this film to receive offer from the distribution company. Then this film was recommended by the largest DVD rental franchises in Japan that made it popular. I just only posted on my blog, so thanks for internet to go viral.
KW: How have you found the audience response to Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell, both in Japan and overseas?
SF: Many comments were posted on my blog and reviews on internet right after DVD release in Japan. And comments in English were coming on my YouTube channel, then I found reviews on movie data base and review movie by Russian in overseas.
KW: Do you have any projects you are now currently working on?
SF: I wrote a few concept ideas and screenplays but didn’t realize yet due to financial issue.
KW: Thank you again for your time Fukazawa-san. I wish you further success with Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell, and all future projects. Arigato!