Fantastic Fest 2011: INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI Review

James Marsh, Asian Editor
[With Invasion of Alien Bikini now screening at Fantastic Fest we revisit our earlier review.]

The trailer for Oh Young Doo's difficult second feature, INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI has already been something of a hit on these pages after we posted it up in March. Back then the film was bathing in its success at the Yubari Fantastic Film Festival, where it became the first non-Japanese film ever to win the festival's Grand Prix. While it can be argued the film delivers exactly what the trailer promises in terms of mild titillation, low budget sci-fi hi-jinks and yes - a mustachioed protagonist the likes of which we've not seen since THE CANNONBALL RUN - there are nevertheless a few surprises in store. Oh is certainly not beyond lulling his audience into a false sense of security before throwing them the occasional curve ball and yielding surprisingly visceral results.

Young Gun is a lone wolf, sworn to uphold the law and protect a society that has long since turned its back on him. He wanders the streets of Seoul in disguise, defending the innocent and confronting evil wherever it rears its head.  Most of the time, sadly, Young Gun's crusade of justice consists of little more than walking around in the dark picking up litter, until the night he stumbles upon a group of thuggish ne'er-do-wells harassing a young woman. After a lengthy and brutal battle that sees Young Gun get the better of three staff-wielding aggressors and their sleazy gang boss, he rescues the girl and whisks her off to the safety of his humble lodgings to recover.

As our hero slowly reveals himself to be a physically-impressive, health-conscious and vehemently chaste specimen of the human race, his female houseguest, Miss Ha Monica, becomes increasingly forward, inquisitive and flirtatious, until over a seemingly harmless game of Jenga, she puts the moves on Young Gun and demands his sperm! However, Monica's seduction fails and she is forced to take increasingly violent and aggressive steps if she is to get what she wants. Time, it would appear, is a factor and those chasing her are closing in, anxious to track her down before the night is out.
 
The films of Noburu Iguchi or Yoshihiro Nishimura are probably useful touchstones at this point, although Oh steers well clear of the fountains of blood or more graphic realizations of body horror for which those films are famous. Thematically the film is perhaps closer to Jang Joon Hwan's wonderful SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! as both films concern mentally troubled and socially isolated heros involved in rather grueling torture sessions where the fate of the Earth itself may well be at stake, however on a far more modest production scale. Reports place the budget of Oh's film at somewhere in the region of US$4000, and taken on these terms INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI is a monumental success. It's fast-paced and visually interesting throughout, while sensibly containing the action to Young Gun's apartment and a few quiet back alleys and features little in the way of special effects. The one other-worldly sequence is wisely realized through childishly scribbled cartoon drawings, all of which only adds to the film's charm.
 
Hong Young Geun is rather wonderful in the lead role, ensuring we sympathise with Young Gun even as we become irritated by his incessant blathering about health foods and his own unflappable abstinence. We pity his situation and the earnestness with which he dons his raincoat and fake moustache each night to rid the city of crime and scrap paper, but when things turn ugly later on we believe all too readily the darkness he had buried deep within him. Ha Eun Jung is easy enough on the eye to convince as an extraterrestrial seductress and does a good job of turning the tables on her strong yet cripplingly well-mannered host. While a far cry from Miike's AUDITION, the film explores the same home invasion role reversal, albeit one that leads to a very different conclusion. It should also be noted that while Monica does spend a healthy percentage of her screen time in various states of undress, at no point does she don a bikini, although Oh was probably right in not attempting to call the film INVASION OF ALIEN UNDERWEAR as that doesn't sound nearly as sexy or alluring.

All told, INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI is lots of fun, and with the news that Yubari's Grand Prix came with a cash prize of US$25,000 we can only rub our thighs together in hungry anticipation at what Oh will conjure up with that kind of budget. By no means as polished as the films from, say, the Sushi Typhoon stables, Oh Young Doo should nevertheless be heralded as the new poster boy of micro-budget genre cinema, because INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI is wonderful.

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