In Japan the road to directorial success is an arduous one filled with low paying, low respect worthy productions. The idea is that the director slogs through shitty grindhouse, V-cinema productions and if he proves that he's worth his salt, he'll get a better paying gig. Clearly Kiyoshi Kurosawa was at that point in 1992 when he put out The Guard from Underground, a schlock splatter piece done in the early-80s slasher tradition.
For someone like myself who spent far too much time watching these types of films (it's gone past any sort of embarrassment, actually), it's clear that director Kurosawa holds this genre dear. I imagine that his meeting with the producers went something like this: "Director Kurosawa, here's $90,000. Make a fast, cheap, and exciting movie!" For Kurosawa, it was a perfect opportunity to make this type of film.
When The Guard from Underground is viewed with this in mind, it's really something. Check out the plot: a young woman starts working at a trading company. While she does not have Office Lady (OL) skills, she has worked as a manager of an art gallery and therefore advises this company on their purchase of expensive paintings by the 'Great Masters'. On the same day the woman starts work, and amidst news reports that the infamous berserk serial-killing sumo wrestler case would be reopened by the police, a former sumo wrestler also begins work as the company's security guard (could it be the same guy?). Needless to say, murders ensue.
In The Guard from Underground, the storytelling is done with the minimum of budget, cast and crew. At times, I was wondering whether the cast may have been the crew and whether the vehicles in the film doubled as crew and equipment transport. But it is clear that a maximum amount of creativity and resourcefulness was used in making this production. Notwithstanding the low budget nature of the film, it brims with atmosphere. The lighting is dim, the shadows are ominous, blood flows freely, and the cast's faces seem to be frozen in a state of apoplexy (show the fear!); this is a film that is textbook slasher, although we know who the killer is all along.
While I found the notion of a lean 2-meter tall former sumo wrestler as a villain ridiculous-he doesn't dispense with the victims using sumo moves, and that is a missed opportunity I feel- it did fit with the mood of the film: cheap, fun, and diverting. I enjoyed myself while watching this, although it would have been more fun with a beer in hand, methinks. Similarly I think Kurosawa had a lot of fun making this film. Oh, and did I mention that the soundtrack is absolutely amazing?