The Guard From the Underground (1992) – By Duane L. Martin

 Akiko Narushima (Makiko Kuro) used to be a curator at an art museum, and by the end of this film I’m sure she wishes she would have stayed where she was. It was her unfortunate luck however that she landed herself a new job at the Akebono Corporation in the newly formed Department 12, whose sole purpose in the company is to buy and sell great works of art. Her job is to assess the various pieces of artwork and let them know if it’s a good deal or not and how much they could expect to get for it at resale.

On her way to work on the first day, she’s stuck in the car in middle of a traffic jam. On the radio they start talking about this sumo wrestler who had killed his girlfriend as well as a fellow sumo wrestler and good friend. He was tried for the cime and let off because he was deemed insane. Now he’s running around loose and after an appeal by the families of the victims, the authorities are trying to find him and bring him back in so that they can re-try the case. It’s unfortunate for the people of Department 12 that they didn’t find him, because he’s now working as a security guard in their building.

He starts out by killing a guy who had loaned the head guard money and was now trying to have him sign over his land deeds. He crushed that guy and stuffed him into a locker, which in and of itself was quite amusing. Then, after a bad encounter with the head of Department 12, the senior guard, aware of what the new guard, Fujimaru (Matsushige Yutaka), had done, asks him to put a hurtin’ on the guy, but not to kill him. Fujimaru, not one to follow other people’s orders, beats the guy with a metal baton, takes him downstairs, electrocutes him, and then breaks his arm and his leg for good measure.

Fujimaru has taken up some kind of a strange obsession with Akiko, and it’s only for that reason that she was spared at the end of the film when Department 12 is working late and Fujimaru decides it’s time to go on a killing spree. He locks all the exterior doors and starts taking down people one by one, beating them to death in various ways. One especially creative way was when he shoved a rather annoying girl into a locker and then basically used his body to crush it in on her. I mean, this guy was huge, and he wasn’t fat like you’d expect a sumo to be. He was just really tall and exceedingly strong, and although they did show his face from time to time, much of the time he was in shadow or shot from the shoulders down to make him appear taller and more sinister.

The film delves a bit into the world of corporate politics and personalities, but in essence, it’s more of an "insane killer on the loose" type of a film. When I say insane, I really mean insane. This guy was just flat out nuts, killing people for no apparent reason other than that he seemed to be intent that people remember him. So basically story-wise it’s pretty simple, but what it really comes down to is that it’s an extremely well done and extremely intense psychotic killer flick.

The way the film was shot is what really makes it stand out and what really lends to the psychotic feel of it. Camera shots were set up to shoot someone walking down a long hallway full of nameless doors, or to show Akiko hiding in a side hallway. The basement was a confusing mish mash of pipes and electrical equipment with Fujimaru’s little resting place in a dark section of the back. The building was plain looking with no outstanding features, and many times it actually looked almost abandoned. Watching this giant of a man running someone down and beating them in the desolation of a cold corporate setting like that really adds to the intensity of each and every scene.

Guard From the Underground is a psychological thriller in some ways and a straight up brutal psycho killer movie in others. It works on both levels, and the tension towards the end when Fujumaru is going through the department hunting people down one by one is seriously intense. I think the only thing I would have really liked to have seen was more of an explanation of why he was doing it and why he had such an obsession with Akiko. Those things were never really explained, and it left me with kind of an empty feeling after it was all over. I like things to be wrapped up at the end, or at least to have some idea of why things happened the way they did. Despite that, the movie delivers in spades on the violence and brutality and it also delivers on the tension and suspense. The only thing that could have been improved on really was the interpersonal relationships between the various employees. Many of them felt like nothing more than window dressing and we really didn’t get to know much of anything about them. Overall though, this was just a really cool movie. If you’re looking for a good dose of violence, suspense and brutality, then look no further.

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