“What the hell happened!?!”

The young man Teru wakes up in the middle of a wrecked traincar. He’s hurt and doesn’t remember how he got there, but gradually it comes back to him. He was in a train... with his class... and then... something happened.

All around him his dead classmates lie mutilated and the train is a mess. As he makes his way out he sees that the train has crashed in a tunnel. Both sides of the tunnel has collapsed. There’s no way out.

Eventually he realises that he’s not alone. There are two more survivors. A frightened and hurt girl, Aku and a demented boy Nobuo who keeps screaming “The red light! didn’t you see the red light?!”.

The tunnel is unstable and when another section collapses a large pipe is exposed. Knowing that the tunnel won’t last long, Teru drags Aku with him into the pipe.

They crawl for days and finally they see a light. But when they emerge from the pipe they are faced with a horrible sight: All around them, as far as the eye can see, the earth has been reduced to a barren wasteland. Everything is covered is ashes and the sky is covered by dark clouds. The earth as they knew it, is no more...

I’m a sucker for apocalyptic films. The Canadian indie movie “Last Night” is one of the best, recent films like “Resident Evil” and “28 Days Later” (both zombie films) also impressed me, as did the classic “Miracle Mile” from 1984 finally released on region 1 DVD in June of 2003.

The key factor in making an apocalyptic movie work is mood. As audience we really have to feel the panic, the sense of imminent danger. If our eyes during the film should wander around the theater to see who we would save, or wander around the living room to see what essentials we could carry if we have to leave NOW, then the film is truly working!

The first 40 minutes of “Dragonhead” takes place inside the collapsed tunnel. That may sound boring, but the film uses this portion of the plot to great effect. The drama that plays out between the 3 survivors is a sign of things to come. There’s a great claustrophobic eerie mood over this part of the movie, and it perfectly sets the stage for what follows in the real world.

Part of the attraction in “Dragonhead” is figuring out what the hell went wrong. I won’t reveal any details about the plot after Teru and Aku make their way out of the pipe, but suffice to say that from the ashes of the world, humankind emerges to show its true face...

Visually the film is stunning. Though it’s shot on digital video this is only apparent in e few scenes, and even then I get the feeling that it’s on purpose. Otherwise the film has a pleasing, if rough, look and the post-apocalyptic world is beautifully illustrated with the help of some truly mind-blowing state-of-the-art digital effects.

“Dragonhead” left a strong impression on me. It’s deeply unsettling and profoundly sad. I usually don’t watch the end credits when I watch Asian films, because I don’t understand a word of them, but with “Dragonhead” it just felt wrong to stop the film. As if it would rob the characters of their last hope. So I watched the film all the way to the very end.
David Bjerre
March 28, 2004

Original Title
George Iida
- Battle Heater (1989)
- Night Head (1994)
- Rasen (1998)
- Another Heaven (2000)
Satoshi Tsumabuki
- Waterboys (2001)
- Justice (2002)
- Sayonara Kuro (2003)
- Bean Cake (2001 - Short film)
DVD Availability
Available on DVD from YesAsia: