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JAPANORAMA - Osaka BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgVersus Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda, Yuichiro Arai, Minoru Matsumoto, Kazuhito Ohba, Takehiro Katayama, Ayumi Yoshihara, Shōichirō Masumoto, Toshiro Kamiaka, Yukihito TanikadoAs part of JAPANORAMA I have been inviting my movie-reviewing peers to join in. This post is from Brikhaus over at the fantastic Awesomely Shitty. I love the site because it’s not afraid to stick the boot in and dissect anything and everything that the masses are generally scrambling over each other to fawn over – from Django to the Academy. Today Awesomely Shitty takes on Versus, a low-budget cult zombie flick. You can see the full review here, and follow on twitter @awesomelyshitty.

Versus (-ヴァーサス- Vāsasu): Versus is a bizarre, nonsensical movie. It’s a super low-budget cult film featuring cops, gangsters, shootouts, samurai, zombies, martial arts, karate zombies, sword fighting, and demons. It’s like the director grabbed a list of “cool shit” from the internet, and mixed it all together, hoping it would work. And depending on your point of view, it either totally works, or is a complete fucking mess. The movie has an odd tone somewhere between serious and wacky. I suppose if Versus had played it straight, nothing would work. The whole thing is just too goddamn crazy. The closest thing I can compare it to is Evil Dead II. The zombies are a mix of traditional lumbering zombies, and other zombies who can shoot guns and know karate. I can’t think of any other movie where you can see zombies shooting machine guns, or humans roundhouse kicking zombie heads off. At least it earned a few points for originality. At 2 hours and 10 minutes, Versus definitely overstays its welcome. Some of the fight scenes seem endless, and when they aren’t fighting, the movie sucks so hard you wish they were back to fighting again. It’s an endless cycle of shit. Versus is a hard movie to rate. I enjoyed the karate zombies and weird sense of humor. I also enjoyed the well-choreographed fight scenes. However, the movie drags at times, and it way too long for its own good. I’d say it rounds out to be an average watch. Good to watch drunk, but not otherwise.

Score: 6/10

An old review of Versus from this site can be found here.

JAPANORAMA - Cheng Cheng BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMAThe Duel Project started out as a drunken bet, when Japanese movie producer Shinya Kawai challenged two up-and-coming directors to each make a film that had only two actors, who would fight to the death, in a single location – it also had to be shot in less than a week, and stick to a tiny budget. The results were Aragami and 2LDK (2LDK REVIEW HERE)

Duel Project 0Duel Project AragamiAragami: two wounded soldiers collapse at the door of a monastery, but when one wakens up the hospitality doesn’t last long. This film couldn’t be more different to 2LDK. The dialogue feels slow and padded out. There’s continual talk of magic, immortality, demons, goblins and such fantasy staples – bit of a turn-off for me. The film’s soundtrack is OTT porno music / thrash metal, and the tone is equally unusual – slapstick/manga. All familiar territory for Ryuhei Kitamura who’s biggest film to date was Versus, and was using this as a ‘dry run’ for Azumi – unfortunately the film only finds its stride in the last 10 minutes. My favourite aspect was how much the film was steeped  in a history of swordplay and swordfighting movies yesteryear – from intricate/complex katana flare, down to some lovely, old school, ‘Shing! Ching!’ metal-clashing sound effects. Aragami isn’t a bad film, but watching it after 2LDK really takes the sting out it’s tail: whereas you enjoy the pressure-cooker buildup in 2LDK, Aragami’s set-up feels flat and uninteresting, you just want to see these guys battle it out, and when it does roll round, it feels much shorter and less innovative/satisfying than the other movie. The Duel Project is definitely worth checking out, but I’d recommend watching this first, building up to the superior 2LDK.

Score: 5.5/10

Aragami 01 - Takao Osawa, Masaya Kato, Kanae Uotani, Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki

“Ninja Stars are for losers”

Aragami 02 - Takao Osawa, Masaya Kato, Kanae Uotani, Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki

I Saw The DevilI Saw the Devil: when his fiancé falls prey to a deadly serial killer a secret service agent will stop at absolutely nothing to get even with the perpetrator. Make no mistake, this is revenge, Korean Style, and some parts of this picture make Oldboy look like a kids film – masochistic, nasty, graphic moments of extremely inhumane behavior. These would normally put you off, but this is so well crafted, and masterfully/beautifully shot (by – arguably – Korea’s best director) that it absolutely captivates. There are so many outstanding & memorable scenes: the riverside one is heartbreaking, agriculture one shocking, and many more jaw-dropping moments. Acting across the board is great, but the two (arguably Korea’s best actors) leads are absolutely mesmerising: Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-Sik doing it gangnam world-class style. There’s a lot of ‘blood on your hands’ / ‘becoming a monster’ themes, which get a little tedious and feel over-emphasised. I Saw the Devil has everything: tension, drama, black-comedy, gore, shock, thriller, nasty, nice and everything in between – it’s all in there, and it’s all handled spectacularly by the director and his leading men. It may be too dark, graphic or gristly for some, but if you’ve got a strong stomach this is a fantastic film.

Score: 8/10

Doomsday: Sci-fi action following a hot police babe (Mitra) as she searches post-apocalyptic Scotland for a virus cure. Anything with a pulse is blown up or gunned down in extreme fashion; from axes to the face, tanks rolling over bodies and rabbits being shot to pieces, Doomsday has the bloody quota well and truly covered splattered! Marshal does well with the action here, from a girly sword-fight between two models to a car chase, it’s all handled like a pro. Brilliant vision of a ruined Scotland – tongue in cheek but totally tribal and well realised right down to the little touches like an “out of fucking service” bus sign. The Scottish (& South African) highland scenery is magificent, with a lot of swooping shots of hills, glens and castles!  The strong homegrown cast are also great, with nobody letting the team down. The only thing that this film’s weak on is originality. Whilst it’s not all bad it borrows from a catalogue of classic sci-fi/horror films from Escape from NY to Omega Man, to Resident Evil and everything in between. It’s a good fun splatter-fest that doesn’t take itself too seriously (Two tribes go to war) yet still ticks all the boxes. Definitely worth checking out!

Score: 7/10

Versus: a criminal and mystic are hunted down by yakuza, who are being chased by zombies! How do you make a film with more action than the matrix? Easy, just add gallons of blood, swords, knifes, massive guns, a ton of zombies and have as many fights as you can get away with. It’s (surprisingly) directed by the same guy that did Midnight Meat Train, but don’t hold that against him as this a good effort. He did well with a low-budget: the effects very gory and good, the sound’s not bad despite being re-dubbed in a studio and the camerawork’s admirable, although 360 shots are overused. The story’s pretty thin, and the ‘big twist’ is so bad it’s good. Some of the dialogue and action is very corny, making it feel like a live-action manga adaptation. Quite looking forward to the re-make/sequel that’s being rumored at the moment. Ridiculously OTT live-action-packed ultra-stylish no-brainer hack-fest of a cult zombie flick.

Score: 6.5/10

Pandorum: pseudo-psychological space thriller about humans re-populating an earth-like planet. It’s essentially half Alien and half Sunshine. The shaky-cam turns all of the promising action scenes into a blurry mess, and all the ‘scary’ moments were just really cheap, and loud, jumps. A lot of the events are a bit convenient, but the technology’s believable and there’s some space-cleavage thrown in for the lads. The ending felt a bit rushed, rubbish and pretty predictable. Middle of the road space flick that offers up nothing new.

Score: 5/10