As 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.
An old review of Versus from this site can be found here.
The 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)
Aragami: 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.
“Ninja Stars are for losers”
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.