Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yoroi: The Samurai Zombie (2008)

(This write-up concerns the regular version of the movie. The IMDB claims the existence of a longer director's cut of the film. Perhaps it does exist and does not suck as hard as the regular cut. I somehow doubt it.)

A Japanese family goes on vacation. While they are driving through a foggy, damp forest, the family's car is attacked by a gangster in white, who is at once shot by a young thug and his girlfriend. Those two mumble something about the living dead and take the family hostage and force them drive who knows where. Then, the young thug decides to send the family's father out on foot to do who knows what. Father runs a bit, cuts his throat in an old graveyard and awakens the local samurai zombie.

Said samurai zombie then attacks the rest of the cast, who flee into an abandoned village. The dead gangster comes back to live and makes a bit of trouble, two cops enter the abandoned village for no good reason whatsoever and finally the samurai zombie attacks again.

As any even mildly experienced viewer of cult cinema will tell you, there's not much of a probability that a film with an awesome sounding title like The Samurai Zombie can be anything but boring. By the natural laws of bad moviedom, all of the creative energy available has already gone into the title, and nothing at all will be left for the movie. Unfortunately, this isn't the miracle film that will break this universal law.

In fact, Samurai Zombie is even worse than I had expected. If you think that the plot synopsis above is rather abstract and feels somewhat lacking by virtue of the absence of explanations, character motivations or character names in it, you're absolutely right. I'm not usually someone who cries out for exposition or plot or any of the other luxuries proper movies are supposed to provide, but there's a point where a film has to give its audience something, some narrative basics, give them at least a slight reason to care about it. Otherwise, why should anyone watch this thing?

Responsible for the film's non-script is the horrible Ryuhei Kitamura (aka the last person who should be allowed to write scripts), still recycling his only watchable film, Versus, still failing utterly at it. As in all Kitamura films, non-action scenes are only there to demonstrate Kitamura's knowledge of the same three or four pop-cultural references he already went through in each of his other films, the dialogue is boring, the pacing is slow and the jokes are stale and mostly repeats of the same jokes that already weren't funny in Kitamura's other films. The action itself is just not very interesting to look at. Director Tak Sakaguchi (also working as actor and stuntman) isn't exactly doing sloppy and shoddy work (that would probably be more interesting to watch than what is delivered here), but he also does nothing that's actually interesting. Words like "kinetic" or "intense" to describe the action are right out.

My biggest problem with the film is its complete lack of imagination, though. Sure, hacked off heads make a champagne bottle noise, but that's the most exciting or creative thing going on here. Where other action and gore films - especially those from Japan - try to outdo each other in the grotesqueness of their monsters and bizarreness of their violence, Samurai Zombie coasts on a decapitation here, a bit-off penis there, never committing to the gross-out or the nastily whacky. That wouldn't be much of a problem in a film with anything else to offer, but this is a movie without a narrative, without characters (I know, I know, Kitamura probably goes for "archetypes", but there's a difference between an archetype and a void), and - I suspect - without anyone behind the camera actually giving a shit beyond getting their pay checks.

And if the people making the movie don't care, I see no reason why I should.


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