Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In short: Zeiram (1991)

Intergalactic bounty hunter Iria (Yuko Moriyama) and her partner, the computer Bob (Masakazu Handa), come to Earth to capture a dangerous creature named Zeiram (Mizuho Yoshida) who has escaped from some sort of imprisonment. Don't ask me, the film doesn't tell anything more.

To not endanger any primitives, the bounty hunters plan to fight their prey inside of a dimensional bubble that looks like an exact copy of the Japanese town Zeiram will appear in, just without any inhabitants. Unfortunately, things don't work out completely as Iria and Bob had planned, and two bumbling electricians (Kunihiro Ida and Yukijiro Hotaru) cross over into the alternate dimension with them. Still, after some fighting, Iria manages to capture Zeiram.

Alas, various mishaps - and the fact that Zeiram is quite a bit more resilient to her ways of freezing him than Iria had expected - soon find the space monster up and running again and Iria stranded on our side of the dimensional barrier. Will the supposed audience identification characters survive until she'll be able to return?

Zeiram is one of the directorial live action works of Keita Amemiya whose work as a character and monster designer (especially in the tokusatsu realm) make him beloved by millions. At least I imagine him surrounded by a host of admiring young women and men like the character designer version of the young Rolling Stones. As usual with Amemiya's films, Zeiram's small number of locations and actors hints at a budget probably lower than most people's electricity bill, but most other typical problem fields of films just scraping by don't apply here.

The acting - a classical breaking point in low budget films featuring men in rubber costumes (even Japanese ones) - turns out to be perfectly decent for a plot and characters as slight as what the film needs. Nobody will win any acting awards for her performances here, but Moriyama knows how to handle herself in the action sequences, Ida is as bland and annoying as a white wall, and Hotaru just annoying, so everything's just as it should be.

One could certainly complain about the slightness of Zeiram's script. It is, however, the exactly right sort of slight for what the film is going for - being a decently paced, fun piece of fluff about people fighting a guy in a rubber monster suit (that later goes all stop-motion on our asses) and its rubber-monster-suited friends. And it really succeeds at that, mostly by avoiding all the ballast attempts at doing deeper meaning and character would be in a film that only really ever wants to show off some cool monsters and a pretty woman fighting them.

Another reason why Zeiram is as fun as it is to watch is Amemiya's very charming monster design, crossing a bit of classical slimy monster with the silhouette of a wandering chambara film swordsman and a wee little No mask head on a tentacle to excellent effect. There's also a slight family resemblance with the Predator in Zeiram's face. Amemiya also mixes things up a bit later on by cribbing from the Terminator, which provides a nice change and can therefore only be a good thing.

I know, it's only a film about a girl in a re-worked stormtrooper costume and two bumbling idiots fighting monsters, but I like it.


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