Samurai Zombie on DVD

Saturday, 17 July 2010 11:02

Everyone loves zombies, and with this horror sub-genre still attracting a lot of interest, it must be very difficult for film makers to find a niche that has not already been mined to death. Up to the plate steps director Tak Sakaguchi’s “Samurai Zombie”, a Japanese splatter movie whose title certainly catches the imagination. Zombies normally rely on strength in numbers, but a samurai zombie is potentially a one-creature army!

The film’s plot centres on the terrible misfortunes of a family, some unhinged criminals and a couple of daft coppers who collectively wander into a foggy, cursed village with a dark, blood-soaked past. Seventy years ago, eight people were slaughtered and beheaded here, and it seems that history might be about to repeat itself. A armoured, katana-slashing zombie is on the loose, and he will not rest until everyone is dead.

Samurai Zombie on DVDThe results are a mixed bag. On the plus side, the gore is plentiful and the effects are reasonably convincing and entertaining. Limbs are severed, geysers of blood jet high into the air and (when they finally come back down to earth) heads are stuck onto sharp spikes. Blood runs down the spikes, soaks into the surrounding earth and awakens two more undead monstrosities to stutteringly stalk, and ultimately fell their modern-day prey. One wields an almighty club, the other a massive bow, the arrows for which he prises from his own back!

Towards the end of the movie, the action heats up and although you know the humans probably do not stand a chance against these three zombie titans, you cannot help but hope they at least put up a bit of a fight before they are separated from their skulls.

The actions of the zombies are a little unpredictable, in that most of the time they move slowly and in a stumbling, lop-sided motion; all of a sudden, though, they become more limber and run down their victims or do swinging karate kicks. On the one hand this unexpected lease of life makes the action less obvious, but at the same time the strange lack of continuity in the zombies’ rigidity seems to break the rules.

The three zombies certainly have a fair amount of personality and strange charisma, especially the main samurai. His perpetual, forced grin/grimace and tilted head afford him a quirky allure. The costume design and puckered zombie makeup is excellent. All three have a weight and aura of invincibility about them, and yet they are also quite comedic in their movements, especially when shot. They tumble to the ground like rag dolls, only to spring back to life with murderous intent moments later.

Unfortunately, the movie does not fully kick into life until the final reel. Until then, most scenes feel excessively drawn out, with banal dialog and irritating, OTT acting. Much of the interaction between the characters is predictable, unconvincing and the direction frequently feels limp and devoid of fresh ideas, like a film made by over-enthusiastic college students. The movie tries so hard to shock, amuse and excite that most of the time it sadly falls flat on its face.

The final thirty minutes and the shock ending go some way to repairing the damage, but it is not enough to save the film from ignominy. If a sequel were ever to come along, it should take the strongest elements such as the trio of zombie warriors and the gore, and place them in an edgier setting where they can truly scare and yet still continue to amuse the audience.

The DVD has a few trailers for other movies, but that is the miserable limit of the extra features.

Samurai Zombie” (2008) is out now, courtesy of MVM Entertainment. The running time of the main feature is 90 minutes approx, certificate ‘18’ and the movie retails for £15.99, or get it for less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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