Versus [Movie review by Lady J]

Versus119 min., 2000
Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
My rating: ★★★
IMDBNetflix

Not your average zombies…

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Synopsis:

There are 666 portals that connect this world to the other side. These are concealed from all human beings. Somewhere in Japan exists the 444th portal… The forest of resurrection. Here we witness the age old battle of good versus evil.

Review:

Well ladies and gentz, this one is a first for me. Normally I would leave movies of this type to our resident expert Asian connection, but I figure a zombie movie is a zombie movie so here we go. The opening scene of this film sets the tone very nicely for the viewer to feel ill at ease in this ancient forest. There is a samurai of some skill who obviously had just killed a number of foot soldiers only to suddenly have them reanimate and surround him. He takes them all down with seeming ease and since no good deed goes unpunished, he comes up against another man holding a staff. The samurai charges and is chopped in half for his trouble. It is clear the man that does the chopping is no ordinary guy since you don’t even really see him move when he does the chopping. Here we have established that this is the representative for team evil.

Jumping forward to modern times, we have two prisoners running through the forest after making a daring escape. The two men are discussing what to do now and where is the get away car that was supposed to have been sent for them. They wait in a clearing and up come a car and motorcycle with the yakuza members that were sent to get them. After a scene of some rather hilarious arguing including one yakuza that seems to have a thing for waving his gun in peoples’ faces, it’s mentioned that they have orders to wait in that spot until their boss arrives.

One of them pulls a kidnapped girl out of the car and this seems to push Prisoner KSC2-303 (hence forth referred to as PK) too far. He tells them repeatedly to let her go and when they don’t he grabs one of the yakuza and holds him at gunpoint and kills the gang member holding the girl. And here we have the emergence of the representative for team good. He distinguishes himself as one who has certain lines that must not be crossed. The others are ready to shoot PK when the “dead” guy comes back to life and commences to attack his compatriots. They almost literally pump this guy full of lead and he just keeps moving. It’s only after one well placed bullet to the heart from PK that the zombie finally falls down. He gives the other three a look that says you all suck as marksmen and they slowly approach the body to see if it’s really dead.

After some thought about what just happened I guess the trigger happy yakuza decides he wants to see if it was a fluke so he caps the other prisoner, he comes back as a zombie, and while they three yakuza are dealing with him, PK makes his escape with the girl into the forest. No need to mention how it was completely inefficient and unprofessional to focus all that fire power on one lowly zombie when they had bigger fish to fry. And I won’t mention how they should have run out of bullets a long time ago…ah well. Suspension of disbelief. Once the 2nd zombie is dealt with they realize that PK and the girl are gone. They stand around talking about how they need to go find them before the boss gets there, but none of them are making a move to go looking. Meanwhile, the girl berates PK for killing the man while he admits he wasn’t really trying to save her and that he just reacted because those guys had pissed him off. She thanks him anyway, and they move on while the yakuza men spread out to try to find them. As they walk she tells PK there is something wrong with the forest (duh!) and that there are people all around but you can’t hear them. She says she has always had a sense about things like that which kind of explains why she of all people is there. (It seems she also acts as his conscious and is constantly reminding him not to fight or kill people.)

As they are walking, PK asks her where is she leading them when they run into a body mutilated and wrapped to a tree with barbed wire. PK cuts it down and steals the clothes and leather coat. To top it off, he strikes a bad ass pose for the camera and not more than a few seconds later they run into one of the yakuza men. After siting each other down, they both decide to duke it out hand to hand and discard their guns. Best hit: PK delivers an uppercut that would have made Ryu applaud!

Across the forest, the other three yakuza are trying to figure out what direction to go in next. One of them starts sniveling about the fact that this is the forest that caused people to reanimate and that they have been to that same place a bunch of times before to bury the ones they’ve killed. He starts screaming and one of the other fires his gun to shut him up. One zombie after another starts to appear and SURPRISE! SURPRISE! These bastards aren’t the standard hive mind dumb animal types. One of the zombies takes a gun out of its pocket and commences to shooting at his killers. More and more begin climbing out of their graves and FINALLY the yakuza reload their guns and prepare for the hoard descending upon them. Now ensues one of the goofiest fire fights I have had the pleasure of seeing between the three and the hoard. The three seem to be holding their own against the slightly more intelligent zombies but when the tide starts to turn the 4th yakuza and PK show up and join the fight.

Having dealt with the zombies and member of the group who seemed to have gotten too big for his britches, the boss finally makes his presence known. It is clear he is the same man that sliced that samurai in half ages ago. PK and the girl come across him and since he can see him for what he really is she makes a run for it dragging PK with her. Once they reach a clearing he demands to know who that guy was, who she really is, and what all this has to do with him. The only answer he gets is that this is his destiny to fight the man they saw and then the real fighting begins.

There is no real way to describe good fight scenes without giving an extremely boring blow by blow. And there are so many details (like a failed assassination attempt, some bumbling cops, and the unique personalities of each of the yakuza members) that are in this movie I could never hope to include them all without ending up with a 5 page long review so… I will sum it up. The high points of this movie are the action sequences and the premise. I like the idea of evil trying to use the power of this forest to his advantage. The fight scenes with the zombie hoard were reasonably well thought out and sometimes just plain funny. The low points of this film were few. The only real complaint I have is that there were times when the action just died. It was like they were standing around waiting for someone to do something or for the director to holler “Next scene” for everyone to move on. It happened often enough to be a bit of an annoyance yet it didn’t make me want to turn off the movie altogether.

I truly enjoyed this film from beginning to end but I must make a suggestion. You need to watch it twice. The first time watch it with the English dub so that you can focus on the action. The second time you should watch it in Japanese with the subtitles so that you can get a better feel for the emotion behind what they are doing onscreen. I am sure the vocal inflection is far more interesting in the original language. Here’s hoping you guys are on board for some not-your-average zombies and some great fight scenes in the never ending battle of good versus evil. Until next time, kiddies.

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