Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Samurai Zombie (2008)

Today’s selection: Samurai Zombie (2008, dir. Tak Sakaguchi)

Subgenre: Zombie

Available from: MVM (Region 2 UK DVD; beware of fansubs)

Ryuhei Kitamura has been tantalizing fans with the idea of a sequel or remake of Versus since 2000, and at this point it looks like it’s never going to happen… or has it already? Consider the movie Samurai Zombie:

  • Group of people stranded in a cursed zone of wilderness? Check.
  • Stoic gangster protagonist who reluctantly protects the innocent? Check.
  • Complete lunatic in a flashy outfit? Check.
  • Pair of cops with big guns who don’t play by the rules? Check.
  • Thumping techno music, mysterious fog, and excessive violence? Check.
  • Cycle of reincarnation? Check.
  • Zombies? Check.

The movie was written by Kitamura with Tak Sakaguchi directing. Since Versus was Sakaguchi’s big break as an actor, one can observe him channeling that film (as well as the Friday the 13th franchise) pretty hard here; his later movies are much more comedic in tone. Samurai Zombie isn’t as good as Versus, but it’s at least solidly better than Down to Hell, and if it were argued that the three are a trilogy, nobody could really object.

It actually feels like a midpoint between Down to Hell and Versus: the action isn’t quite dialed up all the way, the characters aren’t quite as colorful. The armored zombies themselves may be the picture’s best asset: their rotting countenance easily tops the Versus zombie effects. The CGI decapitations? Eh, not so much. Nevertheless, Samurai Zombie is a decent little horror picture in its own right, so it’s a bit of a shame that it never officially made the transition to American shores.

A word of warning on this one: beware of fansubs. I had the experience of viewing this as a fansub first, and it became quickly apparent that whoever was doing the subtitles was just sort of making up dialogue based on the characters’ intonations, instead of what they were saying in Japanese. They probably did this con either because they wanted to sell bootlegs better or boost a high share ratio on a torrent sharing site, but it’s pretty scummy. Fortunately, the official DVD from the UK has pretty good translations.

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