Day 1: Versus (2000)
By Sam Reeve
For those coming in late, October is Japanese Horror Month, as decided by me (because I said so). Each day I’ll be subjecting you poor folks to a review of a different Japanese horror film or anime series. To kick this month off, let’s take a look at Versus, a zombie-action-fantasy-whatever film directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (the guy who also brought us The Midnight Meat Train).
Versus isn’t really a straight-forward zombie movie. It starts off with the protagonist (who’s never named) getting broken out of jail by Yakuzas. A fight breaks out between them when our hero discovers they have a kidnapped girl with them too. Of course he saves her and they flee into the forest, but this forest is special. The forest of “resurrection” brings back the dead, so the bad guys who get killed all end up as zombie bad guys who can still talk and use guns.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the Yakuzas are all eccentric as hell and dress like they’re from the Matrix.
The Yakuza boss, the girl and the convict are all reincarnates, and the boss has some plan to use her blood to open a portal and gain power. Wackiness ensues, with lots of bloody fight scenes, cheesy lines, and flashbacks to ancient Japan when the two opponents first fought.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This film delivers top-notch action, but also doesn’t take itself too seriously, like how the well-choreographed fight moves are punctuated with ridiculous whooshing noises. Tak Sakaguchi, the lead actor, was actually an underground fighter before he was discovered and offered a role by Kitamura, so he actually knows his stuff when it comes to martial arts.
My favourite line in the whole movie came from this guy, the cop on the trail of the escapee:
Sidekick Cop: “Where do we start?”
Big Gun Cop: “Don’t worry, tracking people is what I do. I was raised in Yellow Stone National Park in Canada. I’m a natural-born hunter”
I watched an English dub, so I have no idea if that was a dubbing error, an error in the original Japanese script, or done on purpose. I like to think it’s the latter, so don’t ruin it for me.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the very, very end of the film. Watch it, and you’ll know what I mean. Imagine if at the end of Inception, when that little thing is spinning and you don’t know if it’ll topple or not, instead of the movie cutting out it actually just shows you what happens. It would suck, right? That’s sort of what happened here. There would have been a great ending with a lot left to wonder, but done in a good way. Unfortunately we don’t get that, and it bummed me out the film hadn’t ended about a minute earlier.
Youtubeland was unfortunately low on good clips for me to share, and this one (which is awesome), is dubbed in French. They don’t say anything too important, so if you don’t understand French I think you could still get a feel for what this movie is like. If you liked the Evil Dead movies, you’re sure to get a kick out of this too.
At the bottom I’ve posted the full English-dubbed copy of Versus that I watched on Youtube (it’s also in HD). Enjoy!