Versus – 9

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Director – Ryuhei Kitamura

Cast – Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda, Yuichiro Arai, Minoru Matsumoto, Kazuhito Ohba, Takehiro Katayama, Ayumi Yoshihara, Shoichiro Matsumoto, Yukihito Tanikado, Toshiro Kamiaka

Release Year – 2000

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Before director Ryuhei Kitamura gave us Alive and the Clive Barker adaptation The Midnight Meat Train he gave us a film that beats both of those sweet films…Versus.

This film follows an escaped convict, a group of gangsters, and a young girl who was kidnapped by the gangsters. They all meet in what is known as the Forest of Resurrection, which is the 444th of the 666 portals to the “other side”. The convict senses there is something fishy about the gangsters that were sent to meet up with him and manages to take the female hostage from the group. Much blood is shed during the ensuing events and unfortunately for our characters, nothing stays “dead” in the Forest of Resurrection. Our characters must now fight off the zombies that were once their friends, as well as the many victims of the gang that were buried in the forest over the years. As if things couldn’t get any worse, a powerful spirit has made his way to the forest to claim the kidnapped girl, and get revenge on the escaped convict who wronged him so many years prior.

Ryuhei Kitamura really struck gold with this film. Versus is just plain awesome, and is one of the sweetest zombie films I have EVER seen. Time and time again we are given the awesome, yet overly done aspect of zombies taking over big cities and only being disposed of with guns. Well…Versus breaks that cliché to the max. The forest this film takes place in is quiet honestly a great setting for a zombie film, and basically gives the feel of zombies killing people at Crystal Lake instead of Jason Vorhees. The scenes regarding the zombies breaking through the earth from their shallow graves were epic and reminiscent of Lucio Fulci’s zombies in Zombi climbing out of their graves. Now where Mr. Kitamura really excels is his use of other badass versions of kicking zombie ass. Although this film has lots and lots of sweet gun action, we get a heavy dose of martial arts and samurai action to add some creativity not normally seen in zombie films. So given that this film is a zombie film…I’ve got to comment on the gore right? The gore in this film is pretty darn awesome, and is sure to please gorehounds like myself and my buddy Trae. Haha. We even get one scene where one of our leads rip’s someone’s heart out of their chest and then takes a nice carnivorous bite out of the heart. Sweet!

Aside from all of the zombie carnage, this film actually has a pretty interesting story. The gangsters keep mentioning their “boss” during the film yet he does not come into play until about halfway into the film. The mystery involving the boss keeps the film interesting given that the gangsters really cannot kill the convict given that they are paid to deliver him to their boss. The second the boss enters the film we are given some crazy twists and answers involving the story and the history behind the kidnapped girl and convict. Pretty sweet stuff! It is then that the real samurai action kicks in, and turns more into an action film. Sometimes I would spat at the notion of a horror film going into an action film(not a horror/action mix, but going from predominantly action to predominantly horror) but Ryuhei Kitamura is really known for his action sequences and they will keep you glued to the screen regardless of what happens.

There really is nothing that I do not like about this film. It paces well, the story is interesting, the zombie action is creative kicks ass, and surprisingly enough…this film is pretty funny! Several of the film’s characters add quite a bit of comic relief and give this film somewhat of a Tarantino/Rodriguez feel given it’s gritty nature yet fun characters you can chuckle at. The ending of this film was unexpected and I found it to be quite interesting and a cool way to end the film. Although I have a good feeling it will be one of those love/hate endings.

Overall, I really love this film and recommend it to all horror fans who want to see some creative and AWESOME zombie carnage as well as an interesting story.

Rating: 9/10

– I ranked this film #20 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(11-20) post.

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