Directed by: Tak Sakaguchi
Starring: Mitsuro Fukukoshi, Issei Ishida, Tak Sakaguchi
A lot of Japanese zombie films such as BIG TITS ZOMBIE, ONECHANBARA, WILD ZERO and a whole host of others tend to be in that really over the top goofy, cartoony style that the Japanese seem to love so much. As such they really present themselves as almost parodies rather than actual horror flicks. And when you look at the filmography of actor / director Tak Sakaguchi and see such films as DEADBALL, BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL and TOKYO GORE POLICE it would be easy to assume that SAMURAI ZOMBIE is going to be just another wacky Japanese zombie flick with gallons of blood. I was however surprised to find that it takes a much darker and more serious approach to the genre and as much as I love a batshit crazy splatterfest I found this to be a refreshing change.
A man and his family are on a road trip through the quaint countryside when out of nowhere a man appears in the middle of the road pointing a gun. Unable to stop, the driver ploughs through the gunman before skidding to a halt. Far from dead the man with the gun rises and takes aim once again when suddenly a volley of gunshots rings out and bullets rip through his back. A second gunman appears along with his female partner and they take the family hostage, forcing them to drive through the cursed countryside where the dead never really die.
The rest of the film is basically a siege with the handful of people trapped and being stalked by deadly Samurai zombies. The main zombie in full Samurai armor looks totally badass and acts as almost a Japanese Jason Voorhees, constantly getting up after being knocked down. He decapitates his victims and uses the blood from their severed heads to raise more zombies. All of the zombie effects here are surprisingly good and a far cry from the simply greenish grey facepaint I'm used to seeing in Japanese zombie flicks. And the zombies are only really zombies in the sense that they are resurrected corpses. They're not the usual shambling, neck chomping sort but a more aggressive and even intelligent type. In fact in a way the film plays out more like a ghost story.
The story which follows the main group of people is pretty weak and very confusing as not a lot is ever really explained. There is what I assume is supposed to be a twist at the film's end but it just made things even more confusing and felt tacked on in my opinion. There is also a bit of subplot involving two police officers which adds a little humor to the movie but not much else. The acting is not exactly what you'd call award-winning but it is a lot better than I expected and everybody does a decent job. Even though I mentioned this isn't as bizarre or over the top as something like TOKYO GORE POLICE or THE MACHINE GIRL you can see a bit of that Japanese trademark creep in during the decapitation scenes which are followed by an impossibly huge fountain of blood spurting from people's neck-holes. All in all though I actually thought that SAMURAI ZOMBIE was a decent effort if a little bland and quite confusing. But if you're expecting another Japanese splatterfest you will be disappointed.