Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Way of the Samurai

Yoroi: Samurai Zombie
Dir. Tak Sakaguchi


A spiritual, if not exactly literal, sequel to the almighty Versus, Yoroi finds that film’s star, Tak Sakaguchi, hovering behind the camera to direct a script by Ryuhei Kitamura that once again delves into the themes of reincarnation and revenge, the ambiguity between good and evil, the violence endemic to certain locations and human sacrifice. Oh and zombies. Lots and lots of really pissed off zombies… that happen to be undead, angry samurai.
Unlike Hollywood, which feels the need to cater to the stupidest among us by explaining every detail to (un)death, Samurai Zombie doesn’t bother naming its characters or delving into detailed backstories. Instead, it just hints and teases what brought the nuclear family of four, a pair of gun toting criminal lovers, a murderous psychopath and a pair of bored cops to the fenced off, abandoned town shrouded in evil. But in the haunted burial ground of samurai murdered centuries before, they will meet their bloody fate in a way that suggests a connection between them that spans several lifetimes.

Zombology: The zombie hordes are unleashed by the family father whose wife and children are being held captive by the criminals after they were carjacked on a country drive. Stranded in the wilderness by a flat tire, the criminals force the father to go find help, warning him the living dead are walking the woods (how they came by that valuable sliver of information, we never find out). Wandering into the samurai burial ground while looking for help, the father inexplicably slashes his own throat, begging the undead warriors to protect his family. Turns out, the samurai zombies have a whole ’nother agenda and nobody – not even children – will be exempt from their murderous wrath. This is a film where anyone can die at any time and the traditional horror film rules of survival are bloodily violated.

Yoroi succeeds by making the most of a limited budget to tell a compelling story amid the geysers of corpuscles and Evil Dead style slapstick. It manages to add depth and humanity to even the most repulsive of its characters and tacks on a flashback twist ending that will force you to reassess just who were the protagonists who were the villains. While it’s not as kinetic and exuberant as Versus, Yoroi is quietly compelling in its own way. It walks away with an exemplary 3 percent on the Hell of the Living Dead scale of shit.

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