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Set in the present where a group of ruthless gangsters, an unknown woman and an escaped convict have met, unwittingly, in The Forest of Resurrection, the 444th portal to the other side. Their troubles start when those once killed and buried in the forest come back from the dead, with the assistance of the evil Sprit that has also come back, come back from ages past, to claim his prize. The final standoff between Light and Dark has never been so cunning, so brutal and so deadly. This is where old Japanese Samurai mysticism meets the new world of the gangster and the gun. Gruesome, bloody and positively bold. Written by
First considered and even advertised as a sequel to Kitamura's movie Down to Hell (1997) with the title 'Down 2 Hell'. But because of the many fights in front and behind the camera Kitamura changed the title to 'Versus'. See more »
The first time the main character encounters zombies in hand to hand combat, a rope harness can be seen pulling the zombie back towards the tree. See more »
Boy, oh, boy. They don't make them like this anymore and boy, do I wish I had written this flick. This is a movie living and breathing (so to speak) cult following. "Versus" is a thrilling, fast and furious action-horror-comedy-martial arts actioner directed by Ryuhei Kitamara and features a bizarre and original plot line that's virtually nonexistent.
The irony is, even though it's original, the film spends very little time explaining its more complicated bits and gets great mileage out of the Japanese actors, none of whom have real names, other than two or three-word descriptions like the grungy, tough-talking anti-hero "Prisoner KSC2-303" or "The Girl" or "Yakuza Leader with Butterfly Knife." Real deep characters, huh?
The plot is simple, if confusing, and all seven minutes of it occur within the first few scenes: In Japan's "Forest of Resurrection," two escaped convicts are on their way to making a rendezvous with a group of fellow gangsters. A shoot-out occurs over a disagreement between KSC2 and the Yakuza leader regarding a kidnapped young woman in the trunk of his car - The Girl; one of the men is killed, and so is KSC2's buddy.
KSC2 and The Girl run off into the forest, but after he, and each of the gangsters put 50 bullets into the reanimated corpses of KSC2's buddy and the dead gangster. Soon, KSC2, The Girl, and the gangsters realize something is not right about the woods they had set up as a prearranged meeting spot, and it isn't long before they're all emptying clip after clip into the zombified corpses rising up from their shallow graves in the forest floor. (On a side note, I don't think any of the gangsters ever run out of ammunition.)
As it would turn out, the gangsters have been using the forest as a burial ground for their victims, and they're coming back to settle a score with their killers. Since this is the Forest of Resurrection, all the bodies of slain gangsters are rising from the dead and fighting against their living enemies. That's about all there is to the plot, and all you need to know.
This is a strange gem right here, folks. I don't think there's single production in Hollywood that could touch this movie in terms of style and subject matter. It looks fantastic, really giving the woods a life of its own (so to speak), and the mood of the film is effectively surreal. (It kind of reminds me of "The Evil Dead" in a few ways.) "Versus" ultimately plays out like a collision between every low-budget zombie movie, John Woo shoot-'em-up picture, and action movie we've ever seen. Now in Hollywood, ladies and gentlemen, we call that originality.
"Versus" is a skillful blend of each genre and it never loses sight of the main conflict between escaped convicts and gangsters; the zombies are merely a nuisance - who at first appear to be an interference with shadowy gangland activities. But as it would turn out, however, there's more to the story, and the Forest of Resurrection, as well as the zombies somehow figure into a plot that's best explained by the main villain of the picture, a stranger who I presume is The Man (since as I said before none of the characters have real names), who seeks The Girl to use her in his quest to achieve immortality, or something like that.
It's also pretty funny too. Much of the comedy in this movie arises from one panicky gangster member and two horribly disfigured police officers (whom I'm not sure are dead and resurrected or just badly injured) who have vowed to bring down the escaped convicts. And the corny one-liners (ever-present in the American dubbed version) will definitely get you laughing at its attempts to sound cool to our braindead audiences.
Even though "Verses" is not rated, it's extremely bloody with enough over-the-top gore to please any American gorehound or fan of zombie pictures. It's also got enough martial arts action and Woo-style gunplay to satisfy anyone who's gone into the film thinking this is a samurai picture (from looking at the DVD cover art).
"Versus" will definitely win on the cult circuit; whether it's ready to take on the American mainstream is a question that only time will answer. We'll just have to wait and see who the winner of that titanic battle will be...
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