Asian zombie movies almost always rule. "Onechanbara" (2008), "Junk" (2000), "Bio Zombie" (1998), "Stacy" (2001), "The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers" (2007), "Wild Zero" (2000), and "Sars Wars" (2004) were all NOT lame. Ryuhei Kitamura made an even better one with "Versus" (2000) and the fairly recent "Tokyo Zombie" (2005) was goofy fun, and thats more than enough in terms of entertaining zombie fare from East Asia.
That said, I've been anticipating a U.S. DVD release of "High School Girl Rika: Zombie Hunter" (aka "Rika: The Zombie Killer") (2008) for over a year now. No such luck. The only DVD release that currently exists is the uber-expensive unsubbed Japanese version. If this movie gets the same DVD treatment as "My Sassy Girl" (2001), I'll probably get the chance to watch it in the year 2015. So yeah, I bit the bullet and bought the Japanese DVD. A major risk given this country's rather dismal history of zombie movies, but it's a chance I was willing to take.
Luckily, "Yoroi: Samurai Zombie" (hereafter "Samurai Zombie") turned out to be an ultimately super entertaining flick. This movie wastes no time getting to the zombie action. Within the first 60 seconds, I kid you not, there's a zombie attack. More zombies quickly follow and the viewer is treated to two short, albeit funny action scenes one involving a clumsy acrobatic punk and the other involving an old swordsman who is in a vegetative state. The middle section slows down as the protagonists are held up in a suburban household, but there are still some truly hilarious events to be had. I won't ruin them for you, but this is another one of those movies that tosses in lots of little bells and whistles that tickle the funny bone. Most surprisingly, it's the *effective* bits of humor (as well as the fast pacing) that propel "Rika" above the aforementioned titles. Sure, there's a bit of silliness, but the scriptwriters definitely added some imagination to this one, and it benefits greatly regardless of its ultra low budget.
The gore effects are quite good and sufficiently disgusting. The action scenes use a mix of camera angle shifts and slight shaky cam for effect, but they are used in moderation. There's something mindblowing about the action sequences, and they are fun to watch especially given one amusing turn of events near the midpoint that made me grin continuously afterward whenever the lead actress was on screen. There's also a zombie protagonist who's really funny to look at. Some of the woodland environments that are shown near the beginning and end are also very pretty, by the way.
Let me dispel any assumptions regarding possible comparisons to recent Japanese gorefests like "The Machine Girl" (2008) and "Tokyo Gore Police" (2008), because this is a very different movie. "Samurai Zombie" is a high-octane action film by all means. There is an adequate amount of enjoyable fighting, but it's more of a high octane, over the top zombie flick that's similar to "night of the Living Dead" but does everything a lot better. It gives you what you want, and some cool stuff that you won't see coming.
A fun movie, plain and simple.
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