Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!
This is also a Zombie World Tour post!
Versus: Director’s Cut
On my Zombie World Tour I’d been wanting to try an Asian film, but all the descriptions seemed too silly to attempt. Versus actually admits to being a zombie film so I chose it, but there are precious few of them in the movie, and who can tell how to kill them – or even if you can really kill them. I had high hopes for something really interesting at the very beginning. How often do you see sword wielding samurai zombies? As it turns out, unfortunately, they aren’t even a canvas on which to paint social messages, nor are they needed at all except as a punching bag for the posing, violent, angsty men who carry the film. There are several nods to the traditional zombie genre, like guts falling on the ground and head tossing. (Okay, that second is not so standard, but after seeing Versus I think it should be.)
Not being terribly familiar with Asian films (I’ve seen the hopping vampires of China, and terrifying Korean serial killers but not much more than that), I don’t know how much in Versus is standard fare and (or even if) how much is goofing on various genres from various countries. A typical scene goes something like: bluster, bluster, bluster, bluster, bluster, bluster, pose, pose, pose, pose, bluster, dead, followed immediately by supernaturally strong zombies who care not a whit about head shots. I finally began to realize it’s not so much skill as style points that defeat the dead. It’s not a zombie movie so much as using zombies as a reason to go out in the woods to pose and shoot and have master choreographed fight scenes, using guns only at first then blending in to guns and swords and magical levitating. Zombie movie is just one of several genre switches, designed to confuse people like me.
There’s an ancient, evil priest and lots of henchmen (and a couple of henchwomen who show up later) who get a lot of screen time, and the lead keeps belting the tag along woman in the old Heroic Knock Out The Girl So I Can Do Man Stuff routine. He struck me as a Japanese Bruce Campbell wearing Spike’s impervious leather coat. Except, he works the coat even better than James Marsters.
As in France, guns never run out of ammunition in Japan, with the additional oddity of them often being pointed at an adversary like you would with a sword. Lots of gun pointing in the movie. Lots. I won’t make any further comment on that.
The use of women in the movie is shameful. The lead not only is an annoying tag along, but she has only one tiny bit of importance in the plot which doesn’t get revealed until nearly the end. She never speaks to the other two women (bad guy goons), and they never speak to each other as well. Basically she’s there to say silly things, get punched out so he can fight without her yammering in his ear about fighting, and make goo goo eyes at him. One of the henchwomen had a funny fight sequence, which I appreciated, but it didn’t make up for their sexualized deaths (you know they die, they’re henchwomen!).
There are some things I liked, like the director’s artistry with fog and even though the humor was over the top it made me smile a few times. Mostly, though, you will like this if you want endless fight scenes full of I-Could-Kill-You-Now poses.
I didn’t dislike Versus, but seriously don’t recommend it as a zombie movie. The fight scenes were okay, but went on too long for me and were too full of posing.
spoiler for the end of the movie
So, the two lovebirds hop on a magically appearing motorcycle and wheel out of the spooky woods where no matter how often you shoot people they don’t die. “You might die if we leave,” she says to him. “We’ll see,” he replies. He then drives through a tunnel and into the light.
END spoiler for the end of the movie
And then another genre switch to a post-apocalyptic urban landscape reminiscent of the Terminator movies. I’m so confused.