Trivia The cast, crew, and director (who call themselves Team Versus) had so much fun making this film that Kitamura purposely filmed the movie with no ending, with hopes that they would be able to make a sequel. The DVD has proven to be a cult success in both the U.S. and Japan, so Japanese film companies have greenlit the sequel and given it (supposedly) an exponentially higher budget. Team Versus plans on principal photography in mid-2005.
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7th Jan 05
666 Portals to the other side. 444th in Japan. A lot of fighting and zombies.
If you like movies with fighting and zombies, then you really have to look no further than Versus. It’s a classic case of style over content. And you know what? I don’t care.
The first time I watched this flick was at an early Zombie Club (before we started eatmybrains.com) and it was immediately thereafter on my ‘must own this DVD’ list. It knocked us sideways with its relentlessness and simply demands more than a mention on this site. These are words to the uninitiated: You must see Versus.
Plot takes a back seat although what there is seems quite hard to keep up with on the first viewing, but here’s a brief outline: In the world there exists 666 portals to the other side. The 444th portal exists somewhere in Japan – the Forest of Resurrection. Throw in two escaped convicts, a lot of gangsters, a girl, and an unfolding realisation that one of the prisoners and one of the gangsters are destined to fight till the death, as they did 500 years ago in the same Forest of Resurrection. As far as this film is concerned, don’t be concerned with the plot too much. Reason? You don’t need to be. That is not what this experience is about. What it is about is kinetic fight action filmed with impeccable grace and style. And zombies.
Versus features stunning photography from the outset. Within the first three minutes of watching this film, the action is set up quickly and concisely, and you’ll know if you’re going to like it or not - it really is that simple. A sense of style is paramount here, as the onscreen fighting speeds up, slows down, dissolves, merges and cuts ruthlessly with the unforgiving incisiveness of the sword carnage we are witnessing.
Most characters are pawns in the most violent chess game you’ve ever seen, and did I mention that no one has a name? At no point in the film does any character call another by his/her name. One of the two main characters is referred to as ‘Him’ (Hideo Sakaki) and the only time the hero (?) is called anything at all, he is referred to as Prisoner KSC2-303 (Tak Sakaguchi). Another thing about Versus is that it's not worth trying to figure out the good guys from the bad guys. Trust is on thin ground, to say the least, and it seems as if no characters know where they stand in relation to one another. There really is no time to think about these issues when watching this film because if you do, you’ll miss out on the carnage.
Versus is almost as funny as it is violent. Director Kitamura crams in comedy aplenty and sometimes the movie veers toward slapstick but it works beautifully. Two of the original gangster characters are particularly special in this context:
1. Yakuza Leader with butterfly knife – displays amazing facial contortions of disbelief and surprise as he leaps about the set like some kind of performance artist on speed, especially after he is resurrected as what seems to be a cross between a frog and a man (for some unexplained reason). From this point onwards, the tongue-rolling freak has the ability to run down tree trunks, face down, and act even more bizarrely than he did before.
2. Crazy Yakuza with amulet – crazy he certainly is. He seems fine at the start of the film but after the first ‘resurrection’ (about 3 minutes into the film) transforms into the most inept villain and hilarious coward I’ve ever seen. Demonstrating that you don’t necessarily get to look cool-as-fuck just because your face is covered in blood, this guy deserves an award for best comedy character in a horror film. He’d get nominated at least… oh yeah, and he gets shot in the ass.
The comedy doesn’t stop there either. There are two cop characters in the film who keep re-appearing into the action like long lost friends. One is a self-certified “expert” at everything – fighting, profiling - you name it. After he boasts about having “reflexes 50 times faster than Mike Tyson”, he gets blown into tiny bits by the biggest gun I’ve ever seen. His colleague, who’s hand has been stolen by our hero, is possibly even funnier, as he is constantly forgetting that his hand is missing and still attempts to point, hit, etc - you work it out. Comedy. Zombies. Carnage. Comedy. Zombies. Carnage. You can tell I quite like this film, huh?
Kitamura balances the elements with a refined finesse many directors would envy. What the film lacks in plot it more than makes up for in all other areas. The only point where you could possibly get slightly bored is during the mumbo jumbo about the girl’s blood being needed to open the gate to the ‘other side’, but trust me, treat these short intermissions as breaks from the bloodshed to get your breath back and get ready for even more insanity.
This is one of those flicks that just gets madder, crazier, faster, funnier and gorier and, considering the carnage begins immediately, you know you’re in for a bloody treat. Not only that, but repeat viewings have demonstrated to me that its one of those films that just keeps getting better and better (and funnier) every time.
In a word: essential.
Japan + zombies + kung fu + Highlander – Sean Connery = Versus.
Versions Directors cut is the uncut version of the film
Special edition is the same thing with an extra disc of bonus features.
The regular release seems to be censored for some inhumane reason.