Our hero is a likeable chap who we first meet driving through the countryside with his wife and two kids. They're having a whale of a time until he accidentally runs over a man in the middle of the road. The man gets to his feet and points a pistol at the car, causing the children to let out ear-piercing screams.

Luckily for the family, the man is shot dead by a punk adorned in black behind him. Not so luckily, the punk and his pink-haired, gun-toting girlfriend demand a ride. Despite the father's pleas for the couple to take him as hostage and let his family go free, the punks insist on all six of them filling the car for the journey.

However, as the father drives down an increasingly quiet country lane, the car's occupants are startled to witness their mobile telephones and the SatNav system clouding over with pools of blood-red mist.

Sure enough, the settlement they eventually park up at ends up being the burial ground of an ancient samurai warrior. Not just any old samurai warrior, mind. Oh no, this one has been recently resurrected and is now hell-bent on making mincemeat of anyone and everyone who crosses his path.

That's the story, barring a dip into Asian history that provides a neat resolution to the madness, but that I can't divulge here for fear of crossing into overt "spoiler" territory. But plot is not overly important in this instance: just sit back instead and savour the wild grisly set-pieces.

Director Tak Sakaguchi will be known well by many SGM readers. More prolific as an actor, his face will be familiar from such dubious delights as TOKYO GORE POLICE and BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL. As a director, he's possibly most noted for MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD.

You can see from the films getting mentioned, just what type of cinema Sakaguchi has a penchant for. Now consider this ... he's working from a Ryuhei Kitamura screenplay here. That's right, the psychotic genius behind VERSUS, SKY HIGH and AZUMI.

So, yeah, you can expect SAMURAI ZOMBIE to live up to the promise a Sakaguchi/Kitamura collaboration suggests: a wayward plot that's not always easy to follow, an erratic pace that ups the action from the get-go but inevitably begins to lose impact by the midway mark and - of course - lots of energetic, gory action.

The breakneck action ensures the viewer gets drawn in easily but, as mentioned above, does equally dictate that the film flags in its mid-section. It's not that the film slows down as such, but the pace becomes exhausting and Sakaguchi gets lazy with his elsewhere frantic camerawork, allowing the viewer's interest to wane. By the time events pick up for an admittedly fun finale, it's difficult to get back into the throng of the action.

Still, awkward pacing and messy plotting aside, the film is hugely entertaining. Gore is ample, and is proffered by way of a pleasing mix of old-fashioned corn syrup, men in rubber suits (more zombies manifest as the film progresses) and a bit of cheesy CGI. Such is the tone of the film (frantic comedy-horror) that it all works.

Elevation's disc presents the film uncut in non-anamorphic 1.85:1. Colours are strong but images are a little soft. The darker scenes have a blueish tint to them that, presumably, is a defect of the original prints. Overall, the picture quality is not great.

Japanese 2.0 audio is a tad quiet throughout, but other than this is efficient without being remarkable. English subtitles are burned in.

The disc opens with a static main menu page. From there, there is a static scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

There are no extras relating to the film. The only bonus material provided are trailers for BLOOD, DORORO and GEISHA VS NINJAS. SAMURAI ZOMBIE is an enjoyable romp that mixes genres (samurai, horror, comedy) while never faltering in the speed stakes. It is, if anything, a little too manic and the hysteria is too much for Sakaguchi to sustain. The less said about Kitamura's confused screenplay the better, too: instead, just focus on the enormously energetic performances and exuberant gore.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Elevation Sales
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review