Zombie Self-Defense Force (2006): Japan – directed by Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Not rated by the MPAA – contains some of everything, and a lot of a few things
Well…yeah. I suppose this film is everything you would expect from it, since it’s from Japan and called Zombie Self-Defense Force. It’s a low-budget homage to Romero infused with the recent Japanese shock style.
And I do mean low budget. The opening sequence involving the UFO that dooms Japan is hilarious in its awfulness. But before the opening sequence we are treated to an announcement. In it the narrator decries the US for war crimes, from the nuclear bombs during World War II to the invasion of Iraq. But then he notes a few things that he likes about America: “Hamburgers… rock… Hollywood movies… especially George A. Romero, a genius.”
The political point of the opening (which isn’t subtle, just like all the rest of the commentary that the film makes a point to add) is that Japan shouldn’t send any sort of armed forces to help the US in a pointless war that doesn’t involve them. Instead, they should have a self-defense force that protects Japan. Especially from zombies.
We then watch as a UFO crash lands in the forests surrounding Mt. Fuji. There are several groups of people going about their business in the forest at the time. We meet a pop singer out for a photo shoot. There’s also a small army group out on maneuvers, who are dealing with the dead body of someone who hanged herself. There are a couple gangsters, out in the woods to carry out a hit. Finally, there’s a hotel owner and his pregnant mistress, who are bickering. Unfortunately for them, their lives are all about to change. And end.
You see, when the UFO crashes it sends out a large ring of green energy that envelops everyone in the forest and nearby areas. There are also lots of bodies buried in the forest that are affected, and a general from the Second World War that is part of a ghostly legend. His body lies in a cave, where his followers have deified him. Since this is a zombie movie, all of the dead people start coming out of the ground and attacking the living. Then the living turn into zombies. The problem is, most of them don’t die, even after having their brains splattered on the ground.
And there are a lot of brains in the film. They did not skimp on the low-budget gore. There’s everything from eyeballs to brains to CGI blood spurts (which look as bad as the UFO.) Some of it looks quite good, almost like Peter Jackson’s early work. There’s even a direct reference to Jackson involving a zombie baby that uses its umbilical cord to strangle and attack people, and can fly. Yes, it’s pretty silly. Some of the swordfights (because they have to include martial arts) don’t look particularly good, though, and most of the gunshots are CG. All of the guns share the same sound, whether it is a pistol or a shotgun.
The film looks like it was shot on cheap digital, much like Versus and many other Japanese shock films that have been inundating the market. The directing is generally competent, with a few specific shots standing out as more creative and inventive than the others. At times, though, it looks like the Troma team directed it. The acting is all fine (for a low-budget film), which is surprising considering most of the cast are first-timers. Overall it’s really quite an impressive effort, even if the CG is poor. There are some unique moments that fans will enjoy and it’s clever enough to be entertaining. It doesn’t hurt that it’s only 75 minutes long, either.
It appears that the director came from a softcore porn background, so it’s good to see him moving in this direction (though there are a lot of pantyshots, which is actually quite standard for most any Japanese film.) He also directed Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, which I will hopefully see at some point. Basically, if you don’t mind low-budget shock flicks from Japan, you will probably enjoy this. If the title or plot summary made you groan, stay clear. I, for one, enjoyed it for what it was, even though it’s not a very good movie.