The great thing about a film named Samurai zombie is that you know exactly what to expect. Just hearing the title brings up images of samurais…but zombies. Of excessive violence and over the top gore. Of a morbid sense of humour that only horror fans could truly appreciate. And as could only be expected from Ryuhei Kitamura, the creative genius behind such violence-frenzied films as Versus and Azumi, Samurai zombie includes all of the above, and much more.
If you’re looking for subtlety and finesse, then look elsewhere. Samurai Zombie is about one thing and one thing only, excess. A peaceful vacation goes horribly wrong when an unfortunate road accident leads to a family being car-jacked and taken hostage by a pair of ruthless, gun-wielding bank robbers on the run. But murderous thieves soon prove to be the least of the family's problems when they stumble across the resting ground of the samurai zombie.
The film follows a very similar formula to Versus, with the film leading one way for the first act as separate groups come together, and then taking a complete U-Turn as they are thrown into a violent horror scenario. For a classic western approach to this see From Dusk Till Dawn. Unlike Versus though, Samurai lacks a lot of the charm that made Versus one hell of an action-horror hybrid. This isn’t a huge problem as the entertainment value is still there, with one death quickly following another and decapitated heads popping off like champagne corks. You just won’t be coming out at the end feeling as satisfied when compared to Kitamuru’s earlier work. An explanation behind the samurai zombie is thrown in poorly at the end, but the film doesn’t dwell on it long enough for the entertainment value to be ruined.
Considering the film is clearly low budget, the production values are pretty on par with Kitamuru’s previous work. The extreme splatter-gore looks incredibly unrealistic, but this is to be expected from a Kitamuru film, and the film would only be disappointing if this wasn’t the case. Performances are typical of this kind of Japanese film – very over the top, but very welcome considering the type of film this is.
Violent. Gory. Over-the-top. Awesome. Despite not being as good as the ultra-violent Versus, Samurai zombie still makes for one highly entertaining watch. Just switch your brain off and enjoy.