Ultimate Versus

Japan.  Land of the Rising Sun.  And the rising dead.  In my quest to
view zombie movies from all corners of the planet, this group of
islands was my next stop.  A stop that gave me non-stop action,
gunfights, sword duels, a romance for the ages, and one of the coolest
pairs of hero and villain that I have ever seen on film.  Oh, and did
I mention, a whole Hell of a lot of zombies?

This movie takes place in the Forest of Resurrection, the 444th portal
of 666.  It begins with a mass zombie attack on a samurai warrior, who
quickly dispatches them all.  But all is not safe for him as he
crosses paths with The Foe.  Flash forward four or five centuries, to
two escaped prisoners on their way to meet some yakuza and a girl as
they wait for a mysterious man.  One of the prisoners shoots a yakuza,
and lo and behold, it turns out the Forest of Resurrection isn’t just
a cool name for the tourists.  Madness ensues in high speed, higher
impact scenes that never stop rushing at the audience until the final
credits roll.

Americans may find Versus an odd film.  The style it employs is Asian,
which is distinctly different from that which most American are
accustomed to.  This is a fast paced movie that is also very
beautifully shot.  The Japanese style of filming is very picturesque,
almost like a painting.  The use of colors in Versus is a rich
palette, vibrant and lively to the eye.  The pacing is relentless,
following numerous characters around various parts of the forest.  The
action is far more frenetic than in American action films;  much as
with other Asian films, the director torques up the pacing.  This
makes for a lot of high spots, and a lot more blood.  These are also
some of the coolest characters I’ve ever seen in a horror film;
they’re edgy, and visually distinctive.

I own the Director’s Cut of Versus.  I’m a purist, so as with all
foreign movies, I watched it in its native language with subtitles.
For those who don’t like to read a movie, you can watch it in English
and either use or abandon the subtitles.  There are also 2 commentary
tracks.  They’re both spoken over the movie in Japanese, with English
subtitles.  For those who don’t speak Japanese, it’s basically the
equivalent of a text commentary.  I watch all the extras on a disc,
especially one I’m reviewing.  But I was only able to make it through
part of one commentary.  There were a number of people on the
commentary, so keeping track was a problem.  And some of them seemed
as hyper and delirious as the movie itself.  For completists only.

Versus is an example of style over substance, but I had a great time
with it.  The characters are eccentric, the scripting is unique, the
film is beautifully shot.  One action scene follows another after
another after another.  This movie was a cool ride.  As a change of
pace, I highly recommend it.

— Phil Fasso


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