Directed by: Naoyuki Tomomatsu | 75 minutes | action, horror, comedy, science fiction | Actors: Kenji Arai, Norman England, Masayuki Hase, Yû Machimura, Mihiro, Eriko Nagamine, Hisakatsu Ôya, Shun Saeki, Yuya Takayama, Miyû Watase, Jun Yamasaki, Kiyo Yoshizawa
Zombies, a favorite subject for many directors around the world, not least in Italy but certainly also Japan. Ever since the zombie made its appearance in Western cinema (‘White Zombie’ with Bela Lugosi dates back to 1932), he has intermittently been a popular enemy on the screen. Since George Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, the zombie has been given a more modern, dark imagination that made him immensely popular in many countries around the world. Many filmmakers from many countries also followed the example of Romero and produced many films with the zombie in an important role. As mentioned, a whole range of zombie films were made in Italy. Japan has also earned its spurs in this area. In any case, many Japanese horror films seem to be just a tad more idiot and gore than the Western mainstream horror. Just think of films such as ‘Story of Ricky’, ‘Stacy’ and ‘Ichi the Killer’.
‘Zombie Self Defense Force’ is an idiotic zombie horror comedy that, according to the box, contains many references to other films and also deserves a comparison with the genius ‘Shaun of the Dead’. Let’s be clear from the start: that comparison is flawed, unless you state that both films contain zombie and comedy elements. However, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is much more fun and better than this movie.
The story of the mysterious zombie plague uses a familiar theme as to the reason for it; the radiation of an alien ship resurrects the dead from their graves. But where some films give subtle hints to keep the (alien) cause of the zombie plague a secret for as long as possible and thus increase the tension, that is not the case here. In ‘Zombie Self Defense Force’ we see a spaceship clearly pulled from the computer by a second-year art school student flying through our image. An army unit on exercise, a singer and her photo crew and some mafiosi all come into contact with the living dead and have to fight for their lives (!). They meet in the nearby house of a man who just killed his wife. This woman is raised from the dead as well as her unborn child! Where have we seen this before? Right, the doll that represents the zombie baby will bring back memories for fans of the genre of the devilish baby Selwyn from Peter Jackson’s ‘Brain Dead’. The group tries to keep the zombies out while there are also zombies inside the house. In short, the crazy, bloody action strikes together. Ultimately, the story also turns out to take a Terminator-esque twist when one of the soldiers discovers the background to her origins. bloody action strings together. Ultimately, the story also turns out to take a Terminator-esque twist when one of the soldiers discovers the background to her origins. bloody action strings together. Ultimately, the story also turns out to take a Terminator-esque twist when one of the soldiers discovers the background to her origins.
But then it has long been clear that ‘Zombie Self Defense Force’ is a film that was made with a lot of love for the genre, but unfortunately it is not very funny. Moreover, the filmmakers fail to make a real threat emanate from the situation in which the protagonists find themselves. The amateurish computer effects are partly to blame for this. For die-hard fans of the genre worth a try (if only because of the totally nonsensical, political link with Japanese feelings of revenge against America for the loss of World War II), but otherwise a big avoidance. Then rather go and watch ‘Shaun of the Dead’.