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Zombie Hunter Rika
In the tradition of such films as Versus and Wild Zero, Japan has put out yet another insane zombie move with Zombie Hunter Rika. The film is very low budget with low quality make up effects and laughable CG, but is infused with a spirit of outrageous fun which makes up for a lot of the technical failures.
The plot is something of a mishmash, but focuses mostly on Rika, a young schoolgirl playing hooky who decides, along with her friend Nami, to go visit her grandfather Ryuhei. When they arrive in the small town in which he lives, they are quickly surrounded by zombies, and saved by a young man with a pompadour, who takes them to grandfather's house. To Rika's surprise, her grandfather has married a much younger woman Sayaka, who may or may not be the sister of the pompadoured savior. Granddad has gone senile, doesn't recognize his granddaughter, and spends most of his time catatonic in his armchair. He's a brilliant surgeon, and was once also an instructor in swordsmanship.
This is a lucky circumstance for Rika, because the house is soon overrun by the undead and one of them bites her arm. Ryuhei is roused from his catatonia to fight off the zombies with his trusty katana, and is also able to amputate Rika's infected arm, and replace it with the arm severed from a movie character earlier in the film. (That's a character from a movie that someone in the film was watching. Don't ask how a fictional character's arm is acquired in the first place, though the character also appears to be a member of an elite US zombie hunting team in "real life".) With her new arm firmly attached, she is able to grasp the magical anti-zombie sword and use it to fight off their attackers. Soon, the intelligent and seemingly friendly zombie Takashi is leading them to the lair of Grorian, the king of the zombies, so that they can kill him and cure all those turned into zombies, unless the US military bombs them into oblivion first.
None of this really makes sense, and making sense isn't the point. The zombie epidemic is casually explained as accidentally caused by the government while trying to develop a euthanasia drug with which to wipe out the elderly population of Japan, thus saving buckets of tax dollars presumably. Other than this fact, stated by a couple of different characters, none of the plot holds together. The euthanasia drug gone awry doesn't explain Grorian, the king of the zombies who seems to be some sort of demon. Nor does it explain why Takashi can shoot beams of energy out of his mouth, or why zombies are able to drive cars (though admittedly not well) or shoot guns or any number of other outlandish circumstances.
Rationality being tossed out the window, goofy fun, decapitations, arterial spray and gore are the order of the day, along with a few gratuitously bared bosoms thrown in. (One particularly pointless example of this last being the three young maids employed by Sayaka comparing breast sizes while cleaning the shower, which breasts are soon covered in blood when they are attacked by a zombie.) Lack of money for effects (the zombies are often just made up with green faces and dark rings under their eyes, though gorier efforts are made) is compensated for with an exuberance of style and over the top performances. Rika's replacement arm is very clearly just a rubber sleeve pulled over her own appendage. The CG effects are of low quality and easily discernible as such.
Zombie Hunter Rika might not have a big budget, or high caliber actors, or a script that makes a lick of sense, but it does have a very endearing attitude and a sense of verve and recklessness. This is what makes or breaks low budget efforts, and it makes Zombie Hunter Rika. This is not high art, or even middlebrow art. It barely qualifies as lowbrow, but it is a tremendous amount of fun if the viewer forgives the many technical flaws. It can't be recommended to any but diehard fans of zombie movies, and to fans of that particular sub-genre of Asian zombie films in particular, but is a pleasant rental opportunity for those in the right frame of mind.
The video is 16:9 widescreen, and looks good for a low budget film like this. Whites tend to wash out when in direct sunlight, but the image is crisp and clear and the colors are bright. The few full CG shots are of much lower quality with ragged lines and numerous artifacts. There are also a couple of night shots that are very grainy, jarringly so. It is unclear whether this is an intentional effect or not.
The sound is Dolby 2 channel and is unremarkable, but does the job necessary for this film. The dialogue is clearly audible, though this is not much of a concern with the optional English subtitles. There is one scene at the end of the film that is missing dialogue. It seems that spoken English was intended, but for some reason did not make it to the finished film. Both Japanese and English subtitles are included in this scene, and interfere with each other. No alternate language track is available.
The only extras are three trailers for other Switchblade offerings, Cruel Restaurant, Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead and Killer Bees. The trailers are interesting, but add little to nothing to the experience of the film.
Zombie Hunter Rika is not a film that takes itself seriously, and neither should the viewer. It is intended as a lighthearted romp that comes complete with bared breasts and lots of bloody (though cartoon like) violence. It is definitely not for everyone, but devotees of either the Asian zombie or arterial spray genres will find a fair amount to enjoy, provided one forgives the execrable quality of the effects and makeup. It is a silly movie, but worth a few hours of your time.