There are 666 portals that connect this world with another, and gate number 444, known as The Forest of Resurrection in Japan, is about to become the scene of a final battle between two ancient enemies.

You know what really sucks about final battles in reality as opposed to what we see in movies? One, no one but your opponent will ever know the witty dialogue you two had with a distinct lack of cameras around you, and two, and this one is the real tragedy, there’s no cool music to fight to unless someone brings a boom box. Imagine my surprise when seven year old me got in his first fight and no music played as I got pummeled (yeah, my first fight didn’t end well for me, but don’t feel bad, I still kept the video game the fight was over, and who needs a victory when you’re fighting for the rights to the terrible Rodger Rabbit Nintendo game you lifted from the teacher’s desk). It’d be an awesome addition to our lives if starting a fistfight instantly started a fistfight soundtrack, then again, maybe it’s a good thing that doesn’t happen. Otherwise we’d be fighting all the time, or at the very least I would. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to fight while “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting” plays in the background, something I’ve tried in a few different bars, but the song always puts everyone in a good mood and we end up just dancing instead. I’ve been told I should pick a new fighting song, one that doesn’t have such an upbeat rhythm to it, but where would the fun be in that? You have your fight songs, and I have mine.

Our film begins with an opening text describing our world and the 666 portals that connect it to the other side. One of the most powerful is the 444th gate, also known as The Forest of Resurrection (you can guess what the forest does, hint, hint, this is a zombie movie), and it’s here that the movie will be taking place as two escaped prisoners await their getaway ride. Why a prison was built right next to a forest that brings back the dead is anyone’s guess. Things don’t go as planned when the getaway ride shows up, along with a trio of Yakuza members, towing a kidnapped girl, something that doesn’t sit well with one of the escapees known only as Prisoner KSC2-303 who grabs a gun and proceeds to shoot one of the Yakuza members dead, only for him to get up right after. The now dead Yakuza member attacks the others before being put down for good, and Prisoner KSC2-303 (who we’ll just call PK from here on out) runs into the forest with the terrified young woman he saved. The surviving gangsters pursue him into the woods, but bringing back the dead isn’t the only secret The Forest of Resurrection has to offer, and a dark soul behind its creation still lurks in the forest depths with a secret all his own.


{Maybe the secrets of resurrection, maybe the  KFC recipe}

We all have that one friend that tries way too hard to be the “cool guy.” Wears nothing but leather no matter how silly it looks, doesn’t take his sunglasses off even in pitch black darkness, and speaks in a weird slang he perceives as hip when it sounds to everyone else like he’s been hanging out with Q-Bert too much. You don’t want to knock the guy because there’s a reason he’s your friend, but you just wish he would stop trying so hard because he’s starting to look like a parody of the old “cool guy” stereotype. That’s what watching Versus feels like. It’s not a terrible movie, but it tries much too hard to make its characters hip and edgy and throws in a ridiculous amount of filler that should have been left on the cutting room floor. There are so many scenes of the characters standing around doing nothing and trying their best to look cool, but it usually just comes across like they’re auditioning for a GAP commercial. This leads to a lot of unnecessary dialogue used to justify their standing around, dialogue that adds nothing to the film but extending the run time. Nearly an hour of Versus could have been cut out and the film would have benefited greatly from it, this includes the twenty minute end fight scene that amounts to a couple minutes of actual fighting interspersed between a lot of talking. By the fourth or fifth slow motion, leather duster twirl (this movie has way too much slow motion to it, another example of how hard this flick tried to be hip), a twirl that was done for no other reason than to make PK look cool, I started to feel like I was watching a movie made by a teenager with a leather jacket collection. It was borderline silly, and to make matters worse, PK’s attitude is such that instead of coming across as the stoic, cool guy, he seems like he doesn’t really want to be there.


{He makes that face for 90% of the film, sometimes with two eyes}

One of the problems that arose from having so much unnecessary filler is that I had a lot of time to think about all the things that were wrong with the story. In those long spaces of pointless dialogue or long, silent stares, my mind would drift, and the plethora of things that didn’t add up would begin to fill the void. I’ve already mentioned that there is somehow a prison built right next to a forest that raises the dead, something no one seemed to think twice about, but that’s not the only ridiculous oversight. To accommodate a higher body count, Versus decided to use the idea that the forest was filled with those the Yakuza had buried, thus ensuring there were more zombies. Why would a gang bury their victims in a place where they could come back to life? The first thought is that maybe they just didn’t know, except that anyone who dies comes back to life there, so it seems highly unlikely that no one had ever encountered the supernatural effects of Gate 444. Then there’s the fact that the zombies are wildly different when it comes to how they go down permanently; some can take dozens of bullets and shake it off like it’s nothing, some take a head shot, and others could be shot in the leg or shoulder and they’d drop. There wasn’t any consistency when it came to how you’d kill a Resurrection Forest zombie. My favorite bit though might have been PK who proudly proclaims himself the protector of women when he saves the kidnapped woman in the beginning, only to spend the rest of the movie punching her in the face whenever she talked too much for his liking. Another problem that arose from so much filler was the fact that having so much down time made the goofs rather glaring, like PK stealing the shirt off of a corpse, one he slashed through the chest, and the shirt magically mending itself after he gets it on. These all would be problems even if the movie maintained a better pace, but having so much time to think as the characters babbled on made them extremely noticeable and impossible to forget.


{You can expect a lot of this in Versus}

So after complaining about this movie so much, I must have absolutely hated it right? Not entirely. Though this movie is at least half filler, it still has its value, even if it’s just for a one time watch. The fight scenes, rare though they may be, are well choreographed and extremely entertaining, supposedly Tak Sakaguchi, the actor who plays PK, was picked after the director watched him in a street fight, true or not, the man definitely knows how to fight, as do more than a few of the other actors involved. Besides Tak, another great addition to the cast is Kenji Matsuda whom IMDB labels “Yakuza Leader with Butterfly Knife” since names aren’t often given in Versus. He goes way over the top with his performance, but the man is so damn energetic that I couldn’t help but love his character, even if he is a violent sociopath. As well as the fight scenes being great, the effects aren’t bad either. Don’t expect anything elaborate, it’s mostly bullet wounds and sword slashes, but it still looks good, and though the zombies aren’t the decayed wrecks we’ve come to expect, they do still look like walking dead guys, so I didn’t have a problem with the makeup.


{This man is an overacting genius}

Though Versus isn’t anything spectacular and will undoubtedly bore you at least a third of the time, it’s worth giving a onetime watch. Even if I didn’t care for several aspects of the film, I at least enjoyed it enough to look for the prequel short Down to Hell as Versus is a sequel (Down to Hell came out 1996, Versus 2000). I’ll have to let you know how that goes as I’ve yet to find a dubbed version of the short.


The Undead Review


Directed By: Ryuhei Kitamura (Godzilla: Final Wars, Midnight Meat Train)

Starring: Tak Sakaguchi (Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, Death Trance), Hideo Sakaki (Black Angels, Ju-On), Chieko Misaka (Suicide Club, Play Cards When You Die), and Kenji Matsuda (Kitchen, The Gate of Youth)

Written By: Ryuhei Kitamura (Godzilla: Final Wars, Samurai Zombie) and Yudai Yamaguchi (Battlefield Baseball, Meatball Machine)

Released By: KSS, Suplex, napalm FiLMS, WEVCO Produce Company, Miramax, and Media Blasters

Release Year: 2000

Release Type: Straight to Video

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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