Arrow Video brings another excellent Japanese film to Blu-ray home release; this time the absolutely mad action horror film Versus, by director Ryuhei Kitamura.
Originally released in 2000, the film tells the story of an unnamed convict (Tak Sakaguchi) as he escapes prison. Accompanied by another inmate, the two of them flee into a forest, where they’ve arranged to be picked up. What none of them know, however, is that they’ve fled into Forrest of Ressurection, one of the 666 portals to ‘the other side’ that can be found across the globe.
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In this forest anyone who has died comes back as a bloodthirsty zombie, intent on killing anyone they come across. Now the prisoner and this group of criminals must try to stay alive, whilst also trying to fight each other; but things become even more complicated when a mysterious man (Hideo Sakaki) appears in the forest, talking about immortality, past lives, and unlocking the power of Hell.
There was something about Versus that felt very familiar when watching it, even though I’d never seen it before. After a while I was able to figure out that it was because the film just felt like an early 2000s film, that it had that ‘cool’ feel about it that so many films of the time tried for, though in the case of Versus it’s really dialled up.
The plot is thin, relying on style over substance, the cast are all trying to act stoic and cool, the soundtrack is filled with synth and techno music, everyone’s dressed like a Matrix reject, and the action is ramped up to hyper levels. Even the simplest thing like people getting out of a car was made to look cool, with dozens of cuts, changes of angles, and swooshy sound effects as people adjusted their coats.
When this was happening in the quieter moments it felt ridiculous and stood out. When the action sequences started it still felt ridiculous, but it was a level of ridiculousness that was enjoyable. It really felt like the film was pushing to be seen as cool, and even though it never really has much substance it still won me over a little. And I can guarantee that teenage action movie fans would love this.
There’s not a huge amount to say about the film plot or character wise, as the plot is flimsy and doesn’t even exist for most of the run time, and the characters all seem to have the same two-dimensional quality to them (even the two law enforcement characters were bloodthirsty weirdos), but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to like here. There are a few moments of stand out action, some fight sequences that really show off the martial arts abilities of the cast, particularly Tak Sakaguchi, and there are a couple of well crafted laughs too. Just don’t come into the movie expecting anything deep or meaningful.
The new Blu-ray comes with some extras that make this a more interesting release, including a pair of audio commentaries from cast and crew, a load of behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, and even a pair of mini-movies featuring some of the characters from the main film. Whilst these extras alone are great, and offer a load of insight into the film, there’s something a little special on the second disc: ‘Ultimate Versus’. This extended version of the film comes with its own commentary, and a new special features that goes behind the scenes on the new material that was produced for this extended version of the movie.
Versus might not be to everyone’s tastes thanks to its ultra violence, tons of gore, and style over substance approach, but for anyone looking for a bit of silly action movie fun it’s a great pick, one that is perfect to enjoy with a group of friends where you can laugh along to the movie and bathe in the silliness.
Versus is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.