Cute Japanese schoolgirls battling nasty evil Zombies….. Just what is it that is just soooo darn compelling about that recurring story theme? I’m not really certain…. but this notion always manages to make for some nice goofy exploitation film making so who is this little Catgirl to argue? Our latest review takes us back to Japan for a “Nekolishous” look at “Zombie Hunter Rika”…
Our quick synopsis tell us: “Typical Japanese schoolgirl Rika becomes a full-fledged zombie fighter when she travels to the countryside for a visit with her grandfather, and discovers his village has been overrun with the living dead. Rika almost makes it to her grandfather’s house in one piece, but a nasty run in with some particularly hungry flesh-eaters leaves her half the girl she used to be. Fortunately for Rika, Grandpa Ryuhei is a talented surgeon. In the process of patching his granddaughter up, Ryuhei goes one step further and turns Rika into the ultimate zombie fighting machine. But Rika’s ordeal isn’t over just yet, because Zombie Boss Glorian is still out there and thirsting for vengeance. Perhaps with a little help from her friends Takashi and Yuji, Rika will finally lay waste to the lowest of the low, and somehow find the time to keep up her good grades.”
I almost gave this one a pass…. as it was Part 3 of the same “Direct to DVD” series that also gave us the absolutely abysmal piece of craptaculous soft porn nonsense “Attack Girls’ Swim Team vs. the Undead” which you might remember I reviewed here at the Litterbox some time ago. That one left such a terrible impression on me that only my overwhelming need to watch practically every bad Zombie movie ever made gave me the strength to take a chance on this one.
So….. Let’s see if that was a big mistake or not…. shall we?
Your Favorite Catgirl’s known about “Rika” for a long time…. even before I knew of it’s connection to that OTHER film…. (Which we’ll all agree… never, never…. ever, to mention again….Hehehehe!!) and back then the preliminary buzz on it looked fairly good. Given that bit of memory swirling about my lil’ noggin’ I took the chance and picked up a copy of Switchblade Pictures Region 1 DVD release just this last week. Pairing it with another Korean film with similar theme (Which I’ll also be reviewing soon…..Tease, tease!!) , I settled in to make an evening of it with Carolyn and Goober all snuggled with me on the couch.
We start off with regular schoolgirl Rika (played by Risa Kudo) on her way to school one day with her best friend Nami. On a whim, they decide to skip classes and sneak off to take the train and visit Rika’s grandfather Ryuhei in the little mountain village where he now lives. Rika loves her grandpa dearly and hasn’t seen him in quite some time for reasons that are unknown… (and never really explained..). Arriving in the town, the story wastes no time in having them attacked by a horde of zombified villagers only to be saved at the last moment by a slick young man who agrees to take them to Rika’s grandfather’s house so they can rescue him from this new menace.
Once there, Rika is surprised to find her grandfather married to a much younger woman Sayaka, supposedly the sister of the guy who saved them at the train station…. but somehow that seems fishy. Rika’s Grandfather appears to have has gone senile and doesn’t recognize his favorite granddaughter at all!! Once a brilliant surgeon and also an instructor in swordsmanship, now he’s been reduced to a helpless invalid under the care of his suspicious “wife” and three goofy maids (….. even an honest to goodness Catgirl Maid!). It doesn’t take a genius to see she’s really an evil “black widow”, whose “brother” is actually her lover, and who’s slowly poisoning grandpa to inherit all his money….. but things start happening too fast for Rika to really have the chance to figure that out.
There’s the prerequisite risque bits sprinkled in here…. Sayaka going into slut mode out on the veranda with her “brother”, and then with three maids having a wierd moment in which they argue about which of them is the most “busty”…. but these moments are quickly over as the house gets surrounded by the living dead who batter their way inside…. nearly overwhelming our little group, even biting poor Rika savagely on the arm. All is almost lost, but grandpa has a moment of clarity and swings into action, first going all “Shogun Assassin” on their zombie butts…. then severing Rika’s wounded arm at the shoulder to prevent her being turned into one of the walking dead. It’s into surgeon mode then, and he patches her up and saves her from bleeding to death before dropping back into his catatonic state.
Plenty of Zombies already…. not amazing ones mind you, most are simply really greenish skinned people all bloody and wearing ragged clothing, but at least we got zombies…. you really can’t expect great makeup or effects in such a low budget effort shot to go direct to video sales. That’s pretty much the weakest part of “Rika”, but it stands head and shoulders above that “other” film we won’t mention…..
Anyway…. at this point a couple of new faces join our little band of human survivors… three goofy locals and… of all crazy things, a zombie scientist who has sworn off eating people to help stem the tide of the undead menace. The big problem…. each one has a different story about what’s ultimately going on. The Zombie doc tells everyone this is the result of a failed government conspiracy to develop a euthanasia drug to combat Japan’s growing population of elderly citizens using up heath care resources. Not only that… there’s a “Boss Zombie” named Glorian who needs to be killed so that everything will mystically “set itself right”…. Say What?? I guess zombies aren’t the sharpest cookies in the box…. must be the brain that rots first.
Our other three have a story about a secret US government program to combat Zombies that have always been around since…. like.. forever…. the only reason we aren’t all dead is because of their ceaseless efforts to stamp out all outbreaks just as they occur. They send in one guy… the “Master Zombie Hunter #1” who usually just chops them all up with his magic sword…. unfortunately this time, he died…. so it’s time for Plan B now. In 10 hours they just nuke the place where the Zombie Hunter died and get rid of the problem that way. No wonder everybody around the world seems to just hate the US….. Sigh….
Regardless of who’s right, eventually they get the arm that was chopped off this Zombie Hunter and Grandpa the genius surgeon transplants it onto Rika, giving her this freakish big ol’ Guy arm that can actually use the magic sword….. This is somehow simultaneously both the dumbest and coolest idea ever, and it’s a hoot watching our heroine roam about with the fake looking arm for the rest of the film kicking zombie butt all over the place. For this silly idea alone, I give “Rika” a particularly satisfying purr for originality…..
As they try to figure out what’s really going on, the all meet horribly bloody deaths, one by one, the only consolation being that if Zombie doc is right, when Rika kills Glorian everything will be just fine, as if none of the horrible stuff ever happened. You just know that she’s gonna get to do just that…. it’s that kind of movie… and when she does, we get to see her battle a monster oni/ zombie thingee right out of an episode of “Power Rangers”…. Heck, I almost expected “The Masked Girl” to show up and make a cameo.
So…. will Rika destroy Glorian? Will everything go back to normal? With the naughty Americans nuke the little village and kill everybody first? Well…. Neko’s not going to spoil it for you… but lets just say, there really isn’t any question that it’s all gonna happen and more……
So how does “Rika” stack up in the end? Well, it’s definitely not gonna win any awards for film making, acting, makeup, effects, screenplay or… well… anything actually. But…. it was made with a true sense of fun by people who seem to love the goofy zombie genre enough to have some desire to do a film you can enjoy watching just for the sheer silliness of it all. So I guess Japanese Schoolgirls can continue to hold their heads up high and kill as many more monsters in the future as they want. It’s won a firm 3 “Meows” out of 5 from me for it’s quirkiness alone….. although it had poor Carolyn rolling her eyes at a couple of moments. (I think I owe her an evening of romance movies in english for THIS one….. Yep.) The DVD by Switchblade Pictures is spartan…. with only subtitles and a couple of Trailers on board, but it does the job adequately.
Trailer you ask? Well, naturally we’ve got a Trailer!! All the Zombie Hunting fun you could want…. just for you o’ Gentle Readers!!