The moon is almost full, the pumpkins all carved, but there’s still time for a few more Zombies before we all “Trick or Treat”. This time out a look at Zen Pictures entry to the Zombie genre “Zonbi Dead” (Yep, I kid you not… that’s it’s real name according to the DVD cover anyway…Hehehehe!!) an odd little “Heroine” film that got given to me as a gift a year or so ago, but one I hadn’t actually gotten around to watching yet.
Our synopsis? Well….: “A beautiful female cop wakes up from a coma in a basement room of a hospital. She remembers nothing about the abandoned place, however, suffering from amnesia. She wanders around in the deserted facility and encounters a man who has lost his memories just like her. They cooperate to find out the secret of the mysterious hospital, but there is one thing they will know about it soon enough: horrible zombies are lurking in the hospital! The man is bitten by the zombies, gets seriously wounded, and he too starts attacking the female cop, turning into a zombie himself! Can she come back alive and solve the case to know the truths behind the terrible experiments conducted in the hospital?”
This one is one of those peculiarly Japanese films made for a specific niche fetish audience, and popularly called “Heroine films”. What? You say you’ve never even heard of the “Heroine” film genre? Not surprising, unless you happen to like cheap direct-to-video soft porn movies known primarily for their lack of real plot, generally made as an excuse to see pretty women captured and subjected to torture and humiliation, and usually featuring a measure of nudity and suggestive sex. Yep… so that’s why I’ve passed on this one up till this point.
So why give it a watch now after all this time? Well… as Neko has said before, I’ll never not watch a movie based solely on my preconceptions from what I might read on the Internet. I figure I’ll probably hate it… but then if I can sit through “The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers” and survive with my mind and dignity intact, how bad can this one really be? Seriously? (Pray for Neko-chan o’ Gentle Readers, please!! I’m gonna need it!)
Thankfully…. this one is mercifully short, like most of these sorts of films apparently are, running a scant 60 minutes in total. It all starts with our title character, Satomi, (played by Japanese AV starlet Ai Kawanaka) awakening in the darkness of a deserted hospital, alone and with no memory of what happened to her or how exactly she got here. Sound familiar? Echoes of “Resident Evil” are apparent all over this one and remarkably…. they actually work here for the most part, coming across very well given the obvious overall cheapness of the budget and production.
Our heroine starts out confused and alone, and wearing one of those skimpy hospital gowns you get when admitted to the ER, but soon finds a deserted locker room where she’s able to get a more appropriate outfit, a little tank-top, some tight lil’ shorts, and cute black hiking boots right along the lines of “Tomb Raider” to run around for the rest of the movie in. (Makes you wonder what the doctors and nurses in this place had for hobbies, eh?) Oh… and she finds another fellow wanderer too, a bald guy named Kusuki who’s no clearer in his memory as Satomi is, but who already knows about “Them”…..
“Them” you ask? Why our zombie horde of course…. although budgetary constraints limit the horde to one guy in a cheesy mask shambling around trying to find somebody….. anybody…. to eat. Just when he’s about to tell Satomi all about this they hear a scream and Kusuki scrambles off like his butt is on fire to take care of things, locking our poor Satomi in a room till he gets back. At this point we get to see the only other character in this one, Chisato (played by Erina Oonishi), hiding herself in a toilet stall in a nearby bathroom. Our hungry dead guy finally tracked her down only to get all petulant and lose interest in her and wander off again…. stupid dead guy.
Kusuki runs into him of course… and gets himself bitten, so you know he’s gonna be toast. Eventually our zombie finds Satomi and after a little tussle and a quick chase scene the end up running into Chisato who helps Satomi smack Mr. Zombie but good. There’s a bit of backstory here…. (not much mind you, but some…) in which Satomi sort remembers in a fuzzy flashback sequence getting captured and experimented on by the “Guys in the Hazmat Suits”, “Zonbi Dead”‘s version of the Umbrella Corporation, that stand around outside the hospital to keep our girls trapped inside for reasons we can only guess at.
Satomi and Chisato team up and find Kusuki, but only in time for him to die of the infection he picked up from his zombie bite, and moments later the girls are running around again to get away from him once he turns into a zombie himself. The eventually whup him but only just so Chisato can go all crazy and turn on Satomi, tie her up in the basement and wander off to let the zombies rise back up to try to eat her once and for all. This is, I think where the film gets stupid and panders to that “Heroine film” audience for these films….. We get several long minutes of Satomi tied up and kicking away at zombies too stupid to stop their frontal attack and simply circle around behind the chair she’s tied to and get her. I know zombies are kinda brain dead but sheesh!! These two set new records for stupid zombie action.
Somehow, her kicks manage to drop her two attackers… no kidding!! So while they take a rest or whatever, Satomi uses her toes to snag a chunk of broken glass to cut herself free. Good thing too as our two zombie guys pop back up so she can take a big ol’ pipe to their heads and finish them off, hopefully for good. Chisato wanders back…. now a zombie (Although why or how is never really explained)…. and Satomi kills her too before finally collapsing from the physical fatigue and numbing mental horror of it all. The Hazmat guys arrive…. decide to carry Satomi off for more creepy Mad Science testing…. and the credits roll. Say what? Yep… that’s all there is folks, hope you weren’t hoping for a more deep and meaningful ending, because we ain’t gonna get one.
So…. was any of this all worth a watch? Well…. outside of some of the clumsy zombie threat stuff it wasn’t all that bad. Surprisingly…. and I was taken completely off guard by this…. there is absolutely no nudity or sexual elements in this film. (Sorry guys, Neko knows some of you were hoping for cute naked Japanese girls to liven things up….Hehehehe!!) Even the soft “torture-porn” elements I been lead to expect were remarkably tame…. totally lame actually… and nearly non-existent. The story was super simplified…. but given the 60 minute run-time, not too unexpected, with a reasonably competent atmospheric setting and zombie make-up (At least in Kusuki’s case). It’s a far better film than it has a right to be given it’s origins. It does a stellar job within those constraints and that should be respected. So then…. should you rush right out and try to find this one yourself? No, no, no… I won’t go quite that far, but I can say I certainly enjoyed this one far better than “The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers” which to this day, still makes my skin crawl with it’s treatment of it’s female characters. Basically, I can give “Zonbi Dead” a barely earned 2 “Meows” out of 5…. mostly for taking it’s subject, it’s paltry budget, and the odd fetishistic genre it’s a part of to someplace nearly respectable by zombie film standards.
Trailer? Well… unfortunately I haven’t got one for this weird lil’ Japanese “Heroine” film… but not to fear… your Favorite Catgirl will keep on lookin’!!