Horror Bites - Blood Omen

VERSUS (2000)

Well it had to be done eventually, let's take a look at that awkward early 2000s period when was leather was in, sunglasses were on, and bad techno music played frequently. Ryuhei Kitamura's zombies versus yakuza flick is an action and horror hybrid that throws in all kinds of random influences. It's a blood soaked kitchen sink effort; you want shots lifted from Evil Dead II amongst your gun-play and sword battles? Sure, here they are. What was once a brain melting look into foreign cinema for teenagers in a time when DVD was new, is now over acted and ridiculous. But like all cheap films that spent their budget on fake blood, dismemberment effects and corpse makeup, there is a certain level of enjoyment to be had in all this. It's welcome entry to any guilty pleasures list.

Like some twisted Japanese mash up of Peter Jackson and Ringo Lam, the story takes place in the woods where sets are not required. Where else. An intro text explains that this place is a portal to hell where the antagonist hopes to attain dark powers from beyond. Of course you already know there won't be any visual effects for a supernatural gate or the underworld itself. What little story there is revolves around the villain's attempts to obtain two people; an escaped convict and a mystery girl his thugs have captive. The fugitive was expecting them to help him get away, but strange feelings of recall seeing this girl make him obliged to help her. His attempt to intervene leaves his fellow convict and one of the goons full of bullet holes - and they immediately reanimate as the living dead.

There's a lot of weird awkward stuff going on in the first act before the tone becomes obvious. The suited hoodlums spend too much time posturing and mugging, and the swirling camera work is kind of nauseating at times. The only thing that makes sense is that this is a parody of the elements they've used to construct the plot. How else to explain this all? Fight scenes are accompanied by aircraft sound effects and zombies are fought with both huge guns and tiny knives. One of the crooks is a walking joke who wields pistols that increase in size but he's never able to use them effectively. Two cops investigating the prison break act like complete buffoons, with one comparing himself to an expert tracker and a martial arts master... only to fail a spectacularly in a bullet dodging move.

The action scenes and splatter effects take up much of the running time, though things get more interesting when the big bad shows his face and flashbacks to the feudal age reveal more about the situation. Ideas about the blood of innocents and the destiny of those who have been reincarnated over the centuries are not hugely original, but it adds to a story that is filled with mindless carnage. By the end most of these characters have been killed off and resurrected to carry on the fight for evil power, and they've thrown in as many gory practical gags as possible. It's an exhausting, relentless and frequently amusing adventure. It's also dated and nonsensical, but once in a while you have to sit through this sort of thing just for fun.