Zombie Hunter Rika (Japan 2008)

Rating: *
Review Date: 4/10/20
Cast: Risa Kudo

High school student Rika (Risa Kudo) skips class and complains about her parents wanting her to go to med school. She and her best friend Nami decide to visit Rika's grandfather, who used to be a brilliant surgeon and master swordsman before he moved to the country and became a recluse. When they arrive, they find the town overrun with zombies and manage to escape with a stranger's help. Unfortunately, grandpa is suffering from dementia and doesn't recognize Rika, but he instinctively uses his katana to slay the zombies that invade his home. Rika gets bit during the ordeal, and grandpa chops off her arm to save her from becoming zombified. Conveniently, the survivors happen to find a human arm on the streets that belonged to an American military zombie hunter, and grandpa grafts that onto Rika's body. Her ridiculous looking new arm imbues her with zombie fighting strength, and she's the only one who can wield the zombie hunter's magic sword. Led by a friendly zombie who can talk (?), the dwindling group of survivors head out to kill Grorian, the master zombie, hoping that everything will return to normal after he's dead. But Rika's victory is short-lived when the US Army bombs the town and kills everyone again.

It's not the worst Japanese zombie movie I've seen, but that's not an endorsement of any kind. The characters are ridiculous, the story is complete nonsense, and the baffling climax offers no resolution or closure. The zombie outbreak started out with a government funded experimental drug designed to kill all old people in Japan, but it ended up reanimating them into infectious, flesh-eating zombies instead. Grandpa's dementia was induced by his sexy and sinister wife slowly poisoning him so that she could swindle him out of his estate, and she gives him the euthanasia drug as well. The friendly zombie makes no sense at all, so it's only natural that he can emit a powerful death ray out of his mouth.

The production values aren't great, but I've seen a lot worse. The majority of the film is shot through a yellow-green filter, which gives everyone's skin and teeth an unnatural and unhealthy hue. The effects makeup is actually quite good, but the gross-out scenes of zombies eating people tend to go on way too long. Risa Kudo is cute, but overly pouty. Unfortunately, she's not a particularly good actress and she's clearly not a good fighter, which makes the action scenes suffer. Also, her prosthetic arm is totally ridiculous looking and is a constant distraction.

What bothers me most about the film is how stupid the characters are and how they're incapable of making rational decisions. While this is a common problem with horror movies that attempt to manufacture dramatic tension, I found the characters in this movie to be especially annoying. On way too many occasions, people just stand frozen with fear and let the zombies eat them, when they could have simply walked away instead. The zombies don't put up much of a fight, and simply pushing them out of the way seems to get results. And yet, people still end up getting surrounded and overwhelmed by them. The zombies also exhibit strange quirks, and tend to enjoy scaring people with comedic timing before actually attacking them. One zombie enjoys himself while watching grandpa's horny wife get it on with her partner in crime, and in the film's most outrageous scene, she decides to leave the relative safefy of her car in order to have sex with a particularly handsome zombie. The results are predictable. Another silly scene involves the humans picking out weapons, and Nami chooses a fly swatter over all other options. Huh? While it's a watchable film, there are no compelling reasons to do so.