Some of you may recall my recent post about Naoyuki Tomomatsu‘s latest foray into the zombie genre, the appropriately entitled Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead. Well, the premiere has come and gone, and while I was sadly unable to attend, I did manage to purchase the DVD (actually released the day before the theatrical showing) and give the film a proper viewing. How good can a film about undead creatures bent on violating the womenfolk of the world possibly be? I probably shouldn’t answer that, but I will give you my thoughts and impressions of the latest attempt to send George A. Romero to an early grave. Let’s get started, shall we?
Jumping right into the action, we see Kanae (Asami) going about her daily housework when she is suddenly assaulted by her abusive husband. While being raped, the television begins to broadcast news of mass rape incidents taking place across the city by unidentified assailants who seem to be no more than living corpses. The incidents prompt Kanae to fight back and kill her husband, and we are treated to a crazily edited sequence of news broadcasts as various authorities attempt to make sense of the chaos. It seems that radiation from space has somehow turned non-virgin men into zombified rape demons, whose only weakness is a certain part of their anatomy between their legs. What’s worse, the women who are taken by these sex-crazed ghouls are killed almost instantly by the poisonous seed of their attackers. We soon meet up with former office lady Momoko (Saya Kobayashi) and nurse Nozomi (Arisu Ozawa) as they seek shelter in a Shinto shrine not far from Tokyo. In the shrine they meet up with Kanae and schoolgirl Tomoe (Yui Aikawa), who have decided to make a stand with a cache of assault rifles and explosives pilfered from an abandoned military jeep. The two pairs are initially leery of each other, but it isn’t long before they come to an agreement and decide that mutual aid is in order. A romance blooms between wrist-cutting Momoko and the older-sister-type Nozomi, both of whom had traumatic experiences at the hands of men. Their sapphic interlude is punctuate by a new surprise: the head of the shrine has been there the whole time, but it seems that his otaku lifestyle and unbroken virginity have somehow protected him from the zombie plague, and he soon proves (somewhat dubiously) useful by providing changes of clothing for Momoko and Kanae, who take on the costumes of a maid and a shrine maiden, respectively. All is not well, however, as North Korea blames Japan for the disaster and declares war, and it isn’t long though before the hordes of decaying deviants are knocking at the door. Everything ends in an explosively confusing yet original conclusion that you’ll have to see for yourself!
Something that keeps this film from being completely unwatchable is the enthusiasm of the four main actresses, and also the surprisingly well-thought-out televised commentaries that appear interspersed throughout as the four women watch the unfolding situation via PC. The speakers are delightfully ridiculous and over the top (including an outspoken pundit with an eyepatch as a nod to Dawn of the Dead), and the twisted yet strangely convincing explanation of the rape zombie phenomenon as a natural step in the evolution of mankind and the Earth itself is certainly proof that some effort was made to create a unique contribution to the zombie genre. The whole premise is also tied in (albeit shakily) with the Japanese mythology of the sun goddess Amaterasu, and together with the satire of Japan’s modern culture make this a uniquely Japanese take on the undead. One of the funniest moments may be when a group of women are watching a North Korean missile soar through the skies toward Tokyo. Rather than screaming or running for cover, they all pull out their cell phones and begin taking photos. As a person living in Japan, I can honestly say that this also may have been one of the most realistic moments in the entire film.
As low-budget zombie flicks go, this one certainly suffers a bit. A lot of handheld cameras and uninteresting angles are to be expected from a director who is known for his adult videos, but when it comes to those sequences Tomomatsu certainly does shine, and he even manages to get some decent action scenes with Asami fighting off the zombies as well. However, while the CG is used sparingly and to relatively good effect, the prosthetics and practical effects are sub-par at best, and sometimes just downright painful. That said, the effects aren’t really distracting as the characters really drive the story forward, and the film is paced well enough to keep up the audience’s interest in what is happening.
Trading in their traditional shambling gait in favor of the undignified waddle of a man with his pants around his ankles, Tomomatsu’s ghouls have about as much realism as they do regard for mutual consent during intercourse. The general makeup effects look like something from a cheap Halloween store, while the poorly fitted latex masks appear to be leftovers from Helldriver‘s scrap bin. Again, one can also choose to look at these shortcomings as a part of the film’s charm and, as mentioned above, the effects aren’t significantly distracting, especially since the camera is less concerned with showcasing the zombies than it is in getting as many breast shots as possible. Is this something to complain about? I’ll leave you to decide. But the answer is no.
And so, in conclusion I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead. While I expected a one-trick zombie, I found a unique little film that actually has a fair amount going for it in terms of social satire and comedy. It’s a fun little romp through a perverted post-apocalypse world that only Japan could bring us, and so if you have the chance, grab your libation of choice and sit back for what might just be the guilty pleasure of the year!