Chanbara Beauty (2008)

Posted in Reviews by - April 06, 2013
Chanbara Beauty (2008)

Based on the hack and slash OneChanbara video game – the fan boy premise of which revolves almost entirely around partial nudity and a gory zombie invasion – this live-action version dares to add depth and character to a gratuitous franchise which, on the face of it, may seem like a wistful waste of time.

The film feels more like a gaming experience than a movie. The computer generated effects feature such high levels of bloodletting that most of the red stuff ends up splattered on the lens. Then there are the formulaic zombie set pieces which place central characters in a warehouse, then in an abandoned hospital, then in the villain’s lair, like different levels on a video game.

The fantasy figure of Aya – a bikini clad zombie-slashing anti-hero in a Stetson, part Buffy part Girl with No Name – is a purely fetishised gaming creation, sporting nothing but a red bikini and optional poncho with barely enough space to carry her swords. She even possesses supernatural special moves, like the ability to dodge bullets, teleport, and do a back-flip without losing her hat. Her sword embodies a purple lightsabre glow and causes mini nuclear explosions.

These fantasy elements make the film more Resident Evil than Dawn of the Dead, yet stylistically it has an interesting hybrid of fashions; a future vision of Japan resembling the old American west combined with the traditions of Samurai chanbara films.

The post-zombie-apocalypse theme was taken to greater existential extremes in the awesome 2000 slasher film Versus. Here, there is no context to help explain the hoards of walking dead other than the kooky experimentations of mad scientist Sugita (conveniently, he’s the one who always appears in a lab coat). He spends his days with a Messiah complex surrounded by body parts, injecting life serum into the resurrected.

How he could possibly have orchestrated the end of the world is left unclear, as Aya and her wandering, nomadic cohorts have personal scores to settle. Reiko wears biking leathers and carries a sawn-off shotgun, nursing the psychological defects of having to kill her own zombie daughter. Then there is burly comic relief Katsuji who reunites with his long-lost sister only to discover she is now a kung fu zombie schoolgirl spinning a lethal ball and chain.

This is textbook geeky fantasy nonsense, mostly innocuous despite the film’s rampant blood lust. The film culminates in a sibling showdown which completely loses its mind, as Aya confronts her wayward sister in a barren, spaghetti western stand-off.

AKA: OneChanbara: The Movie; OneChanbara: Zombie Bikini Squad; Zombie Killer

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