Aliens, zombies, UFO’s, soldiers, singing idols and… zombie fetuses?
What They Say
They thought it would be a routine training mission for the Japanese Self Defense Force; instead it became a blood-soaked battle for survival against the living dead! As the handful of survivors end up trapped inside the inevitable secluded hotel, the paths of fashion models, gangsters and the heroic JSDF team collide in combat against the cannibalistic hordes of hell!
Like all Switchblade Pictures releases to this point, this feature is done only with its original Japanese audio which is in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. Like most of these features, it’s a very basic stereo presentation that doesn’t have all that much of an impact to it. Essentially, it comes down to the simplicity of being able to hear the dialogue without any problems and that’s all it aspires to. It does this job cleanly and without problem so it achieves it well, but it’s certainly not going to be something that you’ll remember.
Originally released in 2005, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but is not enhanced for anamorphic playback. Unlike some of the other films done this way, it doesn’t impact it too badly as there isn’t any noticeable issues with mosquito noise for example or cross coloration sneaking into the picture. There’s no serious blocking going on in the backgrounds, no mosquito noise or cross coloration either. Colors look good overall and it avoids any serious general noise as well. Though it doesn’t stand out as a top production, it has a better look and feel than most of what Switchblade has put out and is generally free of any serious issues.
Zombie Self Defense Force uses as its main image a character that’s not really in the film until the end, but it certainly gives it a manly-zombie feeling. The design uses lots of blood red for the background, to make it work with the Japanese flag that adds contrast to having Kiroda as the other focus with his old uniform and zombified face. There’s a lot to like here and I like that they didn’t go with the obvious of using the cuties in the show. It’s definitely a good looking cover that fits in well with the framework that Switchblade Pictures uses for its design. The back cover uses goes in a different direction with a strip along the top of zombified military members with a cute tagline just below it. The summary details the basics pretty nicely and makes some amusing nods towards other films in the zombie genre that Switchblade has released. There are a handful of decent shots from the film provided along with the production credits and a simple clean technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Much like when I looked at Zombie Hunter Rika, I’ll easily admit that I’m not that much of a zombie fan. I've certainly seen a lot but I know that for a true zombie aficionado, I wouldn't rate all that well at all. I tend to find myself preferring either the more straightforward comedy types, such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, or some films that play with it in a different way like the 28 Days Later film. I like zombies in general, but I'm not actively drawn to the more direct horror types. I want something a little more to it since I'm not a horror fan by nature.
Zombie Self Defense Force... well, this is the title that supposedly started a lot of zombie films coming out of Japan back in 2005 and I can understand why. It's a film that literally throws everything into its production and you can imagine other films that follow it going in more distinct and clear directions. ZSDF is a hodgepodge film that runs with a basic concept and decides to incorporate so many different areas to it that there isn't a real focus outside of “watch the stupid people die badly” idea.
The general concept involves a UFO in the true classic sense (and with really awful CG) crashing into the mountainside of Japan. The arrival of the craft has unleashed something into the air that quickly becomes known in this wooded area as there's a lot going on. Honestly, names are not important here because it's a whittling down process and most of them rarely call each other out by name. They are truly stereotypes through and through. There's a group of JSDF soldiers doing a training mission which is actually a field test for one of the women there who is secretly a cyborg. Another group involves a pair of yakuza offing someone while another deals with a photo shoot for a hot idol singer. Add in a restaurant owner who has been sleeping with one of his employees at a nearby location and she's just revealed to him that she's pregnant and wants him to leave his wife and you have an interesting combination.
There's also the decades old body of a WWII soldier who has been kept in quite good conidtion somewhere on the mountain for religious purposes.
It doesn't take long for there to be dead about the area and the crash has caused them all to come back to life and seek out more flesh for their hunger. It goes downhill quickly with a number of them dying in very stupid ways until we get a core group that's left inside the restaurant/house. Barricaded inside, they do their best to defend against the group roaming outside while trying to figure out what to do. In classic form, there are things that they need to be afraid of inside there as well. The zombie action is fairly predictable and they blend it with the really cheap budget Japanese style that Museum is famous for, so I wasn't expecting much and I didn't get much.
The CG work included in it with the UFOs is hilariously bad and the single time we see the alien itself it is beyond comedy gold. It's comedy platinum. The cyborg aspect of one of the soldiers is very amusing as well, with the way she realizes it and how she views the world afterward. When she loses an arm at one point, the work on it is so terrible that they don't even try to hide her real arm when she moves. The real crowning achievement of this film though is that they introduce a four month old fetus zombie. Not a baby zombie, but a fetus that pops out of the zombie woman's stomach and uses its umbilical cord to stalk its prey with a devilish grin on its face. It's the most bloodthirsty of all the zombies and the one that's just awfully bad and awfully hilarious. I laughed and I winced when I saw this... thing on the move.
In all honesty, the zombie-fetus was a bit beyond the pale for me. It was so badly done but such an awful concept that I really didn't want to see it at all. Once they introduced the pregnant woman you knew it was going to go there though. Zombie Self Defense Force is only one step above a high school produced movie and that's because they're all being paid for it. I do admire the film in a way because it does bring in so much material overall and the last couple of minutes it are pretty much worth the price of admission when it comes to taking a concept over the top. A lot of the Switchblade films have been amusing in their camp factor but Zombie Self Defense Force finds new ground and goes where a show probably shouldn't go. And that will attract plenty of people to it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.