What to expect: A surprisingly good Japanese take on the zombie apocalypse, complete with lots of blood, lots of laughs and Japan’s answer to Ashley J. Williams.
Hot on the heels of Train to Busan, well pre-dating it actually, comes another asian zombie fest, this time from the land of the rising sun, in the shape of crazy manga adaptation I Am A Hero.
After being thrown out of his apartment, failed artist and, according to his girlfriend, “very normal human being” Hideo Suzuki finds himself in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Fortunately, the one possession which his girlfriend let him keep just happens to be a double barrel shotgun (fully licensed, so as not to break Japan’s strict gun laws) and a seemingly infinite supply of ammunition, which, Suzuki is soon to discover, will come in really handy over the course of the next twenty four hours.
Suzuki narrowly avoids being infected by his girlfriend, who succumbs to the virus early on, then he goes to work and finds that his colleagues are also doomed, before hitching a ride with a friendly taxi driver, a belligerent government official and a cute Japanese schoolgirl, as bloody hell breaks loose all around them.
After an exciting and hilarious battle inside the speeding taxi, the film eventually settles in for a Romero esque finale which takes place at an out of town retail outlet. Sounds familiar? Yeah, I know, but don’t worry, this is more of a loving tribute to Dawn of the Dead than a cheap, foreign rip off. Plus, having been injected with a generous dose of Japanese sensibility, this is different enough from what we’ve already seen up until this point – for the record, I too am weary of all the sub-standard zombie films of the last decade or more, and I gave up on The Walking Dead years ago as well.
Hero’s real strength is the way it combines gross out horror, with raucous comedy. Any fans of Ash vs. The Evil Dead who are feeling disappointed with that show’s second series might find some consolation here. I Am A Hero is as gory as Evil Dead and at the same time packs numerous laugh out loud moments over the course of it’s 126 minute running time. That’s not to mention one or two genuinely horrifying scenes, including eye-gougings and slit throats. The make up and special effects are generally excellent, on a different level to some of the cheap-looking crap that comes out of Japan, and whilst there is some CGI, it’s good enough and not used so much that it ruins everything.
There’s a mixture of slow and fast moving zombies to suit all tastes. What I like is the way the zombies retain some shreds of their human personalities, to great comedy effect, so for example, a former shop assistant might mumble something like “Welcome sir, what can I get you?” before trying to rip your face off.
Apparently the comic book series is quite long, so there should be plenty more source material. I hope they make another one.
7 out of 10