FTP: Undertaker (2012)

DECEMBER 5, 2019


I have no idea where Undertaker came from - I assume I won it at trivia since it's from a company I don't often receive review copies from, but it's a perfect movie to restart the "From the Pile" reviews. And that's because if someone were to ask what an ideal "pile" movie was, it'd be this: a reasonably entertaining but forgettable movie that I won't ever need to watch again, and certainly won't need to make room on my permanent shelf for. It'll go to a good home, I won't have to reorganize my collection to make room for it (though as a "U" film it wouldn't take long; it's those "A" and "B" films that REALLY need to win me over to be kept), and I get a little bit of quick HMAD content for you all. Everyone wins!

The concept is pretty interesting, one I'm not sure I've seen before in the other 8,000 zombie movies I have seen. Our hero isn't a mortician per se - he's a zombie hunter who is hired by families to locate their loved ones (who have since become zombies) and put them to rest, so that they don't have to live wondering if their beloved son or daughter is out there being a monster. Having been watching Mandalorian on Disney+, it's an interesting parallel to that guy's MO for bounty hunting - there's something kind of compelling about him tracking a specific zombie in a world overrun with the damn things. I could easily see this being an ongoing series, or perhaps a comic.

A comic would also carry the benefit of not being restricted by the budget, something that was clearly an issue here. It's all well done for what it offers, but it just doesn't really offer that much. After a really good opening sequence and setup, the movie suddenly feels like a real time account of one particular mission - with almost no dialogue (let alone other characters) to boot. The movie is only 65 minutes long with credits (and the pre-title sequence is 16 of those minutes), and nearly half of it is basically one long sequence of Ryouichi wiping out an area's supply of zombies (not a lot of them, mind you - a half dozen or so) until he finds the one he's looking for. It starts to feel like there were loftier ambitions at one point and they had to just draw out what might have been the first act of a more engaging story. Maybe that isn't even remotely the case, but that's how it came across.

But again, for what it is, it's well done. Ryouichi doesn't use a gun to kill zombies, preferring a sharpened shovel that he wields like a blade, and he puts on a show for the audience more often than not - when you don't have thousands of zombies, you gotta make the kills count! There's some decent splatter to go along with the kills, and the zombie makeup is solid to boot. But there's also an animated butterfly that looks pretty goofy, however, so I feel I should warn you about that. Synapse's disc comes with a making of piece that runs almost as long as the film, some deleted scenes, and the original short film "On Your Back" that director Naoyoshi Kawamatsu made earlier and, amusingly, actually has a more complicated story despite running less than a third of the time of the feature.

Basically if you like Japanese zombie movies, there's enough here to recommend, but the brevity of the film and its threadbare narrative might be hard to get past, especially on a purchase, and this doesn't seem like something you'll find at Redbox. Hopefully director Kawamatsu can expand on his ideas someday if he hasn't moved on - the concept deserves something with a little more meat on its bones.

What say you?


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