For a while Versus was one of my all-time favorite films, but the recent wave of Japanese splatter films changed things a little.
The good stuff
A pleasantly slick, dark and brutal adaptation of Clive Barker's short story. A stellar performance by Vinnie Jones and a seasoned director eager to prove his worth in the US for the first time add the necessary spark to what is an otherwise pretty basic horror flick. Not Kitamura's finest, but a perfectly executed genre film that hasn't lost any of its shine.
LoveDeath brings a guaranteed 150 minutes of fun if you accept it for what it is. It's all fluff, all style, no substance and utterly weird, but that's what makes these films so much fun.
The ultimate Godzilla film, though maybe not if you're a hardened fan of the series. Kitamura brings all the different Godzilla flavors together, floods it with his signature style and molds it into an insane, action-packed film that pulls out all the stops. A film that embraces the cheese, but it still pretty damn cool to watch.
Downrange is a horror film that would've been more popular 10 years ago. Very simple setup, but quite brutal and in your face, something that's sadly gone out of fashion these past couple of years. Kitamura is a solid director, the ending is appropriate and it's a fun ride, but not all that special.
Ever since Ryuhei Kitamura (LoveDeath) launched himself internationally with Versus he's been quite vocal of wanting to direct films in Hollywood. He got his first break when he was asked to adapt Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train (which turned out pretty well), now he returns to the USA once more to direct his second American feature: No One Lives.
No One Lives is a pretty basic horror film. There may be a slight twist to the story, but the twist is revealed early on (after only 20 minutes or so). Even then enough hints introduced the twist for it to be considered truly surprising. Still, it does set the mood for a classic game of cat and mouse, allowing Kitamura to work on some pretty nasty setups and equally impressive kills.
Kitamura is given some second-line Hollywood talent for the film's main roles. Luke Evans shines as the ruthless psychopath, Adelaide Clemens (the Michelle Williams stand-in) plays a pretty cool side-kick. The rest of the cast is considerably less gifted, then again they are little more than walking meat, ready to be gutted, mangled and shot to pieces. And it must be said, Kitamura delivers the goods where it counts.
No One Lives is very solid genre material, reminiscent of Vacancy and like-minded horror films. It's not a very original film, the plot is rather weak and the acting (apart from the main characters) secondary, but the gore, the tension and the atmosphere are quality material. Kitamura fares pretty well in the USA, so I don't really mind an occasional trip if it results in more films like this one.
Kitamura makes Die Hard on a budget. No doubt he's happy to work in the US, but as a fan of his older films it's not always pleasant to see him struggle with these underfunded, tightly controlled shelf fillers. If you look closely, you'll see Kitamura's talent shine through, but he's capable of so much more.
After a short prelude that introduces us to the lethal skills of Ali, we see her take on a job as doorman in New York. It's easy money, as the building is closing for renovations. Only a few residents remain, but when a crew of criminals take over the building Ali is going to need all her wits to get out of there alive.
Performances are mediocre, even Jean Reno has trouble lending his character the necessary flair. Ruby Rose is a decent fighter but doesn't really have the charisma to lead an action film. The action itself is pretty decent though and the pacing is solid, but the film never rises above the level of decent action filler. I expect more from Kitamura.
Nightmare Cinema serves a prime selection of horror directors, but none of them were able to deliver their best work. Still, there's enough variety to keep things interesting and there are no stinkers either. Like most anthologies, the sum is bigger than its parts and if you're a horror fan, this film should have enough to keep you entertained.