Keita Amemiya’s Zeiram takes the classic story of the unstoppable killing machine, inserts two electricians and lets the sparks fly.
Zeiram’s plot is pretty standard. The titular creature is an intergalactic murder machine on its way to Earth, pursued by a no-nonsense bounty hunter. During their fight, stuff blows up, people get hurt and innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire. It’s the kind of thing anyone who’s seen an 80’s movie would recognize, so Zeiram heavily leans on Amemiya’s personal style to set itself apart.
The best thing about the film is Zeiram itself. Modeled after Komusō monks, the ones with the straw hats, Zeiram’s iconic look is aided by the fact that for much of its screentime, Amemiya shot it in silhouette. Its stark outline is much more effective than any of the details we can see when it isn’t backlit. The look plus the ominous chanting that plays whenever it’s onscreen creates a memorable villain in the absence of dialogue or dramatic gestures.
Zeiram’s opponent, bounty hunter Iria, is a confident veteran played by Yuko Moriyama. I get the kind of character Moriyama was going for, but I felt her attempts at confidence fell a little flat and crossed too far into apathetic territory. The two electricians, Teppei and Kamiya, were integrated into the story nicely. There is a point in the film where it looks like they will get the chance to be more important to the plot, but then the film backtracks and creates something of a gaping plot hole.
I usually don’t care about plot holes when they seem like the film sacrificed logic for the sake of drama. As far as I’m concerned, drama should always take precedence. The problem in Zeiram is that the hole both calls the film’s logic into question and misses out on an important dramatic opportunity. The end of the film attempts to fix it by recreating the situation it reneged on earlier, but by then I was just waiting for it to be over.
Zeiram is an okay action film at the end of the day. There isn’t much room for impressive hand-to-hand choreography, so the film makes up for it with an abundance of practical creature effects. Amemiya’s talent for atmospheric direction is on display here, at the expense of narrative skill. Overall, the film is a nice distraction and it’s worth it for the Zeiram itself.
Let us know how you liked the film and come back next time for Zebraman!