Monday, August 16, 2010

'Reborn from Hell' should have stayed dead

Reborn From Hell: Samurai Armageddon (1996)
Starring: Tamorowo Taguchi and Yuko Moriyama
Director: Kazumasa Shirai
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

During Japan's Edo Period, a particularly vile warlord sets his sights not just on domination of Japan, but on the entire world. Using dark magics and seven evil samurais resurrected through blood sacrifices, he sets about accomplishing his goal. One man stands in his path, however... the fearless warrior Yubei Yagyu.

I'm told by friends that know more about Japanese history that I do that "Samurai Armageddon" is to be taken as a spoof of the samurai soap opera genre. Apparently, almost every character that appears in the film has a real-world historical counterpart and that if I were more learned, I'd "get" the film.

They may be right, but a bad movie is still a bad movie. For example, I don't know a whole lot about Japanese mythology, and even less about classical Japanese poetry, and yet I enjoyed "Mask of Zeguy", which relies heavily on the viewer having knowledge of both.

My knowledge of history (or lack thereof) does not change the fact that "Samurai Armageddon" is full of dull fight scenes (some of the worst Kung Fu films of the 1970s would shine by comparison), features some really awful special effects, and sports a storyline that's messy and so confused it trips over itself on more than one occasion.

To make matters worse, the film doesn't have an ending. "Samurai Armageddon" sets up the conflicts and the bad guys, has the hero squaring off against them, but where you'd think it should start building toward some sort of climax, the film instead ends. It's as if someone forgot to write a third act and no one noticed.

I like movies that have some semblance of a beginning, a middle, and an end, even if that ending is an obvious set-up for another sequel (like "Back to the Future 2" or "The Two Towers"). "Samurai Armageddon" has a beginning, at least part of a middle, but doesn't even come close to delivering an end and a proper pay-off to what has been set up. Yeah, perhaps if I were a student of Japanese history, I'd know where the end will be going... but one can enjoy "Tombstone" just fine without being an expert in American history.

It's a shame that this film is so bad, because pretty much every actor featured in it gives good performances (and they're earning this flick Two Stars just for that).


  1. Yes, this movie has it's faults. To be fair, this is a story that's been done a few times. It was seen in 'Ninja Resurrection' (an anime) and 'Samurai Reincarnation,' (a live-action film with Sonny Chiba) just to name a couple. Both of those use the same cut-off ending. It's dumb, but at least it's consistent for the story. :-)

    By the way, if you hate this ending, you'll really get pissed off at 'Shaolin vs. The Evil Dead' (assuming you haven't already seen it). Thankfully, that one at least has a sequel to finish it up.

  2. Nope... haven't seen "Shaolin vs. Evil Dead." Is it worth sitting through, given that one also has to sit through a sequel to get an entire story?