July 8, 2012

Movie Review: Death Trance (2005)

I have to admit, as I watched Death Trance I was never fully invested in it. It is one of those movies I had been meaning to watch for some time (meaning it has been languishing in my Netflix Instant queue). The only reason I actually watched it is because I noticed it was going to be expiring soon. I figured I should just go ahead and get it out of the way. This is not to say it is not worthy of your attention, it is more a way of saying I didn't really get what everyone was doing half the time and just let myself float along the barest surface of plot by the action sequences.

Death Trance is set in some sort of quasi-fantasy land where men with guns run alongside men with swords and co-exist with fallen angels, zombies, vampires, and people who like white makeup and eyeliner. It is some sort of gothic-punk convention held out in the woods, I guess. In any case, everyone seems to be on he constant lookout for a fight.

The movie opens with a guy in some raggedy clothes attacks a temple, kills everyone and steals a big chained up coffin. As soon as this happens legends of some guy as big as ten men start to filter out. Apparently this coffin is a big deal, although no one really knows what is so special about it, some say it grants wishes, others say it is filled with treasure. All this really means is that people are gunning for this guy, we come to learn his name is Grave (Tak Sakaguchi). He takes the coffin and, along with a little girl, starts dragging it through the woods towards the Forbidden Forest, fighting anyone and everyone along the way.

While Grave heads for the forest, he is pursued by Ryuen (Takamasa Suga). He is a young monk who has been charged with retrieving the coffin. He also carries a sword that can only be unsheathed by he chosen one. Another character they meet is Sid (Steven Seagal's son, Kentaro Seagal), a swordsman who also carries a pistol (with unlimited ammo). He is after whatever is in the coffin, just because, it seems. There is also a woman who seems to know more about the situation than you would expect.

Anyway, people meet, people fight, they run away, they meet, they fight, lather, rinse, repeat. It is a stylish movie, but it is one where everything just seems to happen. Whether this obtuseness of the tale is on purpose to keep everyone in the dark, or a result of my distinct lack of focus, I cannot say. I was intrigued by the action bits, they were all interestingly staged and well executed.

My favorite part of the film takes place in a part of the forest that seems to be inhabited by supernatural creatures. The trees are all strung up with ropes and bandages and there are vampire like beings hanging from them. Grave has a big fight with a pair of them, they even use the ropes like a pro wrestler would. I thought it was pretty clever that when the vampires bit him, he just bit them back. This is followed by a big fight with, what I guess are, zombies. They shamble along and are clothed all in black. Grave runs around hitting them all in the head, they fall down but get back up. This leads him to take out his sword, which is actually a gun! He swings it around shooting wildly (oh yeah, earlier there were a couple who fought with night sticks that also shot bullets, weird).

They all end up going through a gateway to an alternate landscape where everything gets a little weirder. There are some more fights, the arrival of the goddess of destruction and the possibility of the end of the world. I don't know, it was all a little strange.

Death Trance is an entertaining movie that combine elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror in an action film. It never seems to want to answer any of its questions, which is all right. It was directed by Yuji Shimomura, who was the action director for the excellent Versus, and handles himself well at the helm. Versus also featured this movie's star, Tak Sakaguchi. He is quite entertaining here, carrying himself like a major tough guy and lighting up whenever beating anyone up. Definitely a fun performance.

So, if you like a little weirdness with your genre mash ups, check this one out.


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