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Undertaker (Blu-ray Review)

To be honest with you, I’m not too sure I’ve seen very many Japanese zombie films. As a matter of fact, in terms of a pure, traditional walking dead classic that number is likely zero. While sure, we’ve been oversaturated like hell with the horror sub genre over the last 15 years or so to the tune where we have multiple television shows no where we can watching the brain cravers go at humans in a myriad of different ways and tones, something like Undertaker did peak my interest just a little when it came across my desk here at the home offices of Why So Blu following our annual Halloween party festivities (I can’t believe Gerard went as Mike Banning AGAIN!). The film dropped on Blu-ray from Synapse Films on October 29th, and you’re able to snag a copy if you go to the Amazon link (Yes I do make fat extremely small percentage off your clicks and purchases) and order one out.

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Film 

A deadly virus outbreak is turning the people of Japan into flesh-eating zombies. The government intervenes, trying to separate the survivors from the infected. Ryouichi, a young boy who has his family and friends destroyed by the undead infestation, becomes an assistant to an Undertaker… a person hired by families to kill loved ones who’ve been turned. Armed with a modified shovel and a bag, Ryouichi roams the ruins of Japan killing zombies and collecting body parts to prove to grieving families that their infected loved ones are now at peace.

Undertaker is a pretty fun, impressive little zombie flick given the limited and small amount of resources available. It also doesn’t overstay its welcome one bit as it is just barely over an hour. Simplicity is the key here, as the film is a measure in style, effects, technique and mostly concerned with the execution of those factors. Those who typically don’t care for films of a language unlike their own may find an exception to the rule here as there is barely any speaking in Undertaker and when there is dialogue going on, its not much and doesn’t add a whole lot at all.

Simplicity is key here but the make-up and practical effects design is anything but. While the movie isn’t hacking and slashing every couple of minutes, when it does take out an undead foe, they really don’t hold much back. Zombies are dismembered in a some pretty creative and real looking ways. This one isn’t afraid to show a close up or do a wicked kill. Its a bloody movie when it wants to be, but the movie isn’t soaked up in it.

Overall, Undertaker feels like a quick escape or an offshoot side story bonus content to another film or television series. I’m not ragging on it or calling it poor, its just the detached part of a bigger world feeling I have on it when seeing it This isn’t Train to Busan level of good where everyone gets excited for a zombie film again for a moment, but its one that does the classic stuff and does is very very well with a good grace of modern in there.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Undertaker arrives on Blu-ray with a pretty sharp image that almost looks like a film shot in SD and then upconverted bes they could to Blu-ray. Details are quite strong. Movements however, feel a little BBC soap opera-ish as that probably has to do with the equipment used to shoot the film.

Depth: Solid spacing overall, movements as mentioned as a little quicker feeling with no problematic distortion issues present.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and consuming. I didn’t catch any myself, but there could be instances of crush that another reviewer could find and it wouldn’t surprise me.

Color Reproduction: This movie is pretty much wiped and bleached of its colors though red blood and whites do show through decently to stand out.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. In close ups, you can see every good bit of texture, sweat, blood and such on a face.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): Japanese 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Undertaker comes with a very rocking, loud stereo track that is mixed to a pretty nice degree of effective back and forth to create the environment from the film to your home theater. Effects, music and vocals are all mixed with a rock solid bit of balance to them. And the LFE sounds do manage to pop pretty good.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Its a pretty quiet movie, but when speaking does occur its capture here nicely.

Extras 

Farewell to the Precious: The Making of UNDERTAKER (HD, 56:04) – The director and crew lead us through a lengthy and thorough process of the film. Its split between English and Japanese with subtitles. Sometimes the vocals are a bit low, but overall its pretty rock solid and features a lot of behind the scenes footage.

Short Film: On Your Back (SD, 20:20) – A freaky little piece of what looks like VHS shot video that clearly shows there’s some talent with this director.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 1:24)

Trailer (HD, 4:19) 

Behind-The-Scenes Gallery (HD, :57)

Summary 

Undertaker is a pretty nice little zombie side story of sorts. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or a whole new means of transportation, but it does stake something and just do a solid damn job with it. The disc comes with pretty good transfer and audio. The almost 1 hour interview/taking heads doc is a nice catch as well. However, you may want to see this one before actually making the purchase.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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