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‘Zeram’ (NR)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 01, 1994

"Zeram" is not among the notable sci-fi entries from Japan, unless you're counting from the bottom up. It's also unusually slow for a sci-fi adventure. And while it does have a few interesting and sometimes clever special effects, too many are unimaginative and hackneyed. The action, for instance, takes place inside and on top of a huge warehouse, where an out-of-this-world bounty hunter is trying to snare a samurai-like space rogue by setting a computer-generated virtual reality trap that re-creates . . . the warehouse!

Ilya (Yuko Moriyama) is the no-nonsense bounty hunter whose work becomes complicated when two electricians (Yukihiro Hotaru and Kunihiko Ida) accidentally penetrate the elaborate zone she has set up with her overly talkative computer, Bob. They arrive at about the same time as Zeram (the alien), who looks like he's stepping out of both the near future (hi-tech weaponry and kinetic powers) and the distant past (samurai armor-plate). He's also the proud wielder of a particularly phallic serpent-appendage (with a spooky Kabuki face, to boot).

Unfortunately, the film vacillates between too much talk and predictable action in which the violence suggests a chess game. Ilya is clearly the queen, and the humans mere pawns: They spend most of the film running away from trouble, screaming and feigning far more terror than is warranted. The monster makes many comebacks, of course.

Director Keita Amemiya exhibits no particular flair for action or comedic subtext. The assuredness of Ilya, the single-minded evil of Zeram and the hyperfear of the two electricians seem drawn from many Japanimation models, and probably would have been more effective in that format.

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