The Toronto After Dark film festival recently held it’s annual Zombie Night, filled wall-to-wall with brains, bullets, and baddies. The opening films was none other than zombie musical-comedy Anna and The Apocalypse, but as darkness descended on the city and the time for fun and games disappeared with the setting sun, I Am A Hero took center stage. The film is a comedic but gore-filled ride through the early days of the apocalypse from the perspective of a character that knows he’s outlived his welcome in this new, brutal world. I have a hard time with the standard zombie tropes, but I love me some good ole brain eating carnage, and I Am A Hero delivers the goods.
Directed by Shinsuke Sato and adapted by Akiko Nogi from Kengo Hanazawa’s popular manga of the same name, I Am A Hero is the story of a slacker worried the world is passing him by. Of course those concerns go right out the window with every other problem he used to have when the undead rise and he must become the strong, confident man he is in his day dreams. The film stars Masami Nagasawa, Yô Ôizumi, Kasumi Arimura, with Miho Suzuki, Yoshinori Okada, Nana Katase, and Yu Tokui rounding out the cast.
I Am A Hero follows Hideo (Yô Ôizumi), a manga artists’ assistant patiently waiting for his turn in the spotlight. He’s unsuccessful but he’s made to look more pathetic than he deserves. Sure, he’s a stickler for the the rules and he isn’t exactly kicking down doors to find opportunities but he hasn’t given up on his dreams. The struggle is real and he’s out there grinding away, trying to perfect his art…until the world falls apart and he’s just lucky that when his girlfriend threw him out onto the street with a bag full of manga, she kind enough to also throw in his shotgun.
After some very near-death scuffles with the newly un-dead, Hideo heads for the mountains with a young woman named Hiromi (Kasumi Arimura). The two have been through a lot together in such a short period of time, and Hideo fantasizes himself as a powerful protector. One whose knowledge and understanding of gun safety is all that separates him and the woman he loves from certain death. And along the way, as in all zombies movies, they encounter the most dangerous monster of all: Humans.
My only real gripe is that Hideo‘s entire character, his need to become a hero, is to protect this strange girl even though we learn pretty quickly that she doesn’t really need any protecting. Every time she finds herself in danger, she’s more than capable of holding her own but she is conveniently unconscious throughout the majority of the 2nd half. We establish early on that Hiromi has been bitten, but not entirely zombified. The dynamic duo looks poised to kick all kinds of but until we drop that thread completely. Hideo becomes the reluctant hero we’ve been looking for, but only because Hiromi decides to nap through the 2nd and 3rd act. I have a strong feeling the nuance, and importance of her character in the manga would be hard to explain in a 90 minute feature, but as someone who has never fallen in love with the zombie format, I felt I was robbed of what looked to be a unique approach to a tired sub-genre.
I’ve been pretty vocal about my boredom with zombie movies. It’s just a personal preference, and I do my best to tamp those feelings down, but they do unfortunately color my overall view of a movie. That said, the entire 3rd of I Am A Hero is one long, blood-spattered sequence full of head-shots, brain matter, and deliciously gory practical effects. And let’s just say that the film takes the “Destroy The Brain” policy to heart. If you have any hope of surviving this horde of the undead, you better not leave a single piece of that virus-laden grey matter in tact! Zombie movies can sometimes feel like you’re climbing a mountain, and while the film hits a lot of familiar beats, I Am A Hero is perfect for any horror fan looking for an all-you-can-eat buffet of brains.
I Am A Hero screened at Toronto After Dark 2018 as part of the festivals annual zombie night programming. Check out all of Nightmare on Film Street’s Toronto After Dark coverage here!