“There have been a lot of Japanese zombie movies, but they have all been comedies or parodies,” director Norio Tsuruta tells Metropolis. “I wanted to make Japan’s first proper zombie film.” That’s a tall order, but Tsuruta was the right person for the job, having cut his teeth on the TV series Scary True Stories and installments of the Ring franchise. The result of his ambition is Z: Hate Naki Kibo, with “Z” being the term the authorities use for the undead in the film and the rest loosely translating as “undying hope.” The story starts with two high school girls discovering that Japan is being taken over by flesh-eaters. They team up with a teenage sword master and hole up in a hospital where a few people are determined to make the human race survive. The summer release of the film is no coincidence. “Japanese summer is so hot and humid, so people would listen to ghost stories to give themselves goosebumps and forget the heat,” Tsuruta says. “Another factor is obon, when spirits of ancestors are believed to return home. It isn’t celebrated so much today, but it is a century-old tradition, and Japanese people still associate summer with ghosts.”
Z: Hate Naki Kibo opens at Cinemart Roppongi and Cinemart Shinjuku July 26.