In a time when inflated budgets are often used to indicate the amount of bang you'll get for your multiplex buck, Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura surfaced as something of an oddity. His debut feature, Versus, stunned audiences worldwide with a dizzying, near-exhausting onslaught of cinematic bravura -- showcasing hyper-stylized, high-octane thrills and ultra-gory chills on a scant budget of 400,000 dollars. Many argued that such remarkable onscreen energy and creativity had not been achieved on such a small-budget since the early days of Sam Raimi, and genre-fans around the globe couldn't wait to see what the director could accomplish given a substantial budget and adequate resources.
An Osaka native who relocated to Australia in his late teens to study at the School of Visual Arts, the aspiring director made quite an impression with his award-winning graduation film, entitled Exit. Returning to Japan shortly thereafter, Kitamura founded Napalm Films to back Heat After Dark, a 50-minute action film that served as the director's first theatrical release. The short action-horror effort Down to Hell was quick to follow. A high-energy, supernatural-flavored journey into the world of gangsters and the undead, the film served as the perfect primer for Kitamura's rapidly approaching feature debut. Appropriately, Versus was unleashed on Japanese filmgoers just days before Halloween 2000 at the Tokyo International Film Festival -- its nonstop barrage of action and energy left the jaws of stunned festival attendees planted squarely in their laps. Of course, it didn't take long for the word to travel, and after countless grey-market tapes flooded foreign shores, the film eventually received an official stateside DVD release thanks to genre specialists Media Blasters.