July 10, 2009
Chris Chow (Screenplay), Kenji Kamiyama, Katsuya Terada (Characters)
Gianna Jun as Saya
Allison Miller as Alice McKee
Liam Cunningham as Michael Harrison
JJ Field as Luke
Koyuki as Onigen
Colin Salmon as Powell
It’s always interesting to experience a culturally different take on a well-trodden horror mythology. Terror has been a part of lives the world over for about as long as man has breathed; it’s a piece of human nature that doesn’t discriminate, and takes on numerous different forms. For this reason, foreign horror often differs in structure when opposed to the products pumped out by American filmmakers and production companies. Sometimes foreign films succeed, sometimes they fail, and every now and then, they leave you completely dumbstruck.
Blood: The Last Vampire is a Japanese (technically the film is a Hong Kong-French-British co-production, though it earned its initial theatrical release in Japan) hybrid that certainly falls into the “WTF?” category, although, surprisingly, it’s not a bad film in the slightest. Now, it’s important to not misconstrue my words, because Blood certainly isn’t an amazing picture (I don’t aim to mislead you), it’s just damn entertaining and ridiculously unconventional. Try to imagine Bladetangling with a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as a secret British organization swoops in to clean up any mess left in the wake of violence.
Saya is a half human, half vampire who’s been on a mission to rid the world of vampires under the guidance of a secret society known as “The Council”. Wronged long, long ago, Saya slices her way through bloodsuckers with the ultimate goal of butchering the vilest demon to walk the planet, Onigen; a creature with which she’s got some very personal connections. After crossing paths with young American, Alice, who’s unintentionally, discovered the presence of these beasts (who traipse about at all hours and appear to be typical humans), all hell really breaks loose, and Saya finally finds herself face to face with Onigen.
I had planned to screen this film back in mid-2009, but a fluke hiccup in the operation of my vehicle prevented the trek from happening; now two plus years distanced, I’m a little angry with myself for having missed the opportunity to catch this one on the big screen, as there are certainly some aesthetical qualities that probably translate much better in a theatre setting. While loads of CGI hinder the piece all too often, there are some shots that do indeed look absolutely stunning (feast on Saya’s first kill, which takes place on a train; it’s a gorgeous death scene if I’ve ever seen one). Some of the transformation sequences miss the mark, while others are true attention grabbers; it’s important to note that the facial manipulations win big points, while some of the full body modifications fall far short of appealing.
Special effects execution aside, the dated approach (the story takes place in 1970) works extremely well, as director Chris Nahon pays very close attention to the surroundings, apparel and vehicles of the specified era. Though there are some plot holes to contend with, they don’t relate to the vintage impression imposed by Nahon, and as a man who (as I personally theorize) should have grown up a child of the 70’s (I’m about the only individual in my city of 70,000 plus to sport bell bottoms, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan and The Doors t-shirts on a frequent basis), I deeply appreciate the antiquated quality of Blood: The Last Vampire. The film feels like a successful trek back in time, and it’s quite an admirable quality.
Though viewers are forced to juggle terrific action sequences and some stunning shots with plenty of overtly subpar digital work, one fact remains intact from the jump: Blood: The Last Vampire is an absolute blast. I found myself glued to the screen, and compelled by a relatively new approach to an age old concept. The fact that there’s virtually zero downtime in this balls to the wall action shocker leaves quite a memorable impression. I wouldn’t consider this vampire tale strong enough to rival great pictures like Near Dark, Shadow of the Vampire or From Dusk Till Dawn, but I would label it a worthy companion piece to the aforementioned Blade films, or even theUnderworld franchise.