Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)

By Reymundo Salao

The setting is 1970s Japan, where a girl named Saya is secretly hunting down vampires who live among human society. She herself is a vampire and in order to find her own peace, she is determined to seek out and kill the leader of the vampires; the demon Onigen. In her aide is the mysterious council which covers up the existence of her vampire killings. When she was assigned to go undercover in an American airbase community in Japan, she rescues an American girl named Alice, and it is in this time when Onigen grows near, and soon Saya must face her destiny.

Generally, this film is the kind of movie which belongs in the same library as that of the Blade series and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Basically it is a schoolgirl that fights vampires. The storyline of the anime film from which this was adapted from, was very simplistic, and even stereotypical to the point of being forgettable. But in a very surprising fashion, which is rarely common in movie adaptations of anime, Blood makes the extra mile effort of making the storyline more layered adding subplot details. We get to see a storyline that freely takes its liberties.

You will know for sure that this will eventually lead us to a climactic duel ending, but what is refreshingly interesting are the twists, turns and subplots it goes through within the movie before the main event. It's almost difficult to consciously predict the directions the story goes to before it leads to the big boss fight at the end. It manages to throw in minor subplots such as racial discrimination in Japan during those times, and even manages to throw in an interesting symbolism about how the character of Onigen identifies herself with spiders, and how many aspects of her character are associated with spiders such as her appearance of her dress at the end and the comparison that some spiders kill their males (I think. Hmmm… I think I have to review my Biology 101).

The cinematography was awesome. The visual art of the anime version itself was already very realistic, so it seems easy to correlate the appearance of the anime with how the visual tone of the movie looked. The visual tones blended well with the set design which impressively captured the essence of the 70’s setting. Most of the visual effects were great. The only minor flaw is the animation regarding one of the monsters. The special effects on that thing was bad, and looked pretty much like one of those Cinemax B-movies. BUT, that does not (for a single second) change the fact that this is overall a very impressive thumbs-up movie. And besides, if you subtract the creature animation, the rest of the film provides you with more than enough eye candy to give your eyes diabetes. There is a ninja fight at the middle of the movie that is just mindblowing. As one of the characters fights off these evil ninjas, there were many times when I felt like applauding with sheer delight.

It's actually a surprise that my senses didn't stop to take much notice on how damn pretty Gianna Jun is, because I was clearly engrossed by the progress of the story and her overwhelming onscreen character. She does look like a frail little girl, but when she acts in this movie, she does come off as this centuries-old demon hunter. It is also remarkable that even though she is portrayed as somebody who is as dangerous as Blade, the film makes efforts to set limits to her fighting style. She's a mean machine, but she does have her mortal moments. Sure, she can fight an army of vampires, but at least we do see her having a hard time doing it. The design of the “Men-in-Black”-like characters very much reflected that of the characters in the anime version. I loved how cool they looked, giving off that kind of 70’s version of The Matrix feel to it. I was also geeking out at the other actors involved in this film, specifically Yasuaki Kurata, who played Saya’s stepfather . This Japanese actor also appeared in other great action movies, including So Close, and he also fought Jet Li in Fist of Legend. There’s also Michael Byrne who appeared in The Saint and played one of the big bad guys in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.

Overall, this movie is just kickass for me. I am not sure if high-brows will love this one. But me, as a fan of good action movies, specifically that which involves swordfights , demonic monsters, and ultra-pretty Japanese girls (well, Gianna Jun is actually Korean. But so what?), this movie is on my superior list. BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE is one very enjoyable vampire slasher kick-ass action flick.

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