Monday, May 14, 2007

The Spear of Longinus

Director: Ryuheo Kitamura

Release Date: 2004

Contains spoilers

This is a short film, some 40-45 minutes, by Kitamura the director responsible for Versus. The film itself is very stagy, but works that way and, as we shall see, if it has a problem it is in the fact that it is too short. I am going to struggle with actors to characters as there are no character names given.

The film begins with a nurse sat with a doctor; he is dying of an illness. The world is at war and the doctor, before dying, explains his philosophy - everything is ultimately up to the one who controls power, for good or for ill. After he dies the nurse and the two stationed soldiers, who seem to have some antagonism between them, cremate the doctor.

the CommanderWe discover that the hospital is to be closed, as the doctor has died, and a helicopter will pick them up in the morning. Suddenly there is a pounding at the door. A group of soldiers, led by a female commander, have brought a wounded comrade, they also carry a wooden box.

Injured soldierThe injured soldier has a nasty neck wound and the most the nurse can do is patch her up. The Commander reveals that the box contains the spear of Longinus – the spear thrust into the side of Christ on the cross – and they are transporting it to their superiors. The two soldiers are ordered to join the troop to help transport the spear, which is said to be able to heal injury or disease.

Atsushi Sakurai as the mysterious manA man (Atsushi Sakurai) enters and, ignoring the guns levelled at him, suggests that they must terminate their injured comrade – by killing her and then immediately cremating her – as she has been bitten by a vampire. The soldiers are, of course, sceptical, and he explains that vampires have always been there, hiding in the shadows during times of peace but due to the prolonged war they are moving openly. They seek the spear as it is able to destroy vampires.

mexican standoffThe man is ordered to kneel but quickly gains a weapon and a Mexican stand-off ensues, one he ends by lowering the gun. He is tied up and the nurse wonders whether they can use the spear to heal the injured soldier. However she has vanished. Most of the soldiers go to the basement to find her, leaving the mysterious man with the nurse and a single guard…

searching the basementThe film is odd, and yet thoroughly engrossing. The biggest problems it has are down to the length. There is no time for thorough characterisation and some of the scenes could have done with being longer – for example when the soldiers are searching the basement there was opportunity to make a very tense extended scene but the scene ended all too soon, without the tension properly building.

head vampireThe addition of vampires seems to be a metaphor to contrast the horror of monsters against the horror of war. We get very little in the way of lore. We discover that someone bitten turns and that, once turned, they are impervious to bullets. They can develop long claw like nails and fangs and the head vampire (who enters the hospital at a point later than I described) does a full face morphing thing.

killed by the spearThe spear does indeed kill them, causing them to glow and dust on impact. They need blood, though we do not actually see a feed the newly turned vampire is seen over a dead soldier and talks about a medicine she has found – clearly referring to blood.

The main thrust of the film, as well as talking of the horrors of war, is the mistrust between man and the fact that power is simply that, if it is positive or negative very much depends on who wields it and how.

a vampireThe acting seemed stagy, as I said at the head, and this could almost be a play. That said the acting does what it should and any problems with characterisation comes from the fact that there is no time for thorough character development. The effects are generally good, one exploding head perhaps seemed as though it might look a little ropey but as the event happened so quickly it was difficult to tell – so no harm, no foul.

the nurseAs I say, a fascinating short film that uses some unusual devices such as the vampires, the spear itself and a war the start of which has been forgotten, but it is way too short. This is begging for a feature length remake. As things stand 6 out of 10 for an unusual and intriguing slice of vampire cinema.

The imdb page is here.


Faust_XIV said...

Hmmm...have just watched this, can't say it's a really good film, as you said, it's too stagy...yet who cares as long as it's casted by Atsushi chan xDDDD...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Faust_xiv. I'd say I think I was fair with a 6 out of 10, above average but not in the realm of the exceptional. I still think its begging for a feature remake