Friday, November 13, 2009

Blood: the Last Vampire – review


Director: Chris Nahon

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

Some of you will have read my first thoughts on this and will remember that I wasn’t too impressed with this film. However, I share one trait with our long toothed friends and that is a certain obsessive compulsive need – theirs is to count grain and mine to collect vampire genre stuff.

So I sat with the DVD and hoped my impression of this would improve but, if anything, it sank lower. Continuity errors started appearing and anachronistic things such as… I rather like Deep Purple and so, in a fight scene, I noticed we got the song Space Truckin’ – from the Machine Head album, 1972 – the film is set in 1970. Then there were the plot moments that screamed, “Why!” at me.

The film is based on the short anime Blood: the Last vampire. It follows a modified version of its story until about half way through the running time when the anime’s story is done and the film wends its own merry, half-assed way; utterly ignoring any lore/story from the superior, alternate universe anime series Blood+.

Saya on the subwayAfter hearing about a 16th century war and the demon hunter Kiyomasa, who was killed by the big bad Onigen (Koyuki), we find ourselves in 1970 Tokyo. Kiyomasa’s daughter, Saya (Gianna Jun), is on a subway train and there is a man. She recognises him as a demon and kills him. The scene is straight from the anime and is actually rather effective. The train stops and a pair of ‘cleaners’ get on. On the platform is Michael (Liam Cunningham), lead agent in a group of shadowy demon hunters, and his subordinate Luke (JJ Field). Luke sees the man didn’t transform and accuses Saya of killing a human. He claims she is out of control, Michael says they need her.

drinking bottled bloodIn her room Saya retrieves a bottle of blood (and drinks it wearing the school uniform Michael hasn’t given her yet). We see memories of her childhood with Kato (Yasuaki Kurata), her father’s retainer. He taught her that to tell if someone is a demon then look into their eyes – they have no souls. Actually the flashback sequences are the best sections of the film. Michael visits and tells her that there have been open feedings on a US airbase – a sign that Onigen is close – Saya will go undercover to the base (in the uniform he gives her, you know, the one she previously wore).

Alice, what's the matter?One questions, given the fact that there is no uniform policy at the airbase’s school, why she would be given said uniform. Being oriental, she already stands out in the occidental orientated school. Also at the school is Alice (Allison Miller) – the daughter of base commander General McKee (Larry Lamb). After a lesson, in which the monstrous nature of Frankenstein’s creation is discussed, Alice ends up in aikido. The instructor, Mr Powell (Colin Salmon), makes her stay behind with bad girls Sharon (Masiela Lusha) and Linda (Ailish OConnor).

school girl decapitationHow bad? Well, they are really demons and they pull real swords to use on the girl. Saya has checked the school records (though what they revealed to her is not revealed to us) and comes to the rescue, throwing Alice from the room and then decapitating the transforming girls (something Alice spots through a grate). The blood is very lumpy cgi blood, but as it is demon blood I could live with it. Alice gets her dad, which brings the military and the Agency (who are posing as CIA) at odds with each other. The bodies are gone and Luke acts like a loose cannon (so why Michael didn’t deal with him then and there is beyond me).

fight in the alleyAlice goes to confront Powell, who is also a demon, and finds herself hunted by a horde of the little blighters. The resultant fight scene, to me, underlines one of the main problems with the film. The film relies on fast cuts in the fights, which to me is not good. Often the fast cuts are between slow motion scenes, these serve only to try and fool us into believing that the fast cuts are not the problem they really are. This is not good fight choreography.

it is just bad cgi workAfter dispatching the horde they face Mr Powell, who transforms into full demon form, grabs Alice and runs over the rooftops – with Saya in hot pursuit. This is our next problem. The cgi. Okay, the blood I could live with but this was awful, the demon form looks crap, unreal and sticks out like a sore thumb. I did appreciate little moments, like slates coming down from the roofs in its wake, but the actual demon design and execution was sub-par.

Liam Cunningham as MichaelEventually Saya gets Alice back and Powell sprouts wings, taking to the skies. They continue the chase, by jeep, onto the airbase and down a runway, until Saya kills him. She tells Alice to forget what she has seen. However Luke has gone rogue, killing off military personnel (namely the General) to cover their tracks, going behind Michael's back and ordering a hit on Saya and there is the question of Onigen... However, for me, Onigen is part of the questions never answered, real plot issues that I will look at now.

how did she know to feed Saya blood?The first question never answered is how the Hell Alice knew what Saya was? Okay, she is in a room when Saya’s bottle of blood is shot but, when they have a moment of safety and she realises Saya has been shot and badly wounded, just how does she know to feed the girl her blood? It made me sit up and notice for all the wrong reasons. Saya has shown no overtly vampiric tendencies to Alice and the girl was under fire when the blood bottle was shot and so is unlikely to have noticed the contents. It was bobbins.

Koyuki as OnigenThe second was Onigen being Saya’s mother. Okay the Luke/Darth aspect was so clichéd it was untrue but worse it was a case of, well how’d that happen? Why did the great demon hunter sleep with the great demon? Was he raped? It is never said. Why did Onigen wait until after Saya was born to kill him and how did the baby Saya end up back with Kato? There is some rubbish about Onigen waiting for her to grow into her powers, but wouldn’t that have been easier under her mother’s tutelage?

Saya has red eyesWhilst I am at it, how was Alice, a schoolgirl, able to drive a truck? That aside, why did the driving of the truck lead to a scene virtually cut and paste from Underworld Evolution, only done with less panache? Indeed, when the two girls end up in a kind of dream-world, for the final confrontation (through the looking glass, Alice), why was it Alice – a school girl who, only two days before, had concerns no greater than how to steal daddy’s car to go party – who realised they were not in Kansas anymore, rather than Saya!

Ooo… the more I think about this the worse it gets. This isn’t helped that they made, in respect of the action sequences, a girl, in school uniform, with katana and fighting demons… boring. The acting is low to middling, but the actors had little to work with. The saving graces are the flashback sequences and the fact that if you really do take your brain out you can bypass the worst bits of the script – think and it will really annoy you. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Gabriel said...

Sounds like you didn't like it.

Still waiting for it to be released here on DVD to watch it. At first I wasn't impressed with the anime movie, but years later I watched it again and found a new appreciation for it, and same with Blood+. Most filmmakers and producers are stupid, how cool would it have been to use the tv series instead and have Haji as a character for the female audience to swoon over.

With DragonBall and a few other anime adaptations this sounds like an epic fail that could have been easily avoided.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel, I liked it less on re-watch than at the cinema. At the cinema I switched my brain off, to a degree, and let some of the worst bits wash over me... that said... if they had done the action right I probably still could have done that.

Aming more at the series would have been a good direction. The ova is beautiful but is story limited. The series has plenty of story.

All that said, I do know people who enjoyed this. Personally I think I'll wait for Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl - it might be exploitative splatter-punk but I got more from it's trailer than I got from this movie

the Zombie Astronaut said...

I had a feeling it would suck. I loved the animated version, and I kinda felt it would have been nice to leave it alone.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hey Zomb, good to see you over here...

They could have made something good out of this but they really went down a dud of a line.

What I really don't get is how they could screw the fight scenes up so badly. It was the same producers as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Story... I mean Hidden Dragon, and the fight sequences in that are sublime...

M said...

I much prefer the anime movie Blood C: The Last Dark. If you haven't seen it yet, you should definitely go check it out. In my opinion it's the best movie in the Blood franchise! I thought the live-action movie was okay, but I agree with a post I read on this anime blog that sometimes anime is the best medium to tell a story!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Michelle, thanks for the comment. I have seen Blood-C: The Last Dark - I thought it was better than the live action but pretty average overall. I'm afraid the Blood franchise is one that should be brilliant but, for me, always seems to fall short. My thoughts on it are here.