Saturday, November 02, 2013

Red Tears – review

Director: Takanori Tsujimoto

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

Red Tears is strange in that the word vampire is never used but that is clearly what these creatures are. The plot hangs loosely and there are incongruities and plot holes, yet there is balls out gory action (unfortunately between lulls) and a real strange twist to viewer loyalty.

I have to admit that it was a film that didn’t hit my radar at all when released, and it was just a random post in a Facebook group that made me aware of it. However hopefully it will start to be better known. It isn’t quite a cult classic but it does deserve some attention despite the flaws.

folded for packing
It begins with a young woman, Sayoko (Natsuki Katô), walking a street, she says that she will always feel *you* inside *me*. We cut to a man, Masaki, who is shot in the shoulder by a high velocity metal bolt. We do not see the assailant but we do see him being folded up and crammed into a suitcase. In a building he is hung from a ceiling, his head chopped off and the blood allowed to pour into a bucket. A pair of hands cup together and catch some of the blood.

sillier moments didn't gel
Hazuki (Ayaka Morita) goes to the police to try and harry them over their investigation of Masaki’s disappearance. Although she is his girlfriend, she has a photograph of a mysterious girl he met (she took it). The girl is Sayoko. The police squad is made up of Tetsuo (Yûma Ishigaki), Yamamura (Yôju Takashima) and Ozu (Masahiro Nagai). Tetsuo is the straight one (as far as methodology is concerned) but all three are used liberally by the filmmakers as comedy characters (to one degree or another) and the off-beat comedic aspect really didn’t work.

mother and daughter
Sayoko is at home preparing a meal for her mother, Masayo (Karin Yamaguchi). The mother is in a wheelchair but climbs to her feet with the aid of a walking stick and, because Sayoko had served a previous meal that Masayo disapproved of, she beats her. We cut from that scene to the cops’ superior who is a “lone wolf” investigator called Mishima (Yasuaki Kurata, Blood: the Last Vampire). When we see him, he is giving chase to a man. He eventually catches the man and they frantically fight. The pursued man eventually gets away.

Yasuaki Kurata as Mishima
Now the story meanders a bit but it is essentially this; the police are occupied with a serial killer who beheads his victims, Tetsuo wonders if Masaki is another victim who hasn’t been found yet. During the investigation he meets Sayoko and instantly falls in love with her. Actually it is Mishima who is leaving the beheaded victims behind and he is hunting monsters. Those beheaded are likely bitten or scratched as the condition will pass on. What the film does with this is quite interesting as he should be the focal point for audience sympathy but he isn’t.

aftermath of police brutality
For instance it paints Hazuki in a bad light, turning her into a weirdly obsessive and murderous character. However, when she discovers the truth that there are monsters out there, and becomes small and fearful, Mishima does not hesitate to kill her in order that she is silenced – in the police station. The monsters, our vampires, are mutations (so the story tells us) and the man who Mishima was pursuing was one – and is his main focus. He has a squad he can call on who have nightsticks with wooden stake ends. Ozu is in on it and in conversation Mishima suggests that neither Yamamura nor Tetsuo are ready to know the truth. When Ozu dies the scriptwriters forget this and Yamamura is fully aware of what’s going on.

the feeding hand
Masayo is the monster that killed the man at the beginning. Her walking stick is adapted to shoot bolts and we see her drain a victim through a mouth that opens in her hand. She can mutate to a rather monstrous form. Sayoko is fully aware of what her mother is and is complicit in helping her but she is half human and has not mutated yet. At first the film suggested that the mutation could simply trigger at some point, then it is intimated that contact with her mother’s blood would be the trigger, however, when splattered with said blood, it is only when Sayoko tastes it that her monstrous side emerges. Whilst we see a draining via the hand it needs to be noted that all of the victim’s body is used as food, not just the blood.

split and beheaded
The film does fail to keep track of things (or simply doesn’t care). So, during a fight, Mishima has a thick metal pipe rammed right through his foot. He kicks out and splits a head down the middle and beheads his enemy with the jagged pipe end, which is impressive. However later he is walking around like nothing has happened. For a moment I thought they might make him the same thing as he hunted, but they didn’t (despite the fact that he managed to push back on a moving truck with sheer strength!)

Sayoko mutates
Like I said, I enjoyed the way our sympathy actually went to Sayoko and against Mishima – this despite the fact that we discover that Masayo killed his entire family and he has been searching for her for years. As the mother laments to the daughter (with regards Tetsuo) that men (in other words her human father) take what they want and then abandon the woman I suspected they would make Mishima her father. They didn’t go down this line and it was a missed opportunity for further juggling audience sympathy.

monster face
So the plot is there but is a bit of a mess. There are issues with consistency and holes therein. But there is some nice gore, interspersed with the saccharine romance story and awful comedy moments, some fun fights and the very welcome manipulation of sympathy. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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