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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 05.30.09] movie review horror action thriller

Year: 2009
Directors: Chris Nahon
Writers: Kenji Kamiyama & Katsuya Terada & Chris Chow
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Saya is a 400 year old demon killer. She is cleverly disguised as a hot 16 year old Japanese schoolgirl (Korean actress, Gianna). Brilliant disguise. Blood the Last Vampire is the latest action thriller from the French director Chris Nahon, and is a live remake of the I.G. Production’s popular 2000 manga animation of the same title. Blood’s a movie with several stylishly atmospheric scenes, from subways to period military bases. You’ve also got to love a girl who survives by drinking blood from bottles that are delivered in brown paper bags and are kept in the fridge. In fact, we never see the blood in the bottle, only the red on her lips, which is a great way of showing that Saya herself is ashamed of her own demonic side: her dad was human, but her mum was a vampire, and Saya’s not sure who she really is. On the downside, the CGI limb slicing was a bit dodgy and whereas I like fountains of blood as much as the next person, these demons/vampires were slain far too easily. We are not in Underworld here. Considering that the original animation has such a great reputation, I was expecting more.

The film opens on a Tokyo subway train in 1970. Saya’s tracking a demon who may in fact just be an innocent salaryman. Either way, he has no soul, and that’s an interesting point, what is a demon anyway? A couple of Men in Black types show up to clean up, and it turns out they work for the mysterious Council, a body dedicated to wiping out the demons. Saya works for the Council too, mainly because she wants to take revenge on Onigen, the oldest and most evil demon, and the one who topped her Dad. Onigen is played with great elegance and beauty by Japanese model/actress Koyuki. The Council sends Saya to investigate a series of murders on an U.S. airbase just outside Tokyo, where Saya meets her first real friend in several hundred years, Alice, who’s the daughter of the base commander.

Some of my favorite scenes are the early shots of the U.S. airbase, it’s all about orange tones, period music and base personnel who look kind of hippyish. There was a kind of early on in Apocalypse Now vibe going on, albeit from the perspective of a young girl. Once on the base, Saya experiences racist slurs at the hands of the other white American students, and there’s a clever irony in all this as the lines between racist/human/demon begin to blur. I preferred Gianna’s performance in these scenes rather than in the actually fights, which I thought needed to me more physical and less digital. BTW, the actress Gianna, whose real name in her home country is Jeon Ji-hyun, starred in the 2001 Korean flick My Sassy Girl, which earned her quite a reputation as a boyfriend slapping fiery girlfriend. I checked out clips of this online and it looks great, and no digital. Alice and Saya become buddies in the fight against demons, and with the warmth of human friendship, Saya begins to deal with her inner torment – is she human or demon, a question that runs throughout the film. The question is reframed very powerfully during the climax, but I won't spoil it for ya.

Bill Kong, one of the producers of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, was involved with this film and you can expect several of those suspended -in-the-air fighting moments. In terms of other FX, some of the chase scenes looked a bit dodgy, and so did Mount Fuji in the background. I thought the demons looked a bit like blown up plastic models from my local Gamer shop. The chase scenes with winged demons and captured girl were not very convincingly shot. The demon Onigen is about the only opponent who can stand up to Saya, but when they finally spar, it’s over way too soon. Also, it felt like the fight scene in the girls’ gym was cut short, which was a shame, because it would have been fun to watch three girls beat the crap out of each other with swords for much longer. I reckon that anime aficionados probably have to see this movie, just because it exists. For other audiences, I’d say viewing is optional.

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Superheidi (12 years ago) Reply

I definitely agree - 'optional' viewing on this one. I did enjoy the two fight scenes a lot: in the woods with the ninjas and out in the rain in the streets of Tokyo, but they lost me when they made the vampire creature out of computer graphics rather than practcal makeup effects.


Cyberhal (12 years ago) Reply

yes, I thought the ninjas in the bamboo wood was great. That old guy was brilliant, right?

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