The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)

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I had first gotten wind of this film as a trailer on a DVD to I don't know what movie last fall. It kept popping up on later DVDs, and I kept putting it aside, until now. According to imdb, it was released in the theaters, but only made about $200,000, well below the $10 million threshold I set for a non-Wild Card post. (the other threshold I set is if I could see the film at a local chain theater, and it definitely met that one as well.) I waited just a little longer to see if vampire films would win out for the next series of movies we look at here, but it didn't, so I'm writing the post for you now.

Blood: The Last Vampire is about some demons that have been battling humans all over the world, but specifically Japan, for a long period of time. I'm not sure if the demons are technically vampires, but because they drink human blood, I guess they qualify. Anyway, Saya, a girl from feudal Japan who's half human half demon, is humanity's only hope against Onigen, the top demon baddie. As their impending battle looms in Tokyo in 1970, Saya loses the support of a secret organization that had been aiding her against the demons, after a girl witnesses her killings, and the organization tries to kill the girl. Saya intervenes, and the girl joins her as she readies herself for her final showdown.

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This had some good and some bad, so let's focus on the good first. The samurai fight scenes with the girl Saya slicing up demons was great. It had great elements of samurai films mixed with Hong Kong cinema, and it really worked. Throw in the La Femme Nikita aspect, very Neo Noir, with Saya's main contact in the secret organization based directly on Jean Reno-- Harvey Keitel's character in the American version of the film. The story was a little iffy to me, but it was based on an Anime, and since I'm not really into Anime, I didn't know to what extent this movie was faithful to the original, or even if it was trying to be faithful and wrote itself into a corner. Still, the plot didn't matter so much with the great action and martial arts.

What did matter was the poor CGIs. Like, we're talking Beastmaster or Hercules syndicated TV series low budget style CGIs-- it looked that ridiculous. The demons looked like silly gargoyles in a bad Sci-Fi Pictures Original. Worst of all was this truck falling off the edge of a cliff that looked like one of my nephew's Nick jr. cartoons. It's great for a four-year-old learning the alphabet, but in a movie like this, it removes any trace of excitement and awesomeness, which I'm assuming is the whole reason they had the scene in the film at all: for excitement and awesomeness; and to keep it when it looked so bad did nothing but hurt the overall quality of the film.

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One element we often see in vampire flicks is this sense of eroticism. Maybe there's a rave or two, some hot chicks and dudes all over each other, and then a bite of the neck and a lot of violence. This film had almost none of that sexuality. The closest things to it came when Saya (Gianna Jun) and the American girl (Allison Miller) held hands briefly when they were back-to-back facing a bunch of demons; and then later when Jun was almost dead, Miller cut her hand and dripped the blood into her mouth in a very tender way. I've never understood the whole vampire eroticism thing, especially because there's so much blood involved. Equating blood (especially that much blood) to sex is gross, not a turn on.

That brings up another point. This is much more of an action film than a horror film, and I know had the protagonist been a male, he would've either had sex with Miller, or they would've cast a different female for him to do. The other track these films like to take is have the female protagonist hook up with another chick, which this one could've done and refrained from. The truth is, there actually isn't a double standard at play here, it's more that both types of films-- the male-lead action film and the female-lead action film-- are targeted toward the same demographic: boys aged 14-34. The whole point of having Saya be a hot Japanese girl (though I personally found Allison Miller to be hotter), is so the guys watching it can fantasize about being her significant other, and if you pair her with some hot male lead that she falls in love with, that fantasy is shattered. The reverse doesn't work with the male lead, because the 14-34 demographic is supposed to want to be that guy, so seeing him do hot chicks just makes us want to be him more. I could sit here and say how much I'd like to see a real female heroine that flips the paradigm and saves the damsel in distress guy, but that would be me being postmodern, not pragmatic.

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When I was searching for the cover image on Google, I came across a blog on WordPress that had this as its number 2 worst film of 2009. Whether I agree or not isn't the point, the thing was so full of typos and sentences that didn't make sense, that whatever point the writer was trying to make was moot. Now I know I'm not perfect, and with the number of posts I make per week, I'm not always at my best as a writer, but at the very least, I try my best to put out work that's readable, entertaining, and at the very least, proof-read. This isn't about being a Grammar Hammer and pointing out mistakes in someone else's work, this is about owing it to myself and my readers to, at the very least, read through it and remove, say, the five times I wrote "in this film" in one paragraph.

Okay, with that said, let's wrap it up. Great samurai sword fights and martial arts versus horrible CGIs. For me, it wasn't a wash, the latter trumped the former and made it less of a great experience. I noticed this is out on Blu-Ray as well, which I have to assume would make all those flaws that much more conspicuous. My recommendation is rent it before you commit to buy it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0806027/

9 comments:

  1. I was not impressed with this one either, not only did I hate the fake looking demon/vampire thing that she fights with at one point...I also hated that forced american girl who was in the film just so american audiences could identify with her.

    As far as faithfulness to the anime, Id say it was. The anime movie is very short, it doesnt even last one hour. And its pretty much the same thing...except without the american girl character.

    The anime ends with the scene where the plane is going to take off...the rest is an entirely new storyline. The anime was really just a story about a vampire girl who works for the government, and she is trying to stop vampires from escaping on the plane and arriving in the U.S., which she does. Then the movie is over.

    Id recommend it, the vampires look way better than they did in this movie, if you can believe it. And it is very dark, the animation is top notch stuff.

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  2. I'm glad you cleared that up for me, because, like I said, I'd never seen the anime before. I should check it out at some point.

    You know, I never considered the inclusion of the American chick as someone American audiences could relate to, because I was coming from the DTV reviewer mindset of "anyone in America watching this would only be doing it to see the hot Japanese chick", so the idea of us needing someone to relate to didn't cross my mind. On the other hand, seeing that this was slated for a major theatrical release that didn't pan out, I can see the need for that now. They were probably shooting for the Twilight demographic. It backfired, but that must've been what they were thinking.

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  3. Thats the type of thing that foreign studios do when they are thinking of releasing a film in the states.

    Its similar to how Italian movies and certain Spanish horror movies filmed their films with an american release in mind, which is obviously what was going on with Blood: The Last Vampire. The american girl didnt really do much in the film, she was just extra baggage as far as Im concerned.

    But like you, I enjoyed the whole Kung Fu thing, its one of the things I also mentioned on my review. That scene in the forest fighting of all those ninjas? Loved it.

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  4. Yeah, that forest sword fight was great. Maybe, going back to your point on this film being made with Americans in mind, they didn't think we could appreciate that kind of thing enough, so they had to throw in the ridiculous CG truck falling off a ledge, mimicking American blockbusters.

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  5. Well I'd definitely prefer to see a film like this earn big money at the box-office, rather then raw sewage like those goddamn Twilight films, I hate the fact that those films even exist! Anyways there is one other thing about this film that interests me, Masiella Luscha from the George Lopez Show is in this film, and man she is hot as hell! Way hotter then the lead actress as a matter of a fact, who wasn't really leading material, maybe the film would've been better if Luscha was cast as the lead?

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  6. I liked Allison Miller, I thought she was pretty hot, but her role was pretty superfluous. The George Lopez chick is hot too though. I think I'd like this better than the Twilight films if it wasn't trying to appeal to Twilight's audience. At the very least, Twilight knows what it is and who it's films are made for. I even didn't mind the addition of Miller, as much as the addition of those horrible CGIs. At least Twilight's dialog appeals to a group of people. Bad CGIs like that appeal to no one.

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  7. Well I wouldn't necessarily say they appea to no one, they certainly appeal to me well enough, (Roger Ebert also gave it a positive review) as I happen to LOVE sci-channel original films despite the fact that they have pretty bad effects, but they're so damn entertianing that I REALLY couldn't care less how bad the effects are. For me, special effects are the thing I care about the least when watching a B movie, if they're bad then that's no big deal as long as the film itself is entertaining.

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  8. Im willing to give this one a go, but I wasnt really even that big of a fan of the anime, so I have very little expectation here

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  9. Well, if what Francisco says is true, the movie's worse than the anime, so you might not want to bother.

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