It was with some anticipation that I was looking forward to the live action version of ‘Blood the Last Vampire’ because the original anime is one of my favorites and the subject matter is such that it seems like it would make a fairly decent live action movie if handled correctly. My main concern would be that the anime only ran a brief forty five minutes long so I was curious how the filmmakers were going tack on enough time to extend their version to a feature film running length. After watching ‘Blood the Last Vampire’ that issue would end up being the least of my concerns as this movie was one big mess of a wasted opportunity.
Saya (Gianna Jun) is a four hundred year old / sixteen year old vampire-girl who is hunting demons around 1970 during the height of the Vietnam War. She works for a secret society that I guess is some kind of offshoot of the CIA who gives the old girl intel and fresh vials of blood to keep her going. Truth be told the girl has had enough of killing these losers because the only demon she has any real desire to kill is the leader of this crew, that being the queen Onigen (Koyuki) who Saya holds personally responsible for her life being such total crap.
Saya’s main CIA handler, Agent Michael (Liam Cunningham), has some inside info where Onigen might be heading to, with this information requiring Saya to reluctantly take up residence undercover as a transfer student at an American army base in Japan to smoke out these demons, and wear a sexy little school girl outfit in the process. Even though nobody else in the school is wearing sexy school girl uniforms. I don’t know much about law enforcement but I always thought ‘undercover’ meant ‘blending in’. The movie proceeds to intertwine Saya’s life with that of fellow high school student Alice Mckee (Allison Miller) who unwittingly observes Saya doing what she does to demons, wrongly thinking the girl to be a murdering wench. Alice tries to convince her dad, the base army general, that there’s some weird stuff going on at the high school but the
CIA clean up crew has already taken care of that mess and thus Alice looks like a blabbering idiot. An idiot who is going to get to the bottom of this mess. An idiot who confronts the dude who she thinks set her up to be killed earlier only to find herself attacked by roughly a million blood sucking demons.
No worries though because Saya will show up and kill them all. Considering that Saya just slaughtered roughly 600 people in a span of about ten minutes I was real curious how the ‘clean up crew’ was going spruce up that mess. Not enough Fantastik in the world to clean up that mess. Anyway, Saya will kill enough demons to get to the truth about Onigen… but guess what? She can’t handle the truth.
There is so much off-kilter with this movie that overshadows the few things that it does do well. One of the good things about ‘Blood the Last Vampire’ is that it is striking to look at as it is overflowing with style and it does have more than its share of ‘WOW’ type scenes. I particularly enjoyed the visuals of the sequences near the end the film and how the artists designed Onigen and her butterfly gown, the way it flowed in the wind and how they still made the character seem somewhat menacing despite the character of Onigen’s angelic appearance dressed in all white. Add to that that this was indeed an action film. Almost non-stop. And if you like action then chances are you will LOVE this movie and that would be completely understandable to me.
Unfortunately there just wasn’t a helluva lot of substance to support this action. Instead of expanding the original story the filmmakers chose to change it, but not for the better. They introduced the character of Alice for the reason, I guess, of giving Saya some other motivation other than hunting monsters, but Alice’s character only got in the way most of the time, being as how she constantly needed saving. Plus they’re basically the same character… angst ridden grown women playing teenaged girls who don’t fit in. I think Saya’s angst was enough already and if they absolutely had to add another character they might’ve wanted to go in another direction.
That being said actress Gianna Jun was pretty good as Saya the Angst Ridden Teen, but she wasn’t quite as good as Saya the ass kicking demons slayer because the woman really isn’t all that athletic, no matter how quickly director Christopher Nahon speeds up the film, then slows it down and speeds it up again. This leads to another action based problem in some of the CGI effects had an old school ‘Jason and Argonauts’ Harryhausen stop motion feel to them. I enjoyed the nostalgia aspects of it but I’m not sure they were going for that. Another thing that suffered due to the preponderance of action… I got to use preponderance in a sentence… is that there was no time to develop our villains, or really anybody for that matter. Saya’s slaughtering of hordes of faceless demons led up to a showdown which had almost no impact. There was this scene near the end were Gianna Jun and Koyuki had to speak to each other, and I’m thinking that neither woman knew much English before production of this film started… so why have them speak English to each other, especially since it was a chore trying to understand what they were saying to each other. I know Gianna Jun is Korean but I’m guessing her Japanese is probably better than her English and I can read subtitles real good.
Mind you the original story really wasn’t all that complex and this movie effectively dumbs it down even further but then had the nerve to have this crazy complex multi-inferable open ended conclusion. Please. The cherry on top was one of our characters giving us some kind of Quai Chiang Kane explanation of this conclusion that made almost no sense while coming straight from left field. Just keep it stupid. Stupid was working for me.
Because ‘Blood the Last Vampire’ moved so fast, had so much action and for the most part looked so very good I can’t be too hard on it, plus the producers actually used an Asian woman for the role of Saya as opposed to Megan Fox or somebody… but I still think this was a lost opportunity to make a really, really good movie as opposed to an 80-minute pop-corn munching mindless action fest.