Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Blood: The Last Vampire" (2009)

Starring Gianna Jun, Allison Miller and Liam Cunningham
Written by Chris Chow
Directed by Chris Nahon

Based on the anime of the same name, the live action version of "Blood: The Last Vampire" is an intriguing piece of cinema in that the plot makes absolutely no sense, but the action sequences are pretty nifty.  The film is stylishly directed, making good use of its obviously low budget.  But the story is utter nonsense.  By the end of it, you find yourself asking, "...What?"

Saya (Gianna Jun) is a hundreds-years-old demon slayer, but she looks much like a teenage girl.  Her handlers in The Council, who charge themselves with ridding the world of demons that hide in human form, give her a new assignment: to go undercover as a high school student at a US military base just outside Tokyo, Japan where several people have turned up dead recently.  These deaths, the Council believes, were caused by 'underling' demons feeding in anticipation of the arrival of Onigen (Koyuki) the ultimate demon.

At the base, we are introduced to Alice (Allison Miller), teenage daughter of the base commander.  One day, her fencing instructor sets her up to be killed by two classmates. Saya arrives in the nick of time, and Alice witnesses Saya slicing and dicing her demonic classmates.  She calls her father, who locks down the area, but their investigation is thwarted by members of the Council posing as CIA officers.  But Alice doesn't take no for an answer, and begins attempting to dig deeper and her actions have disastrous consequences: A Council agent named Luke kills her father.

Why this happens, I have no clue.  Why he then ends up killing his partner and trying to kill Saya and Alice is never explained.  He spouts off some dialogue about how his partner had grown "soft", but that's no reason to kill him (y'know, since they were partners...)  It's not like Luke is actually going evil and worships the demons or something, he just randomly decides to kill his partner and the greatest weapon the Council has against the oncoming demon onslaught

Eventually, Alice and Saya escape, only to end up in some kind of dream world where they confront Onigen, who reveals that she is Saya's mother.  How or why any of this happens is also never explained.  Why Alice is allowed to wake up and rejoin the real world while Saya remains there after defeating Onigen, is never explained.  So what we're left with is a stylish film with solid performances, punctuated by cool, fun action sequences... but with no idea how or why any of the events in the film are taking place.  It all starts out well enough, but goes totally off the rails in the second half.  As a result, the film feels like key scenes are missing, a swiss-cheese sort of effect on the whole proceeding.  The holes are almost laughably distracting, but the action sequences are enthralling.

Watching Saya take out what must have been at least a hundred demons in a rain soaked alley way is the centerpiece fight sequence of the entire film.  It's filled with cool moves, and lots of general badassery.  Eventually this, too, stops making sense since the demons start out looking a lot like the vampires from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" but then they appear to be capable of further transformations into large, monstrous beasts.  This happens twice in the film, but one wonders why it doesn't happen more if Saya has so much trouble taking out the demons in this particular form.  Why did a hundred of them attack her as humans if they could just gang up on her as demons?  Who knows.  Still, these sequences are pretty fun.  A fight between Saya and a one-eyed demon while on a truck precariously perched over a ravine is pretty cool, too. 

The final battle between Onigen and Saya is another highlight, as Onigen's robes function almost like tentacles, whipping all around her.  It's visually quite entertaining, even though the story has long since stopped having any kind of semblance of coherency. 

I guess I can recommend "Blood: The Last Vampire" on that premise - Don't try to understand what's going on, but just watch those fights.  They're pretty cool.  At least, as a rental anyway.  I'm not sure I could say someone should own this movie unless they're an ultra-huge fan of the franchise.