FOR HALLOWEEN NIGHT FILM FUN
(A Film Review by James S. Dorr)
Well, that is if you don’t get offended too easily (or have Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker finished rolling over in their graves yet?). You see, everything in this film is excessive. Everything. Yet part of the point is that’s the way it is in Japanese society, especially with teens. There are the ganguros, for instance, girls who paint or tan their faces a deep brown-black, wear white lipstick and eye shadow, and otherwise emulate American Blacks who here take their models, seemingly, from 1930s cartoons. And then there’s wrist-cutting (“Wrist cut is very popular in Japan,” according to one source. “Some people attempt ‘Wrist cut’ for autoside, but many people do ‘Wrist cut’ to ensure they are living. Japan is very controlled society. It is difficult to feel that people live their own life.”), which here includes a sanctioned school team and competitions to see who can fill buckets the fullest with blood (the girl who cuts her arm entirely off is not the winner!). And then there’s the teacher from China who has super lungs from all the pollution on the mainland, so much so that he can smoke ten cigarettes all at once. These things, believe it or not, turn out to play an important part in the film’s denouement.
It starts off calmly enough, however (well, not counting the opening sequence where an otherwise quiet girl destroys three zombie-like creatures to lead to the title sequence, disarming [literally], face-peeling, and beheading, accompanied by spurting gore in the more than bucketful), with an explanation that another Japanese teen custom is for a girl to give the boy she fancies a piece of chocolate on Valentine’s Day, which he will then eat to show reciprocation. But when quiet transfer student Monami, the only one with chocolate left after a zealous teacher has confiscated all the other girls’ candy, offers hers to clueless male heartthrob Mizushima, Mizushima finds that the candy is filled with blood and yet strangely delicious. In fact, he feels strange after he’s eaten it, among other things having flashes of people as walking circulatory systems, and no wonder, it turns out. The blood is Monami’s, demure, shy, who skips class a lot on excessively sunny days either staying at home in bed or holing up in the school nurse’s infirmary, and who is a vampire.
Unfortunately for young love, however, Keiko, the vice principal’s daughter, has the hots for the young man as well, while the vice principal who has his own hots for the oversexed school nurse (as do most of the male students except Mizushima) has a secret laboratory in the school basement where he, seeing himself as the spiritual heir of Dr. Frankenstein, attempts to cut up and then reassemble various corpses and bring them back to life. So, when Monami corners Mizushima on the school roof and explains to him that with another drop of her blood he can turn fully into a vampire too and live with her and no longer grow old and (cutting her lip with one of her fangs and puckering up for him to kiss it) would he be interested (he says no at first until she explains that, since he now knows her secret, the alternative is that she’ll have to kill him, at which point love triumphs), who should appear but a jealous Keiko. Then, attempting to attack Monami, clumsy Keiko tumbles over the roof’s edge and goes splat below.
The body is brought to the nurse’s office, the nurse takes it downstairs, and even she is a little surprised when Keiko’s pop is delighted. Here is the perfect corpse for him to bring back to life, but first it must be augmented by certain improved body parts which the nurse, who moonlights as a psycho killer, delightedly gets for him.
Then comes the main event, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, beginning in the school gym but soon moving outside to a more heroic venue, while still inside Keiko’s dad and the school nurse (who, after having been killed by an all-but-torch-bearing mob of faculty and students who have traced the recent disappearances of experimental body-part donors to her, has been brought back as a zombie) continue their own bout matched against “Mr. Igor,” the school janitor (the old janitor had somehow disappeared at about the time Monami transferred in), and a newly released Mizushima who resurrected-and-augmented Keiko had captured and lashed to a cross to lure Monami to the gym in the first place.
The film is hilarious, gory (in spades — one reviewer has noted that people here seem to have thirty gallons of blood which, when tapped, will spray out over everything near them including the camera lens), over the top Japanese grindhouse, and yet it works. The special effects, to be sure, are largely cartoonish, ditto the sets and most of the characters, but the glue that holds it together, I think, is Yukie Kawamura, the actress who plays Vampire Girl Monami. She plays it straight (well, almost straight, think of Carolyn Jones as Morticia in the original 1960s TV version of THE ADDAMS FAMILY) and is actress enough that she pulls it off. The poor girl who had to flee with her mother, pursued by a relentless vampire hunter, and saw her mother murdered before her eyes. Who’s been on her own for hundreds of years since, so she says to Mizushima who comes to genuinely love her in spite of everything (including a twist at the very end reminiscent of the Swedish vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN). Who has limitations (she can be killed, for instance, as was her mother) but has no qualms about admitting she’s left her own body count behind her, yet exudes a shy charm — and makes us accept it. She kills people, sure, we all have our faults, but she’s SO CUTE.
You just have to see it .
James Dorr is a short story writer and poet working largely in horror and dark fantasy with occasional forays into mystery and science fiction. His latest collection, THE TEARS OF ISIS, was released by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing in May this year, joining two earlier collections from Dark Regions Press, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE and DARKER LOVES: TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET, as well as his all-poetry, all-vampire VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) from Sam’s Dot/White Cat. His own cat, Wednesday (for Wednesday Addams of the TV show THE ADDAMS FAMILY), is more a dark gray herself and spends her days (when she’s not asleep) slinking about Dorr’s fairly extensive DVD and VHS collection.