Synopsis: From a Producer of Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon comes Blood: The Last Vampire, based on the cult hit anime series. Demons have infested Earth. And only one warrior stands between the dark and the light: Saya, a half-human, half-vampire samurai who preys on those who feast on human blood. Joining forces with the shadowy society known as the Council, Saya is dispatched to an American military base, where an intense series of swordfights leads her to the deadliest vampire of all. And now after 400 years, Saya’s greatest hunt is about to begin.
Honestly, if I hadn’t enjoyed the original animated short on which this is based, I probably wouldn’t have considered watching this film: it looked like a generic martial arts film with a supernatural bent to it. And I’ve seen a few… enough to satiate any curiosity that I normally would have. Plus which I’d read a middling review of it.
But I rather enjoyed the anime, warts and all. So, when I happened to stumble upon this live-action version in a second-hand store, I decided to take the plunge – knowing full-well that I would probably never see it again, given its limited release in the North American market. It was a “now or never” moment.
I hadn’t planned on watching it during this month’s horrorfest, but I stumbled upon it last night and decided that it would make for a great follow-up to ‘Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl’. So I postponed my original selection by one night (wait til you find out what it is! it’s going to be doozy! ) and tackled this blood-soaked vampire actioner instead.
It started off rather nicely. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the anime, but the vibe was similar enough that it made for a decent substitution. It was pretty good until about the 40 mins mark, after which it went off course and was less about Saya’s lifelong quest and became more of a buddy movie in tandem with Alice, the other protagonist – the one we’re supposed to relate to.
Honestly, while the original story worked in the context of a 30 mins short, this extended version becomes a bit too convoluted for even its 85 mins run time. A lot of stuff simply doesn’t make sense, such as the fact that countless dozens of people were actually demons and, after Saya kills them all, no one notices their disappearance. As well, for a group that’s been around for ages, the Council are a pretty sloppy, unprofessional bunch with terrible judgement.
The ending was also a load of rubbish. Not the final battle, which was a bit dull and clichéd, but the final moment: Alice, played by Allison Miller, made a speech that was completely laughable and, to top it all off, didn’t look like she could keep a straight face. It gave me the impression that it was unscripted, or conceived on the fly at the last-minute for lack of any better ideas. It was such a horrible way to go. Total garbage.
Gianna Jun, however, was perfectly cast for the role and pulls it off commendably. It’s not an emotionally challenging role, but I’d be curious to see more of her films; she totally stole the show (mind you, the rest of the cast vary between marginally competent to slightly south of adequate, so… ). She also demonstrated a lot of skill in the more physically demanding scenes; she completely convinced me that I was watching a vampire huntress.
Many of the fight scenes were exciting, if somewhat unoriginal (the one with the hordes of demons, for instance, despite an epic lack of verisimilitude, was a joy to watch). One of the choices I found interesting was the look of blood when it flows: it mostly looks like liquid pearls pouring out of the victims’ bodies. That was neither realistic nor all that original, I’m sure, but it was neat to see. I almost wanted to see more of it.
The CGI effects (including the blood, although that was passable) were subpar; everything looked out of place and the animation itself was amateurish. But, for what it’s worth, the special effects in ‘Blood: The Last Vampire’ were a notch above the ones in the original ‘Clash of The Titans’. It’s not saying much, but it’s a kind as I can get with this one.
Still, the film had nice look, despite the CGI; it often looked like a TV show, but a quality one (the beginning, in particular, reminded me of ‘The X-Files’, for some reason). The film is also accompanied by a very dynamic soundtrack that puts you right in the middle of the action. As an audio-visual experience, it’s mostly a good time.
But, in the end, the script and acting simply don’t carry this film. What could have been mindless fun in the same vein as the ‘Blade’ series turned out to be a dullard. It’s a shame, really, because I sure would have loved more adventures of Saya (if Gianna Jun returned in the role, of course ).