Friday, 25 June 2010

Bloody Schoolgirls!

Blood: The Last Vampire 2009
Hong Kong/France/China
Directed by Chris Nahon
Pathe DVD Region 2

I remember seeing this movie at the cinema last year and really loving it. Alas, my local fleapit wasn’t showing it for longer than a week and I forgot all about it again. Then I saw that it was out on DVD and picked it up for a fiver (the magic price!) so I took another look to see what I hadn’t been missing the first time around.

Just like when it was on its first run last year, this film blew me away again. Now I have to say, first and foremost, that I haven’t seen any of the anime on which this is based... so Blood purists might like to leave my review at this point and go and read the opinions of someone more informed than I.

If you’re still here after that last paragraph then... thanks, it’s great to have you. Truly appreciated.

Ok. So where to start... This film is set in 1970 and the director is really good to us, in my opinion, by shooting and editing the film in a cinematic language that really does reflect a 70s style of film-making in many respects. I may overuse the term Bavaesque but there’s no better way to describe the lighting schemes for everything leading up to the last 20 minutes or so. Highly saturated reds and greens stimulating your eyeballs. This combined with shots that wander off naturally and catch your eye with pertinent details without shouting at you to look at the right place. Almost like an Altman movie in that respect although the collision of 70s styles means you can’t just pin it down to the direct influence of any one director.

Absolutely beautifully shot and though the story kinda takes an anticlimactic dip at the end... visually it is just so cool! Bleached out colours with just a dash of red here and there while breathtaking and surrealistic imagery slowly unfolds before your eyes. A really good looking film - I’m ramming this down your throat a bit now, aren’t I?

The film has an international cast and they’re mostly speaking English. Fair enough, it is dealing with a bunch of demons on a US Army Air Base. Solid British “genre” actors like Liam Cunningham and Colin Salmon are always fun to watch.

Now there are some problems with the film but they’re livable and do nothing, in this reviewers humble opinion, to mar an otherwise remarkable movie.

It’s been reported that there are a lot of anachronisms in the movie... military sidearms that weren’t actually invented until two years later than 1970 for example. Fair enough... it doesn’t bother me unduly... this is someone who’s scratched his head many a time over the continuity on the second to fifth 1940s Mummy films (and they’re challenging) so a little drift of a few years is not going to bother me anymore.

The CGI blood is a little... um... lumpy and not as spurty as you might expect from a film of this genre... but the CGI demons more than make up for it. I’m assuming this was fully deliberate but they look like special effects the way they would have been done in the 70s. I KNOW Colin Salmon’s demon manifestation is CGI but it looks so much like an old, jerky, Ray Harryhausen or Willis O’ Brien special effect that I remember my heart leaping with joy when I first saw this at the cinema. A really charming and surprising special effect.

And about those fight scenes... they’re more fast editing modern school choreography than what you might have seen from, say, a Shaw Brothers picture of the era... so that just jars a little bit with the style of most of the rest of the movie.

And why the heck is it called Blood: The Last Vampire if their seems to be a whole load of vampires in it too, as well as demons? They said what now?

But these, all these, are minor grumbles in the face of a really good time at the movies. All self respecting fans of vampire schoolgirl demon hunters slicing demons up with a samurai sword should make a point of watching this one.

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