Vampires are the new zombies, even in Japan. And so we're starting to see a surge of Japanese live action vampire flicks. The latest to join the hype is Ten Shimoyama. His films often go by largely unnoticed, but when I stumbled upon the trailer of Blood by accident I was immediately hooked. The final result turned out to be just as pleasing.
I could say I'm a fan of Shimoyama's films, but the truth is that even though I appreciate his work a great deal, his name fails to stick in my consciousness. Shinobi, St. John's Wort and his segment in the anthology film About Love are all good stuff, so maybe it's time to finally pay some extra attention when I see his name fly by.
Even though Shimoyama's move to the Vampire genre isn't very original, Blood isn't exactly what you'd call a typical vampire film. It takes some elements from the popular myth but goes its own way to construct a new story from the various bits and pieces. Of course there's blood sucking and slavery involved, yet the center of the film harbors a twisted story of love and romance far removed from the typical vampire setting.
Things get rolling when Hoshino is sent to investigate an unsolved murder before the case is shelved for good. He stumbles upon a lady vampire and gets hopelessly entangled in a feud between her and her former slave/lover. Things go from bad to worse before revealing the twisted nature of the whole setup. And while the story isn't much by itself, it presents a nice twist on the whole vampire sub genre.
Visually there is plenty to be happy about. Shimoyama is superb when it comes to color manipulation, which he immediately shows off in the first couple of scenes. The camera work is well guided and controlled, the action sequences impressive and well-directed. Though having watched a lot of Hong-Kong work recently, it can't hold up to what they are producing over there nowadays.
The score is nice enough and holds a good atmosphere, but again it fails to be truly special or engaging. Pretty standard horror fair compared to some of the better offerings in the genre. The performances are pretty divided too. The male cast is decent enough, but Aya Sugimoto does ruin it a little for the others. Her presence is a little annoying and her acting too theatrical.
The only real downside is Shimoyama's somewhat implausible attempts to sneak some soft erotica in there. These few scenes feel completely out of place and detract from the rest of the film, almost giving it a somewhat unnecessary sleazy after-taste.
Blood is a pretty interesting snack, coming from a director who's building an impressive resume for himself. Maybe he needs a real killer to grab everyone's attention, but if he continues to make films like these, I'll be happy to keep track of him.
Visually luscious, a cool take on the vampire genre and some nifty set pieces are more than enough for Blood to fly through its economic running time. The film is not without faults, but Shimoyama knows to cover them up pretty well.