Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)
Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Gianna Jun, Allison Miller, Michael Byrne, Yasuaki Kurata
Directed by Chris Nahon
After much anticipation, and more than a little trepidation on behalf of those familiar with the original short animé on which it is based, Chris (Kiss of the Dragon) Nahon's live action adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire is gracing theatres.
For those without knowledge of the basic story shared between the film and its animated source, we follow the exploits of a young girl named Saya (here played by Korean actress Gianna Jun) – supposedly the last vampire/human half-breed in existence. She works under employment of The Council, eliminating vampires who hide amongst us in human form using her rather adept skills with a samurai sword. It's the 70s, and Saya is posted undercover as a student on an American military base that has been infiltrated by her quarry, and as would be expected, things get rather hairy (or should we say, toothy). The comparison ends there.
***Mild spoilers may follow***
You see, in order to stretch it out to full feature length, the creators have decided to add a ridiculously cliché and fundamentally lazy back story to Saya's existence. We are informed via scrolling text and voice-over at the beginning (can anyone ever take one of those seriously again after seeing Uwe Boll's disasterpiece Alone in the Dark?) of the existence of the most evil of demons, Onegin – Saya's sworn enemy. Apparently, and this is only from what I could gather (it seems that after creating this whole back story the filmmakers decided they didn't really have enough time to actually explain it properly anymore), Saya's main reason for working with The Council is to track down and destroy Onegin. Via flashbacks, we're transported to Feudal Japan and treated to scenes of her being trained by Kato (Yasuaki Kurata) and learning that Onegin is the big bad who killed her father. Of course Kato doesn't last too long in a battle with wire-fu/bugs-bunny-underground-traveling-tactics-using-vampire-demon-ninjas, and Saya ain't happy with that one bit.
So, with that out of the way, we'll focus on the military base aspect of the film; it's actually pretty decent. For the first 25 to 30 minutes, I thought we were getting a rather solid adaptation. Here, however, we're introduced to one of the flick's weakest aspects – Allison Miller as Alice, daughter of General McKee (Larry Lamb, chewing any piece of scenery he can get near), who gets drawn in as Saya's sidekick for the rest of the proceedings. Her performance here is completely vapid and her character utterly useless. She really does nothing but stand around in a constant state of threat while Saya tries to protect her. Occasionally she'll spout some heartfelt advice to Saya, reminding her that she's human inside, that she has a soul, yadda yadda, like some kind of brain-dead life coach. To be fair, Miller has absolutely nothing to work with here, and the sheer clumsiness of her final line in the movie almost gave me a brain hemorrhage.
Japanese ex-model Koyuki should go down in history as one of the most uninteresting and least threatening villains to appear on screen with the non-role that is Onegin. This “greatest of all demons” does pretty much nothing throughout the entire movie but stand around in striking outfits. She kills one person by waving her hand (which you can see in the trailer) and ..... well, that's about it until the final battle. The climactic scene lasts all of around two and a half minutes and actually made me laugh with its combination of terrible dialogue, extremely dodgy wire work, and sheer ludicrousness.
The rest of the performances meet their marks but are nothing special. Gianna does her job admirably as Saya, and Liam Cunningham gets his paycheck as her Council minder, Michael; however, his almost disinterested line delivery actually works well. JJ Feild joins Lamb in eating the sets, and everyone else is pretty much disposable besides Kurata, who shows us his considerable martial arts skill in his fight with the ninjas – however unfortunately short lived it is.
This leads us to the most unforgivable aspects of the movie – the fight scenes and special effects. As has become an upsetting norm with Hollywood action flicks dabbling in martial arts, the majority of the fight scenes are barely comprehensible. Almost the entirety is shot in mid close-up with jerky-cam (and even an absolutely terrible semi-slow-mo-cam) being a prominent feature. Jun appears to be doing a good job, but for Christ's sake why couldn't they actually give us a chance to get a decent look at what's going on? Everything is also absolutely bathed in CGI. The blood sprays, of which there are MANY, are all rendered in such an absolutely pathetic way I simply couldn't believe it. We have lots of gore with vamps sliced in half vertically and horizontally, decapitations, throat-slittings, arms cut off, fingers cut off, a stab in the eye – the works – but none of it has any kind of effect other than making you shake your head in disbelief. It really is that bad, barely a step above some of the slightly better quality work in a Sci-Fi original. Another laugh-out-loud moment is the reveal of the vampires in their creature form (again, CGI for the most part). At the first transformation the only thing I could compare the creature to is an extremely ugly man-sized CGI midget with wings. It WILL make you laugh.
Basically, there is nothing new to see here – it's all been done before and ten times better (not least by the original animé) and even features a scene lifted straight out, almost verbatim, from Underworld: Evolution. You'll know it when you see it.
Nahon's visual style and direction stay strong for the most part, albeit with an over-reliance on filters, and the score is serviceable if even exciting at times, but not even a relatively absorbing first act can save the movie when the rest of the script is this bad, and whoever signed off on the CGI should seriously be getting their eyesight tested.
As the credits began to roll, I thought to myself, “I can't believe this was a theatrical release.” Neither will you if you pay to see it.
2 out of 5
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