Blood: The Last Vampire (2009) Review

"Blood: The Last Vampire" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Blood: The Last Vampire" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Chris Nahon
Producer: Ronny Yu, Bill Kong
Cast: Jun Ji Hyun, Koyuki, Michael Byrne, Colin Salmon, Allison Miller, Masiela Lusha, JJ Feild, Liam Cunningham
Running Time: 89 min.

By Ningen

Saya is a vampire hunter who’s half-vampire herself. Working for the feds, she tracks down her nemesis, Onigen, in Japan. In an attempt to be discrete and blend in, she poses as a schoolgirl on a U.S. airbase situated in that country. However, she ends up partnering with an unlikely ally in the form of a high-school army brat-by the name of Alice-who has the misfortune of being caught in the cross-fire between humans and the undead. [And, in some cases, humans who are just as bad as the undead.]

Gianna Jun’s [Yes, I’m too lazy to spell out her Korean name.] international debut has been a source of speculation for a while. Is she too old for the part of a schoolgirl? Would they screw up her fight scenes with that much-hated “close-up camera”? Could she pull off a believable fight scene, given that she’s not known for action roles? Well, I’m proud to say she passed with flying colors. The movie is another story. But, given that I’m still reeling from the amateur writing, directing, and cutting we got from Speed Racer, and given that I’m ignoring the shoddy production released by a major studio which wouldn’t have passed muster 20 years ago, which got called Dragonball, Blood is a breath of fresh air.

Directed by the guy who gave us [Crackwhore’s] Kiss of the Dragon, Blood doesn’t suffer the same fate of being written by Luc Besson, which means no random hookers with hearts of gold or brawny guys popping up randomly for no reason, along with (bad) rap music blaring in the background. What it does suffer from is some disappointing creature-shop FX and the need to balance two intertwining plots involving Gianna’s character and a girl who looks like Lindsay Lohan’s dumpy younger sister. Oh, and the setting occasionally shifts between “modern” 1970 Japan and feudal Japan. But no biggie.

All one really needs to know is that Saya is going through an identity crisis in which she can’t decide where she falls under-human or vampire. And her C.I.A. agent compadre can’t think of any place for her, after she’s accomplished her mission. Drifting from place to place with her sword, and her jug of blood, her only companions, Saya clearly needs some emotional support, which she gets with the help of her friend, Alice. On the surface, she’s a bookworm, but Alice is a free spirit at heart; and she even steals her dad’s car to hang out at local party spots in town. Unfortunately, the party’s over when she finds out people at her school are actually vampires. Saya cuts ’em up, but blows her own cover in the process. So her only recourse is to lay low for a while. However, the beauracratic in-fighting between Alice’s father-a general-and the CIA agents, turns deadly, and Saya is forced to protect Alice while escaping a back-stabber in her organization. But with Alice’s help, Saya manages to find Onigen’s hide-out where final showdown between old enemies takes place.

As an actress, Jun holds her own, emotionally, and even displays better English ability than her voice-over in the trailer would suggest. As a fighter, I don’t feel she stands out as well; but that’s only because of the overuse of slow-mo and CG blood. The fight scenes are also mostly one-sided, with very little actual sword-play. Still, it’s nice to see some the hits connecting, for once, and not having to deal with the camera pull back or put more emphasis on flipping than actual fighting. I also can actually believe that Jun had some training, since she doesn’t pull off any moves which are hard to believe for her build?. Nor does she act like each fight is a breeze, and come off barely scratched from each encounter. I really appreciate that they didn’t try to make me think otherwise, like they do in other “wire-fu” flicks nowadays.

The supporting cast could use a little more character development, but at least they don’t stand around looking pretty all day. They also look like they’re prepped for action. In addition, the actors are able to avoid falling into the trap of doing one-note performances common to this genre, while keepin the pace of the movie steady. Part of that is due to their wardrobes and hair-styles which actually blend in with the settings. I’ve never seen a recent movie so invested in at least getting the “look” right. So, regardless of how you feel about the final product, Blood should at least win some awards for make-up and fashion, if nothing else.

The monsters could use some work, since they look like leftovers from Raimi’s Evil Dead films and Whedon’s Buffy show. But the actors do try to make me feel like they’re menacing. And that’s what counts. In the end, though, Blood is really a b-horror flick with a pretense of depth.

Ningen’s Rating: 8/10 for set design, gore, and emotional range; 5.5./10 for hoaky creatures of the night; 6/10 for sloppy story; 7/10 for the overall product

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One Response to Blood: The Last Vampire (2009) Review

  1. Julz says:

    I thought this movie was okay, but I much prefer the anime – especially Blood C: The Last Dark. I wasn’t too keen on the CGI or how they changed Saya’s storyline in this movie.

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