Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)
Let’s talk about the blood in Blood: The Last Vampire. It never looks like blood. It’s not the usual ketchup squirting; it’s been rendered in a computer, and it looks like a mist of dark globs floating in the air like fat houseflies. This same computer, which must’ve been a Commodore VIC-20 someone picked up on eBay, also renders vampiric beasts known as “chiropterans,” which must be code for “looks really fake.” I prefer the fake-looking practical effects of the past, which at least had a certain charm. When an effect is fake and coldly computer-generated, you just picture a bunch of nerds sitting at their monitors chugging Mountain Dew and trying like hell to get the effects done on a budget of $1.98.
The movie, long in development (though not long enough), is a live-action reworking of a stylish and far more cinematic anime from 2000. That earlier film jumped in and got the job done in 48 minutes. This new one pads it out to feature length, adding scenes and entire subplots that have nothing to do with the Blood mythology and certainly don’t add anything of interest. The basic premise is the same: Saya (played here by South Korean actress Gianna Jun) is a half-human, half-vampire who must destroy the chiropterans. The action unfolds on a U.S. naval base in Tokyo during the Vietnam War. Saya, who is hundreds of years old but looks like a teenager, infiltrates a school on the naval base to see if there are any chiropterans there.
Blood’s original creator Hiroyuki Kitakubo was inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the anime plays like a pilot episode for a show (the material later spawned the TV series Blood+, which got pretty deep into the mythology). The movie version appears to have been made by people who watched the first ten minutes of the anime and then decided to take the story in the most clichéd direction imaginable. An American girl has been added — Alice, played by Allison Miller, who’s sort of Kristen Stewart Lite, and Kristen Stewart is lite enough as it is. Allison’s dad is a general on the base, and she keeps getting into vampire trouble that Saya keeps having to bail her out of. The first major fight scene, which pits Saya against dozens of vampires, is completely unwatchable because it’s shot so obliquely and edited so frantically to attempt to hide Gianna Jun’s, to put it generously, inexperience at fighting.
The fights go on forever without even beginning to work up any excitement, and there are many scenes of people standing around in rooms trading solemnly ridiculous dialogue. Really, is there supposed to be any entertainment value in this thing, or is it meant to be a ponderously stupid endurance test? The material obviously worked better as an anime, but if they were going to go live-action, they either needed to spend more money or go all the way into bargain-basement cheese. If you make a giant bat-like creature in a computer and it still looks like crap, you might as well just put a guy in a suit; it’d look like crap at half the price. Anyway, it all leads up to a fight between Saya and her evil white-clad mother, and that goes on forever, with the combatants being thrown through buildings and poor Alice dropped from a great height into shallow water, which she somehow survives, and there’s a laughably pretentious final line that calls back to Lewis Carroll’s Alice, and … My companion, an anime fan, said it best: “The only thing they got right was the first ten minutes. The rest is just bullshit.”