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Blood: The Last Vampire

I wrote this last night, when the pain was still fresh in my memory...

Before I go into my rant on the cinematic stillbirth that is the live action adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire, I should warn you that there will be many spoilers. So if you're intent on seeing this God awful movie, you should stop reading now.

First, a little background. A few years ago, when I was still in secondary school, one of the British TV stations (I'm almost certain it was Channel 4) started broadcasting Anime every week in the early hours of Saturday morning. Starved of real Anime, save for the children's shows like Pokemon, I would stay up late to watch these incredible films. I saw Akira for the first time, as well as other films that made a huge impact on me, such as Battle Angel Alita.

But the one that always stuck in my mind the most was Blood: The Last Vampire. It was dark and violent yet featured many well-rounded characters that you could easily sympathise with. At only 48 minutes, it was lean and fast but didn't skimp on the story. In Saya, the titular last original, you had a character who was strong and flawed, incapable of forming relationships with people but showing great sensitivity to the demons she hunted. I loved this Anime, and I still do.

To be honest, I didn't even realise they were making a live action version until a few days ago, when I came across the trailer on Youtube. Then I checked the cinema listings this afternoon and found that it was actually playing tonight! Normally I'd be wary of American remakes, but this had a respected producer attached to it. Also, the trailer seemed to show that it kept faithful to the original story of the Anime, which had Saya pose as a student in the high school of a US Air Force base just outside Tokyo in order to investigate a serious of violent murders. But oh, how the disappointment came fast and furious.

I knew something was up when the movie began with scrolling text, telling us that in the 16th century demons feasted on the feudal tribes of Japan. In response, an international group simply known as The Council was created to combat these demons. Thanks guys - we really needed that information to understand what was going on. The Anime made us think; you guys know exactly what your target audience is.

At least it moves on quickly and blesses the faithful with a recreation of the infamous opening scene in a subway train. Saya and a Japanese businessman sit in the otherwise empty train. The lights go out, but the businessman is less concerned with feeling Saya's butt than with getting slashed across the face with a katana. At the next stop two silent twins clean up that mess and we get to see Liam Cunningham make his first appearance! I really like Liam Cunningham. Maybe it's because he's a fellow Irishman, but he's a good actor when he wants to be. Sadly, he doesn't want to be on this occasion. Hey, it's cool, I understand - sometimes you take the role to earn a pay cheque and keep your name out there. But Liam, if you weren't bothered, what the fuck was up with that weird accent? Liam is joined by a greasy haired smarmy sidekick who we're supposed to hate immediately. Mission accomplished - it's hard to sympathise with someone who has no redeeming features.

Saya goes home and practically performs fellatio on a bottle of blood. We later learn that she kills the vampires (or "bloodsuckers", because apparently no one in this movie has ever read Dracula) so that The Council will provide her with the blood she needs. I guess all the butchers in Japan must be kosher and that it's impossible to pick up some pig's blood. She can walk around in sunlight, so it's not like she can't just go down to the market and pick up a steak, or something.

I should point out that at least they're still staying faithful to the original Anime at this point, because we then learn about the murders at the base, and then we get to meet Alice, the spunky American girl! Because God forbid a story set in Japan, about a Japanese vampire fighting Japanese demons, would be focused on the Japanese character. Alice is the daughter of General McKee, who runs the base and is the bastard love child of George Patton and Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. She wants to prove that she's not a kid anymore, which she does by running away and acting like a spoilt brat. We're supposed to like her, though, because she doesn't call Saya a Jap to her face.

Having seen the Anime, I know that there are two vampires in the school, both in Alice and Saya's class. Originally these two kept their identities a secret until a big Halloween party when they're forced to fight Saya. In the live action version the girls just aren't that patient. It seems they took the role of being airheads a little too seriously because they decide to kill Alice following a kendo class.

Not for the last time, I found myself asking, "Why?" Why would they do this? Alice has no idea what they are, and she poses absolutely no threat to them whatsoever. And why would they kill her with fucking samurai swords in a high school gym? Why not wait until one of the many times she sneaks out of her dad's house, kill her and dump her body in a ditch? Someone is going to notice if the general's daughter shows up with slash marks all over her body in the middle of the school. It seems they're doing this for the sole reason any bad guy does something stupid for no explanation - because they can.

Naturally Saya comes to save the day (she does that a lot in this movie.) She grabs her sword in a cool though impractical manner, swinging her leg back and kicking the bottom of a cylindrical holder, which I guess is normally used for art supplies and not 16th century Japanese swords. The sword pops out and she grabs it; this is cool when she first does it, but gets tiresome by the third time.

I will say this - the fight sequences are largely well done. But when you have one of the producers of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on board, finding a good fight choreographer shouldn't be a problem. Another thing - for a creature with no heartbeat, vampires have incredibly high blood pressure. Either that or they have arteries in every part of their body. Indeed, everyone in this movie is seemingly packed full of blood just waiting to burst out. In one scene, Saya's mentor has the tops of his hands cut off, and blood starts gushing out of the stumps. I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure the hands are made up mainly of bone and cartilage, and don't contain arteries. If they did, every time you got a paper cut you'd need a fucking transfusion!

Anyway, meaningless padding follows, then Alice steals her dad's car (again) and drives into the city to find the kendo teacher, who had arranged for Alice to get killed. We discover, to nobody's surprise, that he too is a vampire, as is everyone in the bar that they're in. It reminded me of an episode of The Simpsons, when Homer is worried that Bart is turning gay. So he takes Bart to a steel mill, and everyone who works there turns out to be gay.

That's how I felt. "And the entire bar was full of vampires..."

OK, so let me get this straight. The Council keep Saya on because she's the only one who can track down and defeat these demons, yet here is a building full of vampires and nobody noticed? Just like nobody notices when they all start chasing Alice down the street, grabbing pipes and sticks as weapons. You don't need weapons - you're fucking vampires!

Saya comes to the rescue again. She always seems to be in the right place at the right time for these things, like she possesses some kind of ESP that lets her sense when dumb American chicks are in peril. What follows is a ridiculous fight sequence involving gallons of CG blood.

I don't get why anyone would want to create CG blood. It looks retarded, and it can't be any less expensive than just using blood bags and squibs. Indeed, you don't need to render a blood bag for every frame of the fucking film. If anything, Blood: The Last Vampire is a great example of why it's never a good idea to utilise CGI if you can't afford to do it right. When any of the vampires transform into their monstrous forms, they look awful. The animation is so bad I can't believe they actually thought they could get away with it. Ray Harryhausen made more realistic models with play dough and wire.

Saya and Alice track the vampire back to the base, where they recreate one of the most famous scenes from the Anime, stopping the vampire before it can escape on a transport plane. This looks cool, of course, but has no context with what came before it. Why did the vampire fly all the way back to the base when it could just as easily have flown off into the suburbs, or something? And why does Saya give it some of her blood before it dies? Again, there's been no indication that she feels any empathy with the creatures, and it seems like they only kept it because fanboys (like me) expected it.

So, we're about forty minutes in and the Anime's plot is resolved. Now what? Well, there's a bit more padding, and we get to the actual plot, which is about Saya avenging the death of her father at the hands of the demon Onigen. Then, for no discernible reason, Alice's father is killed by Liam Cunningham's smarmy sidekick. It had something to do with covering up The Council's activities, but I think the real reason was to give Alice a reason to stay with Saya. There's a bit of a shoot-out, Liam Cunningham gets killed (boo!) and smarmy sidekick is stabbed to death, but not before putting two holes in Saya's torso. She and Alice drive... somewhere to do... something. I'm not exactly sure, but it involves Saya succumbing to her injuries and Alice carrying out the traditional "cut yourself and allow the good vampire to feed so that they can regain their strength and fight on" scene. She takes Saya's sword and cuts along the palm of her hand. Now, we've already seen this sword slice a man's head in two, and she runs about six inches of the blade across her palm, so I'm pretty sure she splits every tendon in her hand for a trickle of blood that an unconscious Saya shouldn't be able to drink anyway.

Bravo, American chick. In all honesty, I think this was only included because the actresses refused to do a lesbian scene - God knows they've been doing their best to up the sexual tension.

We then get Saya's background story - twice - before they're back on the road. Onigen sends her lieutenant to capture Saya. It seems they have a bit of history, as she stabbed him in the eye by sliding backwards down a tree (it's one of those things that can't be described; just try to find it online.) "Capture Saya" apparently translates to "Run their truck off the road and down a ravine." I guess the director wanted to recreate that scene from Wanted with the train carriage trapped between two cliffs, only with a truck. They have a bit of a fight before the whole thing crashes another 100 feet into the darkness.

Amazingly, this doesn't kill our heroines. Instead, they wake up in the Japanese Silent Hill, all fog and embers on the breeze. The movie gets a Long-Haired Spooky Child (integral in any Japanese or Japanese-themed movie) before Onigen herself shows up. There's a bit of a fight and then there's the revelation we should have seen coming a mile away - Onigen is Saya's mother!

Hold up. We've already established that Saya's father was a feared warrior and demon slayer. And it's also been made clear that Onigen is the oldest, vilest, most evil of demons. So what we're now told is that Saya's father had sex with Onigen, then she killed him, gave birth to Saya, gave the baby to the demon hunter's most trusted ally - who she later had killed - and then waited around for five hundred years before finally facing Saya and revealing the truth?

That makes no fucking sense! Why would a man who kills demons fuck the worst demon of all!? Why would she then give the baby to a man who trains her in the art of demon hunting!? She wants Saya to be her heir and take her place - wouldn't it have made more sense to keep her close, so that she could teach Saya how awesome being evil is? Onigen is a fucking moron!

And then, out of nowhere, Alice comes to save the day - and gets her ass kicked! Then Saya kills Onigen with a primal scream that I'm guessing was supposed to be dramatic, before Alice wakes up alone at the bottom of the ravine in an ambulance. No one believes her story, and the fact that we last see her sporting crazy eyes means she's probably going to spend the next few years in a psychiatric hospital. She mentions something about Saya looking for a way back, probably out of the spirit world, and then the movie ends. My ass was out of there like a shot.

It's incredible that they took such great source material and produced such an awful movie! This isn't even Summer popcorn fodder. If you thought the latest Transformers movie lacked a coherent plot, you haven't seen Blood: The Last Vampire. Avoid this film at all costs. Watch the Anime instead - it's half as long and five times better.