Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein GirlReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 07/22/09 15:45:43
SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's a group of filmmakers cranking out crazy exploitation in Japan; the results are not really good movies by any objective standard, but the creativity, energy, and commitment to giving the audience what it wants has to be admired. In America, we're busy blandly rehashing the ghosts and serial killers of twenty years ago or coming up with minor variations, whereas these guys decided that there needed to be a movie worthy of the name "Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl". If you must watch teenagers get carved up, you might as well embrace the full strangeness of the latter.In Japan, girls give chocolate to boys they like on Valentine's Day, but one teacher at Tokyo Public High School (conveniently located just below Tokyo Tower) spoils all the fun by taking away all non-academic materials - even after goth-loli queen bee Keiko (Eri Otoguro) screams for her ather, the vice principal. Now she can't show Mizushima (Takumi Saito) how much she tolerates him over the losers that make up the rest of the school! But Monami (Yukie Kawamura) can; her chocolate was tiny and people tend to ignore her (odd, because she's beautiful). And it's no ordinary chocolate - it's filled with Monami's blood, so eating it will bring Mizushima halfway to being a vampire like her. Crazy as that sounds, it may not be the strangest thing happening on campus, what with Keiko's father secretly working on reanimating the dead with oversexed nurse Midori, and some truly strange clubs.
Better make that strange and offensive - one is "gonguro", girls in blackface acting like a bizarre pastiche of African(-American) culture, although they're probably not worse than the competitive wrist-slitters. There's good satire possible with both, but filmmaker Naoyuki Tomomatsu isn't working that sort of subtlety, but instead making jokes as big and as broad as the bloodletting, and if you've got a problem with that, well, it's not like you chose to watch this movie because you've got a problem with bad taste and this was the classiest option. Still, it's not like many of the jokes are very funny beyond "I can't believe they did that!".
That would have been nice, but nuttiness is, more or less, this movie's stock in trade, and whether the filmmakers thought of things on their own or inherited them from the manga by Shungiku Uchida doesn't matter. Some of the vampire concepts and visuals are just plain cool: A newly-affected Mizushima sees people as walking circulatory systems, drops of vampire blood display autonomous behavior, and Monami is able to turn the blood she sheds into solid forms that she can control. That's executed with decent CGI, and cool enough that I would be keen to see it in a more serious action-horror movie. I wasn't quite so enamored of the gore effects on the Frankenstein side of the equation, but I do have to smile at the ingenuity of the Franked-up Keiko carrying around power tools so that she can reconfigure her body on the fly, and some of the bizarre forms she takes. The cast mostly avoids embarrassing themselves, hitting their characters' single notes well, but never doing anything that could be mistaken for how an actual human being would act. Co-director and FX supervisor Yoshihiro Nishimura does his thing with aplomb, making the fleshy effects look respectable.
Well enough, certainly, that if you're seeing the film for blood, guts, and severed body parts, you'll certainly get what you came for. By that relatively narrow definition, the movie succeeds - you can't call Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl a horror movie, because it's never scary, and it's only fitfully funny or clever. There's action, but it's not really notable except for how it leads to more splatter.If you're looking for splatter, "Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl" delivers, and with more style than many other movies with the same goal. That's enough on some days, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish these guys were able to bring something more than gore to their mad ideas.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|