UK DVD release date: 15th March 2010
Running time: 84 mins
Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura & Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Starring: Yukie Kawamura, Takumi Saito, Eri Otoguro, Jiji Bu
UK distributor: 4digital Asia
The emergence of a new Yoshihiro Nishimura film is a giddy moment for fans of Asian cinema. The 2008 title Tokyo Gore Police was a gore fest with a satirical tongue in its cheek and a message referring to the potential dangers that exist within the capitalist world. With that in mind the emergence of Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl from the directors editing suite was anticipated as a chance to enjoy a fantasy world with ultra cartoon violence and at the same time ponder some of the deeper questions that have been on the mind of the gore lover.
Monami (Kawamura) is a newly arrived exchange student to the school with a stained past and a thirst for more than simply starting a new life. Having caught the eye of Jyugon (Saito) in one of their many crazed classes together the couple feels the flicker of new love sparking their teenage desires. The problem comes from the character Keiko (Otoguro) who along with her gang has pressured the love-struck Jyugon to be her boyfriend. It is the subsequent battle over Jyugon’s affections which triggers the crimson war that is Vampire Girl (Monami) Vs. Frankenstein Girl (Keiko).
With a title like the one this film carries you would be foolish to expect anything of serious content or merit. Like Tokyo Gore Police and The Machine Girl its goal is to be easily accessible and entertaining with a fantastical story that has little actual narrative but is high on visual excitement. If you’re lucky there’s a subtle core message that is there to be taken or not depending on your preference. But with Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl what is delivered is a completely different monster.
The film instead contains some of the sociological in-jokes that lived within The Gore Police such as the wrist cutting competitions but instead foolishly embraces these passing statements and attempts to drag the laugh out over the 82 minutes. In one scene, a young pretender to the wrist cutting throne loses their hand from constant hacking. It’s neither funny nor horrifying; rather the cherry-soda looking blood which gushes with a ferocity and capacity hitherto unknown in medical science distracts the viewer from any dramatic effect.
Most of the actors perform admirably in their characters, without having to truly test themselves thanks to the poor dialogue and soap opera style direction they were receiving.
The character of Ganguro girl (a Japanese girl who had surgery to become African) was painfully unfunny, unwelcome and instead of a socio-political message seemed to provide flat out racism to the film. It echoed of an era of cinema that the world is supposed to have moved on from and was the one genuinely uncomfortable element of the film amidst all the wrist cutting, blood spilling and throat biting.
Narratively the film was a void and with such a rich background to tap from in the Vampire and Frankenstein mythologies it’s simply unforgivable that they went out of their way to disregard conventions that a cinema audience has accepted as laws of their creatures. It is also highly frustrating to see when there’s no sign of any attempt to even create a subversive mythology. The filmic narrative seemed to have been quickly ditched in favour of an MTV music video style of direction allowing the director to have ample amounts of pointless, distracting bloodshed repeatedly with very little reference to its purpose.
82 minutes is not a long time. But continuous drawn-out blood spilling pieces in succession with no overarching direction makes 82 minutes feel like an eternity. The lack of a focused direction was so painfully obvious at times that it seemed like Nishimura & Naoyuki Tomomatsu (co-director and writer) had divided the film equally in order to play a cinematic game of one-upmanship, all to the detriment of their ever increasingly frustrated audience.
The one saving grace, rather fittingly for a feature length music video was the soundtrack. Heavy amounts of Japanese jingle friendly pop and cyber punk that in any other film would be a negative (due to its clunky overwhelming placement) came as a welcome distraction from the filmic mishmash occurring on screen.
Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl like its namesake is an assortment of completely different parts with little cohesion, with the exception of the opening title sequence it never really looked like it knew what it was doing, how or even why. Whether it was a case of too many cooks spoiling the director’s chair or having a bad recipe to begin is a mute point. Asian cinema is an extremely rich market that is constantly reinventing itself and pushing conventions for the sake of a better end product (see the work of Chan-Wook Park or Takeshi Miike). This film drags the genre back ten years and even then is a poor excuse for a melodramatic rock video. With all the intelligent, forward thinking facets of Asian cinema, why waste time on this?
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