Vampire Girl VS Frankenstein Girl:
My droogs and I have always been into a bit of the old ultraviolence, and so have the Japanese! Yes, we here in the States can make them rough, but no one slices, dices, and sprays blood in quite the same manner as hyper-violent Japanese movies do. Of which, I am fully in support. So when directors Tomomatsu (Zombie Self-Defense Force and Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) started to really deliver the red stuff, I quickly perked up. Yet somehow, much of it left a sour taste in my mouth, sour, that is, until Vampire Girl came along. Now, that taste is the sweet, metallic taste of blood, and I truly understand.
You see, even if viewers were able to suspend their disbelief, and buy into the notion of someone spraying blood from their wrists, like a fire hose, for 3 minutes straight, there's still the notion of context and story to contend with. Many early hyper-violence movies seem concerned with nothing but ridiculous, patently fake (although beyond exuberant) gore. The stories are nonsensical, characters depraved and unsavory, and there's not much else to speak of. But with Vampire Girl, Nishimura and Tomomatsu have hit some kind of delirious plateau. Early trailers made this look like another tastelessly bloody, alienating romp. And while it does have more than its fair share of monumentally silly gore and screeching, way-over-the-top performances, Vampire Girl indicates that now everyone - including yours truly - finally gets the joke.
Some segments of the world population see a direct connection between sex and violence, and many cinema fans would argue that no one draws that conclusion better on the screen than the Japanese. 'Roman-Porno' links the romantic with the graphic, while 'Ero-Goru' draws parallels between the erotic and the grotesque. (Anyone privy to my love life knows the latter concept is a reality.) For this romp, what the directors term a horror-comedy-romance, those notions are taken to sublime hyperbolic extremes. Adapted from an Uchida Manga, the daft yet ancient storyline involves a love triangle; Monami (Yukie Kawamura) the exchange student (and also Vampire Girl) can't help but steal Mizushima (Takumi Saito) from his ex-girlfriend Keiko (Eri Otoguro - also Frankenstein Girl).
A combination of cross-cultural confusion and extreme distractions renders this plot a bit loony and obligatory - ignore it and you'll still love the movie. Thankfully this time, the gore comes with more universal context that shines through what, in other films, seems like stylish gore for its own sake. Blood sprays for even longer takes, an insane School Principal plays a guitar made from a spinal column, in full-on kabuki gear, howling about how he'll outdo the legendary Victor Frankenstein; and there is worse. We'll assume the more sensitive of you in the audience can handle exploding heads and severed arms used as helicopter rotors, but can you take the school-sponsored Wrist Cutters Club? Can you wrap your brain around the school-sponsored Super Dark Girls Club? I don't pretend to understand what everyone was driving at with this club, one in which members are made-up to look like the most base of African stereotypes: huge afros, gigantic lips, humongous lip-rings and more. To call this little aspect of the movie racist would be a severe understatement, and as far as I'm concerned it will always cloud the production; regardless of intent or cultural context, it simply goes too far.
Then again, that's what this movie is all about. All things considered, such extreme stereotyping is right in line with the rest of this movie's accomplishments. It's a solid and righteous lampooning of most everything it presents, fetishizing violence and the spurting, splashing and spraying of bodily fluids in ways no serial-killing-rapist could match. Not that I'm calling anyone who likes this stuff a serial killing rapist, mind you. From the opening scene during which heads are peeled of their skins like apples, to the lunatic Tokyo Tower battle, it's all simply about the loves of some kind of semi-evil Pollyanna character, and her rubbing our faces in our love of watching schoolgirls mutilate. And somehow it all makes ironic sense, as if wallowing in ichor had the same significance as religious fervor. When Vampire Girl bathes rapturously in the blood from a severed jugular, while a dreamy '40s-style Big Band love ballad plays, you, like me, will also start cackling in glee.
This Region 1 DVD comes in 16 x 9 format enhanced for widescreen TVs. Including a second disc for extra features really helps the AV quality, leaving this movie enough disk space to look crisp, clean and sharp. I didn't notice any compression artifacts or other digital defects, and enjoyed rich, saturated colors - especially the color red!
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Audio in Japanese is probably the way to go. Even though you must read subtitles, at least you aren't further distracted by dubbing, which never sounds quite right. An additional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Audio Track in English is included for those of you who absolutely can't stand subtitles. Both tracks sound fine, without distortion, and with a great balance between dialog and music. A slightly more active mix is your reward on the 5.1 track.
This 2-Disk Set, encased in a standard sized keepcase with a flipper and slipcover, delivers a feature-length set of extras, plus a Funimation Catalog insert. First up is a 20-minute Opening Day Stage Greeting, which amounts to your standard premier Q&A session with the directors and stars. It's fun mainly for hardcore fans, but worth at least a cursory spin. Next is the 14-minute Making Of Featurette 1, which in typical style for Japanese productions is a high quality mixture of BTS footage spent tracking down actors and asking them how they are doing, etcetera, and BTS footage of scenes being filmed. A little bit of atypical openness about the process goes along with plenty of politeness and reserve, a truly intoxicating mix, considering what these actors participate in on film. The 50-minute Making Of Featurette 2 duplicates a tiny bit of the first featurette before launching into the same set-up (this time with chirpy/goofy narration from Kawamura) which follows the production day-to-day until the traditional presentation of a bouquet to lead actress Kawamura after the final shot is in the can. Plenty of attention is paid to gory effects, making this a must-watch for those who enjoy the movie. Lastly the Theatrical Trailer, Previews, and English Subtitles complete the offerings.
While this outrageous horror-comedy-romance contains one truly cringe-worthy element of racial stereotyping, the real joke is how well the main theme is presented. For those who've grown tired of what seems like senseless, antic, gore-for-its-own-sake in movies like Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl gets it all right. Romantic, fetishistic, smart, funny and splatterific, Vampire Girl VS Frankenstein Girl will make you love getting drenched in blood again. Highly Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com