In plot terms, this is a standard revenge tragedy with a few scenes from Star Wars spliced in. I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. Most hero epics follow the same pattern: Orphan sets off to do battle with his nemesis, the quintessence of evil. Along the way he fights and spectacularly defeats improbable numbers of evil and increasingly powerful henchmen. But on coming face to face with the biggest, baddest baddie of them all, he finds a mirror of his own self and becomes aware of his own dark side.
Switch ‘he’ for ‘she’, and ‘a galaxy far away’ for 1970’s Japan and you have this movie in a nutshell. And it is none the worse for following a tried and tested formula.
You don’t go to a ballet, a rock concert or a fireworks display for the plot. And let’s face it, you don’t go to an oriental vampire and demon martial arts flick, for that reason either. A movie like Blood: the Last Vampire is going to stand or fall on the quality of the fight choreography and the precise genre-styling.
On that basis, the film delivers more-or less what you’d expect. Our hero is a samurai sword wielding immortal with a need for regular blood refills, who just happens to look and dress like a Japanese high school student. The demons she fights cleverly disguise themselves as human for most of the time, transforming when needed into a range of fanged beasts. The first set are little more than martial art-enabled zombies, but the medium range change into heavily muscled, winged and fanged creatures. The big baddie is of course perfectly human-looking, and would not look out of place on the catwalks of Paris or London, if she could stop decapitating people for long enough.
Does the styling work? In part. There are good fights, lots of brooding silences and more wire work choreography than you could shake a stick at. But the intermediate beast creatures were distinctly dodgy. More like 1970s Plasticine Godzillas than 21st Century digi-tech creations.
Hero and side-kick battle their way entertainingly through to the climactic scene – which was so Star Wars-like that I was sure they’d mention ‘the dark side of the force’ at any moment. (Alas, they didn’t.) And in the end, naturally enough, room was left for a sequel.
If you like creatures with fangs doing battle with sword-wielding Japanese schoolgirls (and if you are 18 or over) this might well be a movie for you. But you’ll have to overlook the dodgy monsters.