REVIEW: DVD Release: Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl

Film: Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl
Release date: 15th March 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 85 mins
Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura & Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Starring: Yukie Kawamura, Takumi Saito, Eri Otoguro, Jiji Bu
Genre: Horror/Action/Comedy
Studio: 4Digital Media
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

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 feel 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 film’s running time. 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, and, more so, unwelcome - instead of a socio-political message this was straightforward racism. It echoed 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 watch 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, made it feel like an eternity. No cohesion, and the lack of a focused direction was so painfully obvious at times that it seemed like Nishimura and 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.

Asian cinema is an extremely rich market that is constantly reinventing itself and pushing conventions for the sake of a better end product, but this film drags the genre back ten years. DL

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