I guess it was only a matter of time for “Blood: The Last Vampire” to be turned in to an honest to goodness big budget movie. I mean the original short film by Hiroyuki Kitakubo has become somewhat of a cult classic in spite of its short running time and brings to the table some of the best animation I’ve ever seen in a horror oriented anime I’ve ever seen. The original take focused on a vampire hunter who had to infiltrate a girls school to stop vampires hiding among the ranks of students and teachers. You’ll find that the 2009 live action version by Chris Nahon isn’t much of a departure. In fact there are times where the movie duplicates scenes from the anime shot for shot which ends up becoming a mixed bag in the end.
Nahon’s 2009 take focuses in on some of the same themes but also expands on the mythos to create a more linear story all to avoid fan outcry. No matter how good it was, the original “Blood: The Last Vampire” was way too short and people wanted a sequel. The modern adaptation barely clocks in at ninety minutes but surely enough is as entertaining as the original was. Taking place in Post WWII period, vampire hunter Saya is appointed to the local army base to infiltrate a school teeming with vampires under the guise of the living. Gianna Jun is a lion as the vicious but silent Saya who is given the task of being the only living being able to bring down vampires and demons for the US government and this taxes her to the degree where she finds she’s (much to her surprise) pretty much outnumbered. If you’ve seen the original my description sounds pretty closely based on the original except that Saya is more closely characterized with intimate moments between she and her relatives and how she got her start working as a vampire hunter.
We’re also introduced to protagonist Alice, the daughter of a local General who bears witness to Saya’s skills first hand and is accidentally pulled in to her world where plans are being made to wreak havoc on humanity. Ultimately, “Blood 2009” reminded me a lot of “Blade II” where as it works not only as an action film, but as a horror movie too, and that opinion is helped by the fact that the monster effects are pretty damn top notch, not to mention Nahon’s direction which is often times beautiful as he convinces us successfully that we’re watching a vampire period piece. The fight sequences are dynamic with Saya inventing new weapons when confronted with enemies and relying on her trusty sword to be rid of the vampire baddies.
But if you’re looking for a story you’ll get none here. In spite of the attempts at bringing more dimension to Saya and adding new characters, “Blood” fails at doing so and just eventually gives up and provides us with sword fight after sword fight filling in for what should have and could have been a more in depth premise and look in to the inner workings of Saya and how her life has been. Worst of all the character Alice is often times dead weight and there never seems to be a use for her beyond keeping the movie from becoming completely Asian and adding that touch of vanilla the movie seems to press on audiences. She contributes nothing to the fight, whines a lot, and she’s so broadly written she may as well have been immigrated from a typical slasher film. Actress Alison Miller seems to become a presence signifying that the studios have no faith in the lead Jianna Jun and shoe horn Alison in an almost insulting technique.
Meanwhile by the time the climax rolls around, Nahon completely abandons the prep school plot in exchange for more Saya melodrama and flash backs that ramble on and become tedious after a while. You go in to the movie expecting nothing but vampire killing and gut stomping and you’ll find no end of disappointment because there couldn’t have been a better adaptation if they tried; it’s blockbuster material. I truly enjoyed the live action version of one of my favorite animes of all time. While the movie staggers and bumbles at times with forced Westernization at every turn, “Blood: The Last Vampire” works as a dual layered film that adapts the anime while expanding on the mythos of the original in spite of the paper thin plot. Newcomers need apply for this pretty raucous action horror. If anything watch it for the cool vamps and powerful performance from star Jun.