By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
The first three minutes of “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” contain more blood than you will see in any other movie this year. Actually, it probably contains more blood than what is inside your body. In the first three minutes, you see the flash of two long blades. Then blood spurts, streams, sprays, and spews.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys blood doing all of those things over and over for 84 minutes, buy a ticket to this film. If you’re starting to recoil from this description of the film, stay away.
The film nominally tells the story of schoolboy Jyugon Mizushima (Takumi Saitô, who distractingly appears to be wearing light pink lipstick throughout the film). Popular, although shy in class, he attracts the attention of Keiko (Eri Otoguro), the daughter of a vice principal. Keiko’s rival for Jyugon’s affections, Monami (Yukie Kawamura), arrives as an exchange student.
At first, it seems like we’ve got a high school love story. But wait — Keiko seems obsessed with human blood and wants Jyugon to ingest some of her blood.
Frankly, a lot of the behavior at this school raises suspicions. The school nurse Midori (Sayaka Kametani) seems too attached to the students, especially those that are male. The janitor, Igor (Jiji Bû), glows bright green and rarely leaves the school incinerator, burning things you don’t want to know about. Wrist-cutting with box cutters is a competitive school sport, and the school team trains compulsively with their razor edges.
One mild-mannered character becomes a megalomaniac mad scientist behind the scenes, not caring whose body parts end up in his experiments. He plays gory mix-and-match games with anyone doomed to cross his path.
Most difficult for American audiences, however, is the Ganguro Club. The “ganguro” movement was an actual movement among Japanese girls about 10 years ago. They dyed their hair with various non-natural colors and sported deeply (usually artificially) tanned skin.
But the movie’s ganguro girls act out caricatures of Black American female behavior. One such girl sports a lip disc, not usually seen on Black women. Another wears a track suit and fantasizes about being a Black athlete. From an American perspective, this all looks like clueless, tasteless racism.
“Vampire Girl” has two directors, Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu. I can’t decide whether they get in each others’ way or cancel each other out. I don’t know whether it matters. The film, in any case, has a bad case of the shakes. Actors twitch. The cameras twitch. If you see a not-terribly-funny visual gag, be confident that it’ll get repeated before too long.
The movie even ventures to make a joke out of Takashi Shimizu’s horror film “Ju-on,” released in the United States as “The Grudge.” This proves to be another misstep in a project clumped with them. “Ju-on,” in its original Japanese version, was a fine film. Catching the reference makes you want to watch “Ju-on” instead.
Or go for a walk. Or take up macramé. Or study Buddhism. Or learn French. Anything, really, but watching all the way through to the end of this film. ♦
“Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” plays July 9–10, 11 p.m., at the Grand Illusion Cinema, 1403 N.E. 50th Street in Seattle’s University District. For prices, directions, and other information, call 206-523-3935 or visit www.grandillusioncinema.org.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at email@example.com.