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Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island (2009)
31st Aug 10
High-schooler Akira has finally admitted, two years since the disappearance of his older brother Atsushi, that he won't be coming back and is probably dead, when a chance meeting with a mysterious woman leads him to the cursed island of Higanjima, where he discovers that his brother is still very much alive and along with his best friends, Akira must defeat the Vampires in order to escape Vampire Island.
You can't go anywhere at the moment without catching a glimpse of some Vampire related media; trailers for films, novels, merchandise – and with the mediocre, family-friendly Twilight films dimming our enthusiasm for these blood-suckers, it's tough for new films coming at the end of this popular wave, but if anyone can do it the Japanese sure can.
With other genre films in the mix recently including Alien Vs Ninja, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, Japanese filmmakers are the masters of creating these crazy, blood-drenched live action manga movies. Forget moping, teenage, vegetarian Vampires, this Japanese-Korean co-production, goes back to the primal, blood-lust mythology of Vampires throwing in buckets of blood, a bit of comedy, and martial arts for good measure.
Akira is your average high school boy; he is a victim of unrequited love (the object of his affection is in love with the popular high school jock), having to deal with the everyday problems of growing up, and to top it all off is coming to terms with the loss of his older brother Atsushi who disappeared two years ago when he went away for a romantic weekend with his girlfriend.
It all comes to a head when he meets a mysterious, beautiful woman who provides him with a quick getaway from started on by the high school bullies, and he discovers that she has information on her brother's whereabouts and has proof that he is alive. Akira convinces his friends to join him in battle, and when they get to the island, they come face to face with the Vampires that they must defeat in order to rescue Atsushi and escape the island.
Directed by Kim Tae-Gyun and based on Koji Matsumoto’s manga (graphic) novel, Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island is adventure-fun-with-fangs, and conjures up memories of old Scooby Doo and Power Rangers episodes. Taw-Gyun manages to adhere to many American filmmaking conventions in terms of his direction, which is rather unusual for Manga adaptations, but this soon goes by the wayside when the over-the-top CGI comes into play.
The leader of the vampires, Masa, is by far the most charismatic character, which might be because he appears to have taken style tips from David Bowie's character in Labyrinth, sporting the same long jacket, tight trousers and crazy blonde hairdo. The overall plot is a little far-fetched, but the humour in the movie carries it through, although it is not entirely tongue-in-cheek and there are moments that take a more serious turn and highlight the films flaws. The main one being the CGI monster towards the end of the film – not only does it take away from the Vampire plot, but also it just looks rather shoddy and doesn't fit with the rest of the film.
The only other downfall is that it just feels a bit too long, with 2 hours running time they could have cut a good 20 minutes of unnecessary exposition that interrupts the action and splatter-fest and confuses the audience as to what the movie is trying to be.
If you like Vampire movies and Scooby Doo and aren't too fussed about breaking traditional vampire mythology, then definitely give it a whirl!