When I saw the names Shimoyama Ten who directed the Ninja romancer “Shinobi Heart Under Blade” and sexy Aya Sugimoto who sizzled the screen with the two-part erotic drama “Flower and Snake” in a vampire-fantasy, I immediately picked up the NC-17 film “Blood” (aka. Buraddo, 2009). I kept my expectations low since this was obviously meant as a B-movie with some romantic sensibilities, lots of martial arts action and a decent serving of sex and nudity. Well, those are nice elements I’d like to see when I stay home watching a movie.
Hoshino (kanji Tsuda) is a police inspector trying to solve the 14 year old murder of a maid at a mansion belonging to a beautiful woman with the name of Miyako (Aya Sugimoto). Unbeknownst to Hoshino, Miyako is a seductive vampire mistress who likes to enslave men to her will with the promise of immortality. Hoshino is led to suspect a rich businessman called Ukyo Kuronuma (Jun Kaname) as the murderer from 14 years ago but Hoshino is unaware that Ukyo is an Edo-era samurai who had been turned to a different kind of vampire. Now, Hoshino has fallen to the spell of Miyako and must play a game of love, lust and immortality….Ukyo and Hoshino must fight each other for the privilege of living with Miyako forever.
I am not really sure what to make out of this movie. It has B-Movie sensibilities that I appreciate and I have to admit I liked some the traditional old-school look of the film. Miyako’s dresses, her mansion and the way the director applied certain atmosphere seem to emulate the old-fashioned horror movies of the past. Aya Sugimoto is still as stunning as ever, and still looks so sexy (she was 41 during its filming) that she manages to convince me that she is indeed an ancient vampire seductress who has lived for more than 400 years. Sugimoto is known for several sexy roles such as “Nightlife in Tokyo” and “Flower and Snake”, but do not expect “Blood” to be more sex than action, with Shimoyama Ten as director, you know it’ll be focused more on martial arts action than eroticism. Not to say, that the sex scenes here don’t sizzle, because they do, Sugimoto is worth the price of the dvd, but they weren’t the movie’s focus.
The film’s story is all about how far one would go for love and lust; it is a love story that brings forth obsession and how it can lead to ruin. Now it is not as ambitious nor intricate as the classic “Ugetsu” or Hideo Nakata's “Kaidan”, the plot in “Blood” is pretty simple, and it proves to be its strength as well as its main weakness. Much of the film’s plot elements and mechanics are a little too undefined. I did however, like the fact that there is a special blood that enables one to drink the blood of a vampire; it helps explain why they can move around under sunlight and why they need to be dependent on Miyako’s blood. There is a lot of reading between the lines necessary to understand its plot which makes the screenplay rather flimsy. I also had some issues looking at the characters; they are a little underdeveloped and whatever development there was wouldn’t stand up to close scrutiny.
There is some mild blood and very little disturbing violence, though I am sure some viewers may be a little turned off with naked girls being cut and their blood sucked dry by Ukyo (sexy Rin Sakuragi makes an appearance). It feels rather exploitive on some scenes but I cannot really complain about that. The action scenes did have their charm as a deaf girl called Brigitte (Yuri Morishita) was just pulling off some impressive moves, I was disappointed that she wasn’t utilized more in the fight scenes. The fight between Ukyo and Hoshino was kept aloft though some good editing and flashy camera angling, but Kaname did most of the heavy-lifting in making the fight convincing. It was alright, but it just couldn’t match the quality of Morishita’s fight scenes.
I guess to like “Blood”, one has to know what they are in for. The dialogue in the film has some issues, I can understand some Japanese and I felt that some sentences were lost in translation due to the just-passable subtitles. The film can be a decent diversion, as long as you accept the fact that this is not a horror movie but a vampire-fantasy focused on erotica and martial arts. It is low budget so I cannot really knock it down for being the way it is. The screenplay is rather uninspired, but if you are just here to stare at Aya Sugimoto and watch some ninja action, then you may not be disappointed.
RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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