When I was very young, one of the coolest films was a meeting of creatures from two separate worlds: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. At the time, this was a crazy idea: take two of the best classic creatures and have them face off; who wouldn’t want to watch that? As it turned out, they actually didn’t meet up until very late in the film. But at that age, it was a thrill to see it happen.
Team Nishimura has specialized in Things You Never Thought You’d See. They have practically created a cottage industry of spewing blood, shredded flesh and body modification, all immersed in a silly, almost childish sense of humor. But don’t mistake their films for family events. The makers of such memorable titles as TOKYO GORE POLICE and the upcoming ROBOGEISHA do not truck in safe entertainments, and VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL arrives with little that anyone but a diehard fan could appreciate…or stomach. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Essentially a love story at its core, VGVFG takes on the guise of a high school musical that removes song and dance and adds power drills, gory Valentine’s Day treats, and various sharp implements. The kids and the mayhem they get involved in are nothing like you would expect, even if you are versed in horror films. The first thing you realize is that the school is divided into many cliques: the Ganguro club, for example, is made up of a group of girls in varying states of blackface; not out of any mean-spirited racism, but thanks to a nearly devout sense of black pride they can never realize in their own skin. There is also the local division of wrist cutters who practice their slicing skills with great fervor, as if a chess team gone anemic. These social groups are shocking at first, but you actually find them rather sweet after a while. They know what they want, they are committed to attaining it, and they take their causes seriously but have no ill-will towards others.
Amidst the many factions are Mizushima, a good looking and much sought-after young man, and Monami, a transfer student with a little secret: she’s a vampire, and she wants Mizushima to be one, too. But Keiko, who leads the Frilly Girls Club (I don’t know…they all had lacy clothes so I’m just guessing), has already laid claim to Mizushima, and with a deranged Vice Principal for a father and a very bad temper she sets out to reclaim her man and get rid of the new girl. But nothing’s very easy in high school, especially when your new hunchbacked janitor is a servant of the local vampire.
VGVFG gets off to a wild start, with a battle that has Monami tearing apart three creatures, leaving only a stack of skulls. In these first moments VGVFG gives you most of what you need to know about the techniques to follow: enough prolonged rending of limbs and excessive blood spray (camera lenses frequently are awash in blood), but it only hints at the film’s ultimate flaws. For as sharp as its humor can be, and as outrageous as the violence becomes, VGVFG does get bogged down in its own excesses. If you can stomach what you’re seeing, you may still find the overlong sequences at any given moment a bit boring despite the action. The filmmakers’ editing style does not help either, with several scenes coming across as amateurishly repetitive . Flaws are far more obvious on the big screen, so perhaps the film will benefit from DVD viewing.
Still, the very spirit of the film is so agreeable that if you can handle the exceeding gruesomeness, you have a hard time not getting caught up in the sheer giddiness of it all. Team Nishimura has indeed created their own film genre: Japanese Splatter Slapstick. (Review by Steve Norwood - content provider for the Asian Film Festival of Dallas - AFFD)
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