When it comes to American horror, there has always been a relatively straightforward formula that filmmakers have adhered to. Certainly, over the years, there have been adjustments and tweaks to that very simple equation and those shifts from the norm either propel a feature to a singular stardom or the oblivion that bad movies go to after they die upon release.
And after watching the legendary Japanese director Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, i can honestly say that Japanese horror does not nor ever will compartmentalize itself to these standards. Sprung from the twisted mind behind Machine Girl, Suicide Club, and Mutant Girl Squad, VGvsFG plays in a field of all new insanity.
The films follows new transfer student Monami (yes, no pun intended) as she sweeps into her new high school virtually unnoticed. Despite her amazing beauty, she flies under the radar and generally is nowhere to be seen. But when the mysterious new girl catches the attention of the most popular guy in school, Jyugon Mizushima, it seems love at first sight.
But Monami is no ordinary young woman and she hides a dark secret. She is a centuries old vampire, preying on anyone (in the spectacular Japanese blood-spray fashion) who crosses her path or learns of her secret.
After tricking Mizushima into joining her as a blood-thirsty creature of darkness, it is Mizushima’s old girlfriend, Keiko, who takes things to the next level.
After accidentally dying during an altercation with Monami, Keiko’s father, Kenji Furano (a science teacher at the school who hides an alternate identity as a Kabuki-dressed psycho-scientist intent on reanimating the dead) utilizes an errant (and very locomotive) sample of Monami’s blood to reanimate his daughter and upgrade her in a totally absurd Frankenstein fashion.
Soon, the two titans collide in an epic battle ripped straight from the pages of a Dragonball Z comic, with the heart of Mizushima hanging in the balance.
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Starring: Yukie Kamamura, Takumi Saito, Eri Otoguro, Sayaka Kametani, Jiji Bu, Eihi Shiina
Written by: Shungiku Uchida, Naoyuki Tomomatsu
It is very difficult to break down VGvsFG into merely good and bad components due to its inherently foreign design. It’s best to say that the most attractive aspect of the film is it’s energy which rips through the ceiling of extreme, slam dunks a couple stories over Shaquille O’Neal, then brings the backboard down in a shower of glass, and lands in an alcohol-filled pit of razor-wire.
The entire movie is shot like a series of fast-paced J-pop music videos, each one depicting a different emotional aspect or character aspect. The intriguing part of this is how Nishimura was able to capture the essence and translation of each moment via music, lights, and timing. The final battle is a remarkable example of this as Vampire Girl takes on the hideous Frankenstein Girl atop a massive tower in a fight to the death.
The denizens of the school’s various clubs (The Wristcutter Club and The Super Dark Girl Club) are also bigger than life and almost impossible to comprehend. The Wristcutters engage in a daily exercise of slashing their wrists, eventually carving their own arms into nearly impenetrable scarred masses and The Super Dark Girls tan excessively and engage in all manner of attempt to become “Black” (donning afro wigs, collagen injections, extreme tanning, rap music, track running and even African tribal attire). Needless to say, when Frankenstein Girl shows up, each member of these clubs has assisted in some way in welcoming her back.
Last but not least is the entire concluding sequence. From the moment Frankenstein Girl reveals herself, to the showdown between Igor and Kenji Furano (the kabuki reanimator), to every shot in the final epic showdown between the two girls, the film is a nonstop, adrenaline pumping bloodbath.
As far as the bad goes, literally, despite the overwhelming urge to lose one’s mind during the viewing, there really is nothing wrong with VGvsFG. The film in no way takes itself seriously and for the very modest budget Nishimura worked with (and the two weeks prep time he had, yes, two weeks!) the film is surprising brilliant for the tools at hand.
It must be remembered that this is a Japanese horror flick with standards and tastes far different from our own. Most audiences will laugh all the way through this spectacle of murder, practical effects, romance, and science fiction (especially with the presence of poking jokes aimed at American film cultures).
Acting: Exactly what you would expect from Japanese horror. The acting is quite sound for the extravagance of the film. Yukie Kawamura shines as Vampire Girl embracing the horror with every fiber of her being, Jiji Bu rocks the house as Igor and the always impressive Eihi Shiina (Audition) goes for absolute broke as Monami’s mother, killed by a Constantine-inspired vampire hunter hundreds of years ago.
Directing: Flawless. For the extreme limitations at hand (like a budget less than half a million), Nishimura stuns with every aspect of the film making his achievement all the greater.
Writing: Classic J-Pop science fiction. It won’t win any awards but it is damn entertaining and quite funny at times.
Sound: While the music can be unnerving and seems to misstep at times, the sound effects utilized in this film bring a whole new level to squeamish. Blood splatters and sprays violently, body parts are messily hacked and drilled, and vampires haven’t sounded this good since Buffy was on the air.
Visuals: Like a visit to the laboratory of Dr. Timothy Leary, you’ll probably think someone spiked your Dr. Pepper with an illicit substance. Highly-charged scenes with seizure inducing light changes and super fast cuts give a music video feel as each emotion plays out on the screen, personified with both light and sound.
An absolute guilty pleasure for those who love Japanese horror, sci-fi, or bloody spectacle, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl will satisfy the palattes of even the casual observer. Though to many it will come off as just another entry into the practical effects-laden Japanese gore porn pile, only the true advocates of horror and cinema extremists will be able to appreciate it for what it is: a piece of work from a director who utterly adores film, loves the industry, and simply wants to entertain you by any means necessary.
I give Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl a 7.5 out of 10.