Saturday, June 27, 2009

a slightly long-winded review of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

While I’d hate to break the massive combo of friend drawings I’ve been posting this month, I’ve had an incredibly busy and fun week, which was launched by a surprise interview at an incredibly awesome satirical news publication that I sent my resume to. Whether or not I get the job is a shot in the dark, but at least I got to see the inner workings of the website for one of my all time favorite sources of humor. Plus the place was a few blocks away from Little Italy so I got to chow down on some delicious Italian food and pastries as well as the mass of obscure Japanese video game t-shirts at the Uniqlo store in SoHo.

Apart from that, I went back into New York City the following day to watch Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl at the IFC Center’s New York Asian Film Festival. This is the latest film from Yoshihiro Nishimura who directed Tokyo Gore Police which I saw at the very same film festival the previous year. While the film was made on a significantly smaller budget than Tokyo Gore Police (the director said it was $350,000 but the translator seemed to be having difficulty, so I’m lead to believe it was more along the lines of $3.5 million, or about a third that of Gore Police), this one definitely had more of a plot than straight out social satire.

What set the screening of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl apart from Tokyo Gore Police was the fact that this was the worldwide premiere of the film and the two directors, as well as a few of the special effects and CG artists were present at the screening and were available for a Q and A before and after the screening. I know Subway Cinema will put a video of the interview up on YouTube and I’ll embed it as soon as it becomes available.

The screening was completely sold out several days before it was scheduled and the line at the IFC Center went all the way to their second floor 45 minutes before the movie began. The crowd consisted of fan boys and man-children of all shapes and sizes (me included). The most interesting thing I observed was a kid around 10 years old who took his mom to the screening, in line he was telling his mother about the toothed vagina in Tokyo Gore Police, referring to it as “alligator legs”, his mother was either really cool or she has no clue what she was getting in to.

Before the screening started, in the New York Asian Film Festival tradition they started with a DVD raffle. While last time they included a lot of obscure Japanese and Korean horror films, this time it was mostly just porno films and an incredibly out of place hospital drama called Vital. Granted, all the porno films had justifiably over the top titles including Grope Train 6, Sex Machine and Naked Rashomon (established humorously as “you’ve all seen Akira Kurosawa’s classic film, but have you seen the naked version?”). All these films were introduced by a overly enthusiastic fast-talking man in a pink Salmon suit, I really wish I could find him on YouTube as whatever I write here will never do him justice. (UPDATE! FOUND THE VIDEO)

Yoshihiro Nishimura gave a brief introduction to the film telling the audience that if they were fans of Tokyo Gore Police that they might be disappointed because this is actually a romantic comedy…set in a high school…with splatter; Following that he said that him and his co-director did not share a brother or “gay couple” relationship like the Cohens or the Wachowskis but instead fought like cats and dogs “or rather vampires and frankensteins” throughout the entire filming. The curator then asked him to explain the ganguro fashion trend in Japan, and then a few minutes and a too soon Michael Jackson joke later, the screening began.

As for the movie itself, it was definitely a lot more refined than his last film Tokyo Gore Police and offered a lot more intentional (or shall I say less satirical) humor making it more into some weird hybrid of an ‘80s John Hughes teen comedy and a low-budget splatter picture from Troma. The plot revolved around a love-triangle at valentine’s day after a boy ate a chocolate containing the severed finger from a foreign exchange girl that had a crush on him. After eating the finger, he turned into a half vampire and the girl who was a full vampire; wanted him to ingest more of her blood to become a full vampire…or she’d kill him. Meanwhile his current girlfriend investigates the relationship and is ultimately killed and then turns into a hyper Frankenstein monster that was engineered from her mad scientist of a father. The plot was non-sense and more a vehicle for the film’s ridiculous humor to come out.

Much in vein of Tokyo Gore Police’s fake advertisements ever present throughout the movie, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl featured several subplots that were only loosely connected to the actual plot. This included a sexy school nurse, janitor and vice principal who where all psychopathic killer scientists of sorts planning a super human experiment (or Frankenstein in this world) composed of body parts from minor characters in the film. Meanwhile, we’re treated to the Chinese director of The Grudge teach a Chinese class while cursing the English adaption of the movie, an Olympic sport afterschool style wrist cutting league and a quasi-racially insensitive Ganguro girl meet-up. It was all great fun leading to a legitimately entertaining final battle between the vampire and Frankenstein girls respectively; All of the this was accentuated by an energetic and catchy J-Pop soundtrack to turn all the offensiveness into boyish charm.

After the screening the directors and his crew of special effects artists leapt on stage to answer a few questions. I’m fairly certain this video will appear online but apparently this was the first time the co-director has seen the completed film and was “surprised to know that he made a movie that was actually, good”. I was able to land a question about breaking into the Japanese gore film scene, which he replied in saying just “find work” and that he was able to assemble a crew of gore hounds by meeting people working on various independent films and for special effects projects.

The last few tidbits they revealed at the Q and A session were that they were working on some short films set in the Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl universe to pad out the special features on the DVD and that there will be new shorts on the special double-dip release of Tokyo Gore Police. He also said that his next film will involve high school girls running over zombies with cars and it will be at the New York Asian Film Festival the following year. I’m already stoked.

There was an after party immediately following the screening but I didn’t actually go to it. It was getting late and I was unsure of the train schedule, plus me and my friends didn’t park a car at the train station and I didn’t want to bother my parents too much if it got any later. However, the movie experience was absolutely awesome and unforgettable and way worth the $13.50 price of admission.

…besides hack Hollywood directors like Michael Bay could learn a thing or two from these low-budget splatter films, they’re able to keep spectacle exciting without throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at the screen. Its also worth noting that both Tokyo Gore Police and The Machine Girl will arrive on Netflix streaming (oh yes, there will be streaming...) in the coming weeks. I recommend you check them out.

blog comments powered by Disqus