Tag Archives: vampire

Yakuza Apocalypse

yakuza apocapypse 1
Yakuza Apocalypse

Seen at LFF 2015

Format: Cinema

Release Date: 6 January 2016

Distributor: Manga Entertainment

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Yoshitaka Yamaguchi

Cast: Yayan Ruhian, Hayato Ichihara, Riri Furankî

Original title: Gokudou daisensou

Japan 2015

125 mins

The ludicrously prolific Takashi Miike (as I write this, IMDB lists 99 credits as director since his debut in 1991) seems to work in different modes. There’s the high-end classy work he did for Jeremy Thomas (13 Assassins, Hara Kiri ); there are the extraordinary cult films he made his name with in the West (Audition, Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer); and there are a whole lot of other films he seems to have tossed of in short order that work on a ‘throw it against the wall and see if it’ll stick’ principle. Yakuza Apocalypse is very much a third mode film.

‘Unkillable’ yakuza boss Kamiura is in fact a vampire, who manages to infect loyal underling Kageyama with his condition after being decapitated by assassins. Kageyama in turn infects some of the common populace and soon the world is out of whack: if everyone is a yakuza vampire, then where do Kamiura’s old gang get their status from? Soon a Kappa demon turns up and the conviction grows that some kind of apocalypse is in the offing. A female yakuza has steaming milk issuing from her ears, with which she tries to cultivate a new crop of ‘decent civilians’. The end of days arrives in the shape of a frog-headed martial arts master who looks like a sports team mascot with a bulging hypnotic eyeball. A Kageyama/Frog smackdown ensues. The world ends.

Trying to describe the plot of this effort is a thankless task. There’s stuff in here from spaghetti Westerns and Road Runner cartoons. There’s a lot of informative and/or baffling dialogue (‘Yakuza blood tastes bad and has no nutrition’). There are nice ideas that go nowhere, and wacky bits of business that occasionally pay off (love that frog). There’s an almost philosophical thread about what defines a yakuza. (Kageyama’s skin is too sensitive to allow for the requisite tattoos, the dearth of ‘decent civilians’ makes the old gang question their place in the world.) But much of this gets forgotten as the chaos mounts. It’s not boring, but it is frustrating, all a bit scrappy and makeshift and half-baked. There are the desired moments of weirdness that Miike fans would expect, but here they just don’t add up to much. Ah well, there’ll be another one along any minute…

Mark Stafford

This review is part of our LFF 2015 coverage.

Watch the trailer:

Therapy for a Vampire

Therapy for a Vampire

Director: David Rühm

Writer: David Rühm

Cast: Tobias Moretti, Jeanette Hain, Cornelia Ivancan

Original title: Der Vampir auf der Couch

Austria, Switzerland 2014

87 mins

David Rühm’s Therapy for a Vampire, which screened at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, is a spry, witty and likable Gothic comedy that puts Sigmund Freud together with a pair of undead shape-shifters in 1932 Vienna.

Director David Rühm displays an encyclopaedic knowledge of classic horror tropes, with his arch-fiend gliding along with the camera like Lon Chaney Jnr in Son of Dracula, or moving out of sync with his shadow like Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. An unusually in-depth familiarity with vampire folklore allows him to include in his film, for the first time that I’m aware of, the vampire’s mythic mania for counting: if objects are spilled on the floor, a vampire must stop what he’s doing to gather them up and count them. OK, I suppose Sesame Street’s Count may have exploited this trait previously. But it’s a great device, since it implies that vampirism and obsessive-compulsive disorder may be connected, and suggests that this particular vampire may not be misguided in seeking the help of a therapist.

Tobias Moretti is both graceful and funny as the lovelorn Count, turning in a physical performance that successfully bridges the gap between supernaturally creepy and funny. Jeanette Hain as his black-bobbed partner embodies the word ‘vamp’. There’s also an all-too-rare chance to see David Bennent, former child star of The Tin Drum and Legend, as his disfigured chauffeur and victim-supplier.

Combining a few simple locations with plenty of fairy tale CGI to create some phantasmagoric settings, the movie manages to look beautiful on a budget.

This review is part of our 2015 EIFF coverage.

David Cairns

Watch the trailer:

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Format: Cinema

Release date: 22 May 2015

DVD/Blu-ray release date: 24 July 2015

Distributor: Studiocanal

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour

Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rain

Iran, USA 2014

100 mins

One of the top picks in the outstanding selection of this year’s Etrange Festival, Iranian filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature mixes sumptuous high contrast black and white cinematography, Italian Western music, Jim Jarmusch driftiness, comics influences, Farsi language and a chador-wearing skateboarding vampire girl to create a seductive, singular world entirely her own.

In the Iranian ghost town of Bad City, a hard-working boy with a 50s car and a junkie father tries to confront the nasty drug-dealer who has them under his thumb, and encounters a strange, silent black-cloaked girl in the process. Tentative love slowly develops between the two even though unbeknownst to Arash the Girl continues to stalk the streets at night and feed on the desperado denizens of Bad City.

The loose narrative meanders with achingly beautiful melancholy through one poetic moment after another. The Girl’s skateboard rescuing of a tripping Arash dressed as Dracula in a deserted street is sweet and funny. The oppressive, forbidding-looking machinery in an oil field is a recurrent backdrop, most notably in a scene where a romantic gift is received in a way that undercuts any potential sentimentality. Similarly, a slow-motion scene of developing intimacy set to White Lies’ ‘Death’ is both tender and charged with an undercurrent of danger.

The love between Arash and the Girl slowly grows amid a sombre world where relationships are all tainted: Arash’s parents, the tragic prostitute Atti with Arash’s father Hossein and the abusive drug dealer/pimp have woven webs of desperation, selfishness, violence and untold grief, sometimes punctuated by awkward, misdirected affection. As the bond between Arash and the Girl tightens, they discover that love is about accepting the other’s ‘badness’ and finding the human warmth you didn’t even know you longed for.

Detached and alone, the Girl is a terrific character, both touching and fearsome, combining childlike ingenuity with a menacing edge. Her charismatic presence quietly dominates the film, and she only needs to appear to create a force field of dark energy on the screen. There is also the clear intimation that she and Atti, the only two women in the film – and maybe the street urchin who has a few alarming encounters with the Girl – know more than the hapless male characters, who do not seem to perceive the forces that influence their lives.

Rich in atmosphere, deliberately slow and stylized, the film is in the vein of Let the Right One In, Only Lovers Left Alive and Nadja, using the vampire figure to dreamily evoke loneliness, desperation and the slim hope for a non-toxic human connection. With very little dialogue, the film uses a striking, luminous visual language of its own creation to tell the beginning of cautious new love. A true gem that is not to be missed.

Virginie Sélavy

This review is part of our Etrange Festival 2014 coverage.

Watch the trailer: