Fantasia Film Festival 2018 Movie Review: TOKYO VAMPIRE HOTEL

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TOKYO VAMPIRE HOTEL starts out by demanding that you turn the volume up to the max level, whether you’re in front of the TV, or just watching with a pair of headphones on a tiny laptop screen. I’ll admit, I didn’t do it, because I value my aural health, but anyway… this IS a loud flick! It’s colorful, it’s crazy, and I’d best describe it as Japan doing Tarantino doing Japan. Think Kill Bill, but with more teeth.

Many years ago, a new breed of vampires - the Corvins - locked up the Draculas in some kind of otherworldly underground realm and took their place as the ruling class of bloodsuckers on earth. Three babies born in 1999 at 9:09 and 9 seconds are prophesied to save the Draculas from their fate. The story picks up in 2021, following one of the children - young Mamami - on her 22nd birthday as the vampires come calling to make the prophecy a reality.

We learn a lot of the information above in text crawls. What is this? The Star Wars of Japanese-webseries-turned-full-length-vampire-features? No, it may not be quite as epic as that, but it’s definitely pretty ambitious and for the most part does a good job of reaching its goals. Originally released as a nine-part series by the Japanese branch of Amazon, this is a cut-together version that runs a marathon 142 minutes.

The length may be a deterrent for some, but director and writer Sion Sono manages to keep the pace fast and the blood flowing freely enough to keep interest. Any concerns raised by editing together a story originally intended for episodic format are unfounded, as it flows nicely and doesn’t feel disjointed... for the most part. There are couple of dips in action during the second half, but the lengthy, bloody climax makes up for it.

And if you’re looking for the red stuff, boy oh boy, does TOKYO VAMPIRE HOTEL have you covered! There’s plenty of trademark Japanese squirting bloodshed on show. A lot of it might be CGI, but there’s also a great deal of practical work shining - or should I say “splashing” - through. Flesh is torn and heads roll in a barrage of eye-popping mayhem.

Sono manages to pull off scenes that feel truly big, with plenty of extras and actual location shoots that give it that extra “oomph”. It’s always cool to see the streets of Tokyo on the screen. However, part way through, the action shifts to Romania - a favorite location for cheap horror movies - and it feels slightly disorienting. Apparently Sono didn’t do this as a budget saver though, rather insisting the production move there for the authenticity of the vampirism, I guess. I’m not sure it added or subtracted to the overall picture, but I like the cut of his jib. When the characters aren’t outside, most of the film takes place in the elaborate set of the “Vampire Hotel”, and when we find out what the hotel actually is, shit gets even crazier.

Between the comic book action, and characters that pop off the screen with an over-the-top vitality reserved exclusively for Japanese cinema, everything in TOKYO VAMPIRE HOTEL is heightened to the nth degree.. The cast is populated with bubbly, murderous women and villainous men that chew the scenery at every opportunity.  Take one look at the promotional materials for this flick and you’ll know what you’re getting into: a fun, bloody piece of horror action that may possibly run a little long for some folks. If you’re in the mood for what is essentially a live action anime feature, you’re in for a treat. Check it out.

TOKYO VAMPIRE HOTEL is part of the lineup at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2018.

NonSequitur