“Tokyo Vampire Hotel” is a two and a half hour feature cut of a nine-part miniseries, with the same title, that originally aired on the Amazon Japan streaming service. You would expect a property like this to be developed the other way around from film to mini-series which has been done many times before by Netflix. I haven’t seen the miniseries but this feature length cut is an interesting film, but it does have some odd issues.
“Tokyo Vampire Hotel” is a gory Japanese vampire film that mostly takes place in the titular hotel. Two warring vampire clans, the Draculas and the Corvins, have been at each other’s throats for thousands of years and now that a special human with ancient vampire blood in her veins has been found, the final showdown is about to happen in this strange hotel filled with maniacal vampires and their human captives. Still with me? Good let’s sink our teeth into this one.
Tokyo Vampire Hotel is screening at the 19th Japan Film Fest Hamburg
There is a lot going on in this film. The Corvins who are the bad guy vampires in the story have captured a large group of humans with the intent of making them into a blood farm, a concept I found delightful, but didn’t pan out like I hoped it would. The overall plan is to pair off the humans, have them mate and produce children, so the Corvin clan can drink the blood of this human farm forever. The timing of this isn’t exactly perfect since the Dracula clan has found the one remaining human who has ancient vampire blood in her veins and are planning on bringing down the Corvins and their strange hotel. If this all sounds a little goofy, you aren’t alone, but once you get settled into this two and a half hour vampire story, you are often distracted by all the other crazy stuff going on.
Sion Sono definitely has style, I am just not sure I like it. His method in “Tokyo Vampire Hotel” drifts from Grand Guignol wrapped in primary garish colors to dark street scenes and back again as often as possible. Looking at his set designs is enough to give you a stomach ache and somehow his depiction of gore is a refreshing break from the bright yellow rooms and McDonalds restaurant inspired green and red striped wallpapered halls. Any fan of Sion will likely know this is a feature cut of a miniseries and I couldn’t get my mind off what I wasn’t seeing instead of the two and a half hours of what I did see. But after this was over, I didn’t want to watch the miniseries, which I think is a bad sign. I didn’t find any real meaning or message in this film. It’s more of a shock and awe art piece about vampires, magic blood and human cattle. If those words add up to something you would enjoy you might like this one. The movie feels long at two and a half hours but a morbid curiosity of what insanity is coming next will keep you glued to your screen.
Manami played by Ami Tomite is the focus of the film’s story. She is the chosen one who has ancient vampire blood in her veins and is tossed around and chomped on by numerous vampires. Ami Tomite spends a lot of the film covered in blood and in various states of agony or ecstasy. When she finally gets some control over what is happening to her Tomite is over the top with energy and some wirework helps her kick some vampire ass. The star of the film is K played by Kako, aka Kaho Indo. Kaho isn’t my favorite actor in this cast and she is saddled with the job of holding this insane story together. She does a believable job through the film, getting a head to toe bloody soaking in one scene that must have been a messy experience. My favorite actor is Shinnosuke Mitsushima as Yamada. He reminded me a bit of Severen played by Bill Paxton in “Near Dark”. He is our anti-hero like Paxton’s Severen always killing, dancing and gloating to anyone who will listen. Wouldn’t you if you were a vampire? We spend a lot of time with Yamada and his crazed presence keeps us off guard since we never know what he will do next.
Cinematographer Maki Itô works hand in hand with Sion’s style. The camera is very dynamic in this film. It hovers above vamps and humans as they run and whips around the scene as fast as a machine-pistol gunning down innocent bystanders. The film takes place in rooms usually packed with human captives, fighting vampires or gore covered blood dolls, so the camera is often in tight with whatever is featured in the scene. It is very rare to see any long shots or long takes, since the camera tends to fly around the room and keep us a bit dizzy, since we aren’t sure what might be coming next. An interesting thematic device but I found it got stale quick.
“Tokyo Vampire Hotel” is odd in everything that it does. The story gets silly, the fights are often long and the main characters are all crazy except for maybe K (Kaho). K acts as our anchor as we trip through this blood soaked surreal hotel and the chaos that hides in every room. If you are a vampire film fan you will likely enjoy this. I found it lacked a real commitment to horror which is something I need when I partake of vampiric cinema. The vampires weren’t scary and the story is pretty light fare. But as far as pure crazy eye candy goodness goes you can’t ask for better than this if that is what you are in the mood for.