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RATED Not Rated
STUDIO Tidepoint Pictures
RUNNING TIME 56 minutes
- “The Making of Sanguivorous“
An “avant-garde silent film” about a vampire who gets hungry when she’s horny.
Ayumi Kakizawa, Masaya Adachi, Mutsuko Yoshinaga, and Ko Murobushi
A young woman feels ill and her boyfriend tells her a story about a Russian vampire coming to Japan and siring a line of vampires and half-vampires there. The half-vampires will be awakened by their first sexual experience. The young woman and her boyfriend are making out in a park and -surprise- she becomes a vampire.
First and foremost, this movie is not a silent film, despite the distribution company claiming that it is the “first silent Japanese vampire movie”. The first ten minutes are dialogue-heavy. The protagonist prays for her health and then visits her boyfriend in a coffee shop, where he tells her a folk story about vampires. The rest of the film bounces between traditional dialogue, voice-overs, and standard silent-film title cards, which is confusing at best. While the majority of the film has no dialogue at all, it is certainly not a silent film.
The movie doesn’t really have a plot once the girl discovers her vampiric heritage and starts drinking blood. There are two other vampires, an old man and another woman, and they never speak. Once the protagonist has feasted on the blood of her boyfriend, the plot vanishes entirely and the rest of the film is based solely on visuals and music/sound effects.
The focus on visuals would be fine if the movie had anything going for it visually, but it doesn’t. Some shots look as if they were done on a cheap webcam, while others are so heavily filtered that it’s almost impossible to see what is happening on screen. The visual aesthetic bounces between 1990’s music video and 1920’s German Expressionism, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari if it were made in 1994 with no budget and Windows Movie Maker. There are so many filters upon filters that the movie is a pixelated mess where it’s incredibly difficult to tell what the hell is going on. Honestly, it’s just downright ugly. The colors are muted, the contrast is way too high, and the actual video quality is very low.
The special effects are minimal and when they are used, they’re not very good. The vampire teeth look like the kind given to children when Trick-or-Treating and the blood varies between neon red water and a sludge that looks sort of like fecal matter. In one scene after the protagonist has tasted blood for the first time, she smears it all over her wall and then climbs into the bathtub to ponder the meaning of life. (The actual voiceover is “I used to be human… and now… I am a monster.”)
In addition to being generally unpleasant looking, the sound in Sanguivorous isn’t anything to write home about either. When someone is speaking the audio sounds fuzzy, and at one point early on you can actually hear white noise after a person finishes speaking before the recorded audio cuts off abruptly. The music doesn’t really do much either, barely emphasizing certain points while mostly just being boring. Originally the film was shown at art museums and theatres, with a live symphony providing the music. This may have been much more interesting and certainly more engaging than the film’s recorded score, which is mostly just drums, piano, and the occasional saxophone.
Some of the ideas for shots are interesting, with lots of stark contrast and carefully placed characters, but the execution is too shoddy to make it work. There is one scene that actually manages to be somewhat interesting because of unique imagery and sound. The older male vampire takes a shower of blood and then begins to seize as he absorbs the blood and his vampiric characteristics take over. It’s a little strange, but it’s visually engaging and the racing percussion fits perfectly.
Overall, Sanguivorous feels like a pretentious art film that just doesn’t have the artistic merit to make it a worthwhile venture. It’s poorly shot, horrifically edited, and ultimately just boring.
Sanguivorous comes in a cheap DVD case with a single quote from FilmSmash.com on the front cover and almost nothing on the back. There is a short featurette, “The Making of Sanguivorous”, which is pretty much just the director talking to the camera with a few quick cuts to short interviews with the cast of the movie. It’s not really anything special and doesn’t add much to the film.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars