When I first heard about Twilight, I have to admit I was a little excited. I didn’t know anything about the story, of course, I just knew it involved vampires. I’ve always thought that the vampire myth had a lot of potential in it, but I had never seen any work (film, novel or otherwise [except maybe for one RPG I used to play]) come close to unlocking it. I thought (stupidly) that Twilight might have done that.
I was horribly disappointed (of course), not only because the book (and film) delivered nearly nothing good, but also because they spawned an army of vampire-media that seemed even worse. I was about to give up on my hopes of finding anything vampire-related that was worth the myth it built itself on.
And then I found Blood – The Last Vampire. The title sounds a little corny (I’m sure it sounds much cooler in Japanese), but the film blew my mind.
It’s quite short – just over an hour. But in that hour the full greatness of the vampire myth was unpacked. No, not really unpacked. More like, the lid creaked open a crack and let a tiny bit of quality out, giving pleasure and a deep longing for some.
Saya is the last vampire, though she is never called that in the film (Which is a good thing. The best way to destroy a vampire film is to use the word vampire). She works for the American government and hunts human-devouring demons in Japan. The audience gets to see one of her missions, in which she infiltrates an American high school in Japan and hunts down a couple of demons that have been spotted there.
What makes Blood so good?
First, Saya is just about the deepest vampire character I’ve ever come across. In every other film vampires are portrayed as sexy, playful beings who are full of adolescent pettiness. That portrayal, though, makes no sense when you think about it. Even though Edward, for example, is trapped in a teenage body, he is not a teenager. He’s, what, a hundred and fifty years old? Does it really make sense for a hundred-year-old guy to be attracted to a teenager? What are they going to talk about? Boy bands? Heck, it would be hard for him to have the patience to deal with immature 50-year-olds. Sorry girls, but Edward is just about the dumbest vampire I’ve ever seen.
Saya pulls of the centuries-old vampire in a teenage body perfectly. She is not playful. She is not sexy. She is frustrated, unsympathetic and perma-pissed. Just as a vampire should be. You can see her frustration and annoyance with the children she is pretending to fit in with. She’s a real vampire.
Another great thing about Blood is the depth of the world its set in. Even though we only get to hang out with Saya for an hour, we can tell that there is a lot beneath the surface with her and her world. So many things are alluded to that are never fully answered. I’m not going to go into details, for spoiler’s sake, but the setting is deep. And that’s an amazing achievement when you consider how short the film is.
Just like Princess Mononoke, Blood does not resolve. And the manner in which it refuses to resolve is achingly well played. You leave the film begging for a sequel (on a related note, there is a series [Blood+] which is inspired by the movie. Never seen it though, so no comment).
One of my favorite aspects is Saya herself. She is simply not your average heroine. It’s very hard to love her. You get the impression that she’s a very evil person and she’s not sexy or fun like most heroines tend to be. She’s complicated and intense. She’s merciless and hates pretty much everyone (I think), but she’s fighting for the right side (I think). Like Princess Mononoke (and the Bible), it’s not a classic Good vs. Evil fight. Its something deeper.
Of course, one good question to ask is why do I like the fact that Saya is (really) a bad person? Because the heart of the vampire myth is evil. Vampires cannot be sexy and fun because they are evil. And evil can never be (permanently) sexy or fun. Evil must always give way to frustration and monotony. Which is why the Interview With The Vampire series works so well. You may think it would be fun to be immortal and strong. But the evil you need to take on in order to become that way kills any goodness that you might have gained.
So forget Edward. Saya is the real deal. And while she will never fall in love with a cute boy or giggle or anything like that, she will faithfully portray the vampire myth, as depressing as it is. And it’s better that way. We see the horror of personal evil clearer that way.