Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lady Death & Blood: The Last Vampire -- A look at horror at the drawing-desk

I wanted to explore what "animated horror" consisted of this year in answering my own curious queries about what makes us wake up screaming in the night, assuming we were able to sleep in the first place.

First of all, with animation one needn't worry about crappy CGI jobs or bad casting decisions. Second, nobody needs to clear a set for filming or direct a bunch of incompetent divas. Best of all, I can count on one hand the number of animated films that drag on and on -- inversely, I can count on one hand the number of live-action films that don't. Aside from this, animated horror is vulnerable to any other criticism as any other horror movie.

The two animated horror features I've chosen are Lady Death, an American origin story based upon a comic book character of the same name, and Blood: The Last Vampire, a Japanese anime based upon a single-volume manga (which is the best type of manga, if you ask me). Blood is not an origin story but both of these feature strong female lead characters.

Lady Death 
(2004) ** 1/2

A native of 15th century Sweden, Hope is the devout Christian daughter of a powerful general who takes great pleasure in abusing his power. He is also Lucifer in disguise, and once he shows his true form and vanishes to Hell, Hope is condemned to being burned at the stake for associating with him. All she has ever asked for is to see her lover Niccolo, but it becomes quickly apparent that her life will never be the same again once she is hurled headfirst into Hell by two winged demons -- truly, a badass animated sequence.
LD's trustworthy steed is pretty badass, too.
The animation style conjured memories of watching the animated series of both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men in the '90s, and admittedly that ruined a bit of the "horror" element for me. Regardless, both the storytelling and topic struck me as unique so I'll extend my recommendation. The one thing that did bug me, though, was wondering Where does one go after one dies in Hell?

Blood: The Last Vampire
(2000) ****

I bumped this up from 3 1/2 stars because I craved more Blood after it was over! A 43-minute anime horror tale of Vietnam era Japan featuring vampires and worse, chiropterans.
Just what the hell IS a chiropteran, you say? Well, how would I know?! Oh yeah, 'cause I saw it. But I still don't feel like I know everything.

There's no back story provided for Saya (the last "original" vampire) or the chiropterans. The benefit is that we are spared any cheesy flashbacks of a time when life was easier and people weren't being eaten alive by hellish demons. Unfortunately, we are also left in the dark and must sit along for the ride like a hostage left to the director's whims.
A snapshot of Elvira in high school? Nah, just a demon and a girl.
As a fan of vampire movies like Underworld, I whole-heartedly recommend Blood. There's also a live-action version of the film, reviewed by Catfreeek.


Catfreeek said...

Bravo for also tackling some animated horror. Two years ago I set out to unearth as many non-anime animated horror films as I could. I found a couple of hidden gems but most of it was pure crap.

As a fan of the comics, in my opinion Lady Death is much better as the object of his affection(obsession)in the Evil Ernie comic books.

The animated Blood is better than the live action though both are worth watching.

Landshark said...

Excellent, CM. Going to check these out!

Octopunk said...

Yes, great! I'm a cartoon freak yet I've never really gone after animated horrorthonning, so I'm delighted to see the form getting such attention (and the unearthing Cat did was epic).

Anime's a sticky wicket. Some of it is exquisite, but the couple of times I've explored it I got quickly tired of the bad stuff and the sameness. I love the good stuff, though.