Whereas the anime film is weakened by a story that feels incomplete and undeveloped, this live-action version is undermined and crippled by a bloated script. It's understandable that the filmmakers of 'Blood: The Last Vampire' want to give Saya's hunting adventures some depth and history, but with so much information coming from all directions, keeping track of the excessive plot points delivered seemingly at random turns what could have been a slick actioner into a boring, forgettable chore - one which distracts from enjoying the blood-spraying, martial arts melee. And as with the original short, the CGI gore - although very cheesy - and the visual design are what maintain interest amongst its other laughable aspects, giving the production a fanciful, anime charm.
The core plot remains intact as we again see the young girl Saya (Gianna Jun) on the subway cut a seemingly innocent man in half. The suits later show up and hand her the next assignment as a schoolgirl on an American Air Base. There, she discovers more vampires and slices them up while barely breaking a sweat. The difference is that this story is set in the 1970s, one of the suits, Luke (J.J. Field), is a complete a-hole schmuck, and the nurse in the anime is now a rebellious, annoying teenager named Alice (Allison Miller). We also learn Saya works with a super-secret, hush-hush organization called The Council, and the meanest, toughest vampire, Onigen (Koyuki), is the reason why Saya must kill them all. Oh, and instead of three monsters, she literally fights hordes of them.
While the summary makes the story easier to swallow, actually watching the whole thing in motion will give viewers indigestion. The complete incomprehensible mess starts much like the original film but adds flashbacks of training with an old, bearded man who constantly reminds Saya of why she must kill Onigen. Don't act so surprised to find these two duke it out in the end. And the last-minute twist is so 'Star Wars' that it's nowhere near "hold-your-breadth" shocking, but total laziness and lunacy on the part of the writers. The brief love-interest of her childhood is just as ridiculous and unnecessary while Alice is pretty much a walking corpse throughout the movie's 90-minute runtime. If this is the price to pay for giving Saya some dimension, then I'd much prefer the mystery.
It's quite sad to be able to pick the very moment when a movie goes from predictably mediocre to laughably horrendous and then back again. But 'Blood: The Last Vampire' arrives at this very scene during an alley brawl that seems to never end. As Saya and the final remaining vampire stare at each other, orbs of light fly around him and he transforms into an ugly, demonic monster. Like something straight out of a Syfy Channel Saturday premiere, the creature suddenly jumps from one rooftop to the next. I'm sure the filmmakers didn't intend for it to be funny, but the whole CGI sequence looks so absurdly cartoonish and hilarious that I couldn't resist laughing. With all the bright-red billboards in the background, I could almost believe it's an homage to Chuck Norris's much more entertaining 'Forced Vengeance.' But I somehow doubt that.
From the poorly executed script to the horrible computer-generated effects, there is little else to enjoy in 'Blood: The Last Vampire.' Well, except for maybe the movie's overall visual design. Thanks to Hang-Sang Poon's cinematography ('Jet Li's Fearless,' 'Kung Fu Hustle'), 'Blood' has one very small shimmer of entertainment value. While the fight scene in the forest during one of Saya's many flashbacks is worth noting, the showdown between her and Origen is particularly lovely to look at. Only, ignoring the mawkish dialogue is highly recommended. But in spite of how pretty it may look, the movie is still of poor quality, the type of feature expected on the Syfy channel but with a larger budget.
If the 'Twilight' film series isn't enough to show the deterioration of contemporary vampire lore, then 'Blood: The Last Vampire' is more than enough proof that a stake has been driven through the genre's heart.
'Blood' debuts with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) that nicely highlights some the movie's visual flare. I would even go so far as to say it's better than what the movie deserves. The freshly-minted transfer is unblemished and sharply defined, revealing the smallest details in the background, even in the darkest shadows. The nighttime fight sequences often look best, as blacks can be quite dynamic. There were a couple of scenes, however, where levels dropped slightly and blacks could have been richer. Colors are full-bodied and animated while facial complexions appear healthy and beautifully textured in close-ups. Contrast is well-balanced and maintains good visibility throughout with crisp whites. In the end, the image comes with pleasing depth and will not disappoint fans of the vampire flick.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack accompanying the video puts on quite the show and comes with a few moments of near-reference quality. Imaging is surprisingly expansive and active, giving the soundstage a strong acoustical presence. Off-screen action is impressive while never overwhelming the well-prioritized vocals and low-frequency bass is powerfully effective and responsive. Dynamics are sharp and distinct as the clangs of swords striking one another are clearly heard and echo throughout the listening area. The rears are often active with the sounds of battle, and movement between the channels is convincing, creating a very engaging soundfield. As with the video, this lossless mix is entertaining and much better than expected for a movie of this caliber.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers 'Blood: The Last Vampire' with a flimsy and boring package of bonus features. Admittedly, I did't care to learn more about the movie, but for those who do enjoy it, this is very disappointing.
Based on the short anime film of the same name, 'Blood: The Last Vampire' is an unfortunately bad movie with very little value beyond its visual design. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, comes with an excellent A/V presentation but a weak supplemental package. Overall, it's an easy way to kill time on a Saturday afternoon when nothing else is on.