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HIGANJIMA: ESCAPE FROM VAMPIRE...
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Reviewed by: Ammon Gilbert

Directed by: Tae-gyun Kim

Starring:
Dai Watanabe
Asami Mizukawa
Koji Yamamoto
Hideo Ishiguro
Tomohisa Yuge

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Akira and his friends travel to a secret island by a mysterious woman in hopes to find his missing brother, Atsushi. What he finds is an island full of vampires of which he's tasked to battle alongside his vampire-slaying brother. Samurai-style action, extreme blood splatter, and even a gigantic dragon creature is the name of the game in this action/horror hybrid.
Is it good movie?
In the last 4 years or so the interest in all things vampires has escalated to a whole new level thanks to the resounding success of those silly TWILIGHT movies/books. Now everything is vampire this and vampire that, which would be all fine and dandy save for the fact that the majority of the recently-released popular vampires are a bunch a flippin’ pussies. We’re not talking THE LOST BOYS or NEAR DARK here, but rather pretty people looking gaunt and emo, that sparkle rather than explode in daylight, and who have teeth but don’t really like to use them. So my expectation of HIGANIJMA: ESCAPE FROM VAMPIRE ISLAND was low, expecting more of the same, only as an import from Japan. But lucky for me, I was pleasantly surprised that behind the over-the-top goofiness, these vampires know how to party!

Sitting somewhere between a GOONIES-like vibe with a group of high school kids coming together for a fantastical adventure, and VAMPIRE HUNTER D or BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE-esque vampire-killing action/horror flick, HIGANIJIMA pulls no punches when it comes to blood-soaked demises, gory ends-of-fate, and all-around brutal violence that is expected from a vampire flick. From the splatterfest of an opening sequence to the climatic finale of vampire army versus an army of humans, one of the biggest plus sides to HIGANIJIMA is the gore, even when half the time it appears to be CGI-enhanced and not the real deal. Because the world of HIGANIJIMA is so stylized, and the look and feel of the flick is vibrant in its use of colors, and just so damn cool to watch, that a splash of fake blood here and there fits just fine.

This is not a film to be taken seriously and no one in it appears to be taking it too seriously, either (which is a good thing). They know they’re in an over-the-top action/horror vampire slaying extravaganza that brings in elements of samurai flicks (lots and lots of sword action going on here), monster flicks, and even kung-fu flicks. While it’s set in modern times, when they reach the vampire-plagued island, they seem to be transported back to ancient times of tiny villages throughout Japan, so it also sorta feels like a period piece in some ways. And if you’re looking for something that goes balls-out in slaying vampires while not being too hardcore about it, then HIGANIJIMA may be just the right film for you.

But not all fun-filled action/horror romps like this are perfect, and HIGANIJIMA has its share of flaws that rubbed me the wrong way and kept me from absolutely loving it. For one, it’s about 30 minutes longer than it needs to be. The momentum of the film drops once the group of teens reach the island and much of that drop has to do with, once they find Akira’s brother, they sort of loose focus as to why they’re there or what they need to do. And by they, I don’t mean the film’s characters, but the filmmakers themselves. If they trimmed the fat and took off about 30 unneeded minutes, the momentum would probably be brought back to speed. Then there’s the teens themselves, who are fairly likable, but not really explored all that much in terms of character or they’re relationship with each other. They’re rather 2-dimensional, and for a flick like this, that’s cool, save for we spend so much time with them it’d have been nice to actually give a flying f*ck if they lived or died by the end.

The film’s hero, Akira, is pretty much a pussy, and while I understand that he’s just a kid off the streets, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be able to f*ck shit up once he realizes the gravity of the situation he’s in. But no, he’s pretty much a pussy till the end until he finally grows some balls—and for that final 10 minutes, he’s pretty badass—too bad it’s a painful and mostly boring journey to get there. On the plus side though, the effects were solid (though just slightly above The Asylum level of low-budget crappiness), there was plenty of choreographed action sequences that held my interest, and while some of the dialog is super cheesy, HIGANIJIMA still manages to be a fairly entertaining ride.

Video / Audio
Video: Sharp, colorful, and full 1080p, the Blu-ray looked amazing (of course). One of the film's biggest compliments is the visual look and feel and it looks absolutely splendid in HD.

Audio: The film's presented in the original Japanese or dubbed English True HD 5.1 digital surround sound. While the sound certainly didn't suck, it wasn't as dynamic or pulse-pounding as other True HD sound mixes I've experienced in the past.

The Extras
Making of Higanjima: A 45 minute documentary on the making of the film from day one of shooting all the way through the end. Unlike most American film documentaries, this one is long, detailed, and it doesn't show a lot of fun times on set but rather all the hard work that goes into making a movie. Did I mention how long this thing is?

Trailers: Check out the original theatrical trailer for HIGANJIMA as well as a gaggle of other films coming our way from Funimation.

Last Call
HIGANIJIMA: ESCAPE FROM VAMPIRE ISLAND is a fun, over-the-top, and completely blood-soaked vampire slaying flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Blu-ray showcases the film’s crisp and clean look, but it lacks in the audio department, falling shy of its full True HD potential. Other than it being about 30 minutes too long and the character dynamics not fully fleshed out, the film is still quite entertaining, as long as you know what kind of goofy ride you’re getting yourself into.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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