Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've kept rather mum about my feelings regarding LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, one of the most celebrated vampire films in recent memory. Although I missed the film's limited US theatrical run, I read the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and found it be one of the most pleasurable reading experiences in recent memory; simply put, it stands as one of the most richly textured vampire novels I've ever read, joining Le Fanu's CARMILLA, Stoker's DRACULA, Matheson's I AM LEGEND, and King's SALEM'S LOT in the upper echelon of blood-sucking literature.

Hence, I had very high expectations for the film, having read nothing but positive reviews. However, the DVD left me cold; in part because it left out so many crucial narrative arcs that made the novel so deeply felt, the movie felt hollow. In particular, Lindqvist depicts one of the most chilling vampire-human symbiotic relationships since Dracula put the bite on Renfield, and while it should come as no surprise that time limitations forced the film-makers to make some tough decisions, I felt that the movie adaptation really needed this element, if for no other reason than to give the title gravity and weight.

With that said, I learned of some controversy regarding the film's subtitles. Apparently, the DVD manufacturer substituted less nuanced subtitles for ones that graced the theatrical version. According to one reviewer, this substitution made the film virtually unwatchable, causing me to wonder if some of my resistance to the film might be due to this flub. Apparently, a new DVD is in the works, one that restores the original subtitles. When that version becomes available, I'll need to revisit the film. To be clear, the film is still very good; I just advise the curious to seek out the book.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Earning Some Love

Mermaid Heather blew me a kiss recently in the form of the Premio Dardos Award, which "is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web." Needless to say, I'm extremely flattered by the attention, especially since it comes from a much more prolific blogger like Heather. Hopefully, you have had a chance to read her insightful reflections on horror cinema, and if not, you will do so soon. I always enjoy her reviews.

As per tradition, I now pass the award on to at least five other blogs that I have enjoyed and think you should too. Some of these might be repeat winners (but hopefully that's ok):

Sexy Witch
Taliesin Meets the Vampires
Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience
Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire
Groovy Age of Horror

Thanks again, Heather!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TOKOYO GORE POLICE and the End of Nature

The natural world has come undone in Yoshihiro Nishimura's TOKOYO GORE POLICE, a film that posits a world in which bodily ripping, tearing, and evisceration creates the possibility for perverse, grotesque modification. These modifications blur the organic with the technological to the point where the two seemingly can't exist without one another. The natural world as we are accustomed to knowing it no longer exists, and appropriately, the filmmakers place the action in blighted, industrialized landscapes--dead buildings, dead concrete, dead industries.

These settings seem to suggest that our familiar technologies have played themselves out and that we have nowhere left to go but into the human body itself. Pain no longer truly exists--at least not entirely--as characters can survive terrific wounds, using them as opportunities to modify their bodies, coming back more lethal than ever. Paradoxically, these new bodily technologies make us more primitive, the film seems to tell us. The film's protagonist, Ruka, serves on a privatized police force that battles "Engineers," criminals whose use of these technologies make them all the more psychopathic and enraged.

The sexualized imagery of the film becomes particularly striking because human reproduction, as a part of nature, does not seem to have a place in this world. Rather, Engineers "reproduce" by passing on a small, phallic tumor that opens the organic body like a key. Once implanted, transformation takes place, and people find themselves reborn in grotesque fashion. One minor character exists as nothing more than stretched skin whose sexual organs spray orgiastic party-goers with fluid--presumably urine, though in this film, one can never feel too sure. In fact, TOKOYO GORE POLICE shows us bodies that have shocking capacities for spraying fluids, mostly blood. These absurd scenes (too many to count) appear strangely beautiful, as when Ruka cuts off the hands of a subway pervert and walks away with an umbrella shielding her from the blood that rains down on her.

As a whole, the movie comes across as (most of the time) an inspired nightmare right out of Donna Haraway's now seminal "Cyborg Manifesto." At other times, it seems to fall into goofy, Troma-styled splatstick. Apparently, there is a companion feature, MACHINE GIRL, which I have not seen but seems to promise more of the same.