I approached directors Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu’s over-the-top 2009 high school gore comedy “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” with the same expectations I possessed during my initial viewing of “Tokyo Gore Police”, “The Machine Girl”, and “The Meatball Machine”, which is to say I anticipated lots of arterial sprays, an abundance of low-budget special effects, and just a hint of a plausible storyline. What I didn’t foresee, of course, was something a bit sillier and a lot more endearing than the other like-minded films from this truly bizarre genre. I am both surprised, perplexed, and somewhat overwhelmed by the experience. My head is still reeling.
Strip away the mounds of eviscerated flesh, the bottomless buckets of blood, and the inherent goofiness of the film’s absurd premise and you’ll discover a relatively simplistic albeit wholly demented romantic comedy: Two attractive girls from two completely different walks of life compete for the attention of a good-looking, good-natured suburban boy. An endless series of light-hearted hijinks ensue. However, “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” substitutes pratfalls and slapstick tomfoolery with graphic dismemberments, disturbing disfigurements, and, naturally, a plethora of neverending arterial sprays. As nasty and depraved as this may sound, the picture is actually rather sweet, jovial, and light-hearted.
The film opens with an ultra-violent sucker punch to the audience’s collective groin: Monami (aka Vampire Girl) and her newfound boy toy Mizushima are ambushed by three monstrous girls, all of whom appear to have been haphazardly stitched together and half-heartedly reanimated by someone with a weak understanding of human anatomy. Before your eyes can relay the on-screen insanity to your brain, a girl’s face has been completely peeled off, another is cannibalized by a blood-thirsty skull, and an unsuspecting crotch has been graphically impaled by a razor-sharp sword protruding from our fanged heroine’s wrist. In a different context, this sequence would have been truly revolting, as opposed to seriously amusing.
As soon as this grue-encrusted insanity has seeped into your malfunctioning mindscape, the story abruptly jumps to the origins of this epic battle: Valentine’s Day. In a manic display of color, comedy, and cultural confusion, the movie introduces us to a score of bizarre characters, including the captain of the school’s wrist-cutting team, a group of Japanese girls who pretend they’re African-American (aka Ganguro girls), and Monami’s rival, the ill-tempered, mean-spirited Keiko. Like any girl in her teens with an attractive boyfriend, Keiko isn’t too happy about her man’s budding relationship with the new transfer student, specially when he doesn’t seem to mind this strangely attractive girl’s creepy advances.
However, unbeknownst to Mizushima, Monami has already begun to transform the poor guy into a plasma-slurping member of the vampiric race through the clever utilization of a blood-filled piece of chocolate. Although Mizushima is hesitant to give himself over to the powers of darkness, he immediately changes his tune once Vampire Girl gives him an ultimatum: live with her forever or die. Keiko, none too thrilled about her boyfriend’s romantic betrayal, plots with the school nurse and her mad scientist father to break apart the happy couple, as well as develop an unstoppable breed of genetic monstrosities. After all, you can’t have one without the other.
Despite the elements of hokey science fiction and Troma-inspired horror, “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” has much more in common with “Heathers”, “Mean Girls”, and writer/director Darren Stein’s brutally underrated “Jawbreaker” than the films Nishimura and Tomosatsu are usually associated with. That’s not to say the picture is without its moments of rampant violence and gratuitous bloodletting. Far from it. Sandwiched in-between the high school melodrama and the questionable attempts at satirical comedy are several demented instances of inspired carnage. Gore fanatics will not be disappointed.
Nishimura and Tomosatsu’s direction is suitably absurd, and serves the material extremely well. The special effects, while obviously on the cheaper end of the financial spectrum, are enjoyably campy in a ridiculous, Lloyd Kaufman kind of way. Outshining everything is Yukie Kawamura, whose portrayal of Montami/Vampire Girl is beyond impressive. She balances the sweet and sour aspect of her character’s nature with the giddiness of a cheerleader on a Red Bull binge. And while it often borders on needless exaggeration, Kawamura always manages to pull it back before she disappears completely over the proverbial top.
“Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” definitely wasn’t the film I was expecting, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu have delivered a very focused, very straightforward horror/comedy that displays a surprising amount of intelligence and restraint. There’s a strangely satisfying artistic quality to the gushing blood, the savaged flesh, and it transforms a very familiar concept — the cinematic love triangle — into a gleefully disgusting experience that often touches on genius. It’s may not be as outrageously gory as “Tokyo Gore Police” or “The Machine Girl”, but it’s just as ridiculously fun, if not more so. John Hughes, Nora Ephron, and Herschell Gordon Lewis should be very proud.
“Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” is released on DVD in the UK March 15, 2010 by 4Digital Media.
Yoshihiro Nishimura, Naoyuki Tomomatsu (directors) / Naoyuki Tomomatsu (screenplay)
CAST: Yukie Kawamura … Monami / Vampire Girl
Takumi Saito … Yukie Kawamura
Keiko … Eri Otoguro / Frankenstein Girl