Higanjima on Blu-ray and DVD

Saturday, 02 October 2010 10:59

“Higanjima” is one crazy movie, and the subtitle pretty much says everything that needs to be said about the plot. A bunch of school friends are lured to a mist-shrouded island, ostensibly so that Akira (Hideo Ishiguro) can rescue his long-lost brother from the clutches of blood-thirsty vampires. When they arrive, they quickly realise the whole thing is a blatant trap, and must fight for their lives against overwhelming odds and escape.

The movie set out its super-charged stall from the very beginning. A terrified, injured man tears through a forest pursued by an unseen menace. He is surrounded by a couple of vampires in a hut when a man in a cloak appears, shoots arrows through their eyes, slices and dices both before crushing their heads with a huge log weapon. This is Atsushi (Dai Watanabe), Akira’s brother, still very much alive and kicking!

Higanjima comes to the UK on DVD and Blu-rayThere is a dip in excitement whilst the film explains how Akira and co are transported from their safe city environment to the foreboding island, but once there they generally do not get very long to recover from one vampire attack before the next is launched. The battle scenes are fast, furious and exceedingly bloody, and as Akira and his mates gain in experience and confidence, so the vampires grow in number and ferocity. Just when they think they have the blood suckers all figured out, the island reveals it has even stranger and deadlier creatures in its midst. And they are hungry, too!

The action is highly kinetic, and features plenty of martial arts combat with an array of bats, sticks, swords, knives and the aforementioned log of doom. Atsushi is ninja-esque in his abilities, and likes to deploy throwing bombs to distract or dismember his quarry. A key part of the story centres on Akira realising that he, too, can master his natural fighting skills, and once his self-belief has risen he starts to kick ass like his brother.

Jets of blood squirt in every direction, especially from the main baddie’s henchman, an ogre-like vampire who goes through an amusing and unfortunate (for him) cycle of losing a limb, having it upgraded with something like a fold-out blade before having that, too lopped off by the heroes. The bright red gore stands out brilliantly against the gloomy, gothic palette of virtually everything else.

The make-up and special effects are of a high standard, and the production design is impressive. Opting to dress the zombie-like vampires in period costumes with straw hats is refreshingly different to modern-day and Western versions generally.

The big bad guy is Miyabi (Kôji Yamamoto), a pasty-faced pretty boy with a serious ego problem. He proves to be a formidable foe despite his delicate appearance, and is a dab hand with a razor-sharp fan. Having super-human strength and agility helps, of course!

Tae-gyun Kim (“Volcano High”) has created a film that sadly suffers a little because of its two-hour running time. The gap between the opening blood-letting and the gang’s arrival on the island is too long, and too uneventful. It does help to flesh out the characters but could have easily been cut short. This kind of frenetic action movie generally benefits from being economical to maximise its punchiness. “Higanjima” allows its audience’s adrenaline to sink once or twice too often. Having said that, I would still recommend this movie to fans of wild, supernatural action with plenty of blood and a distinctly tongue-in-cheek tone.

The disc’s special features are quite poor, mostly comprising slightly lazy video footage from various premiere events. We get to see the cast before they go on stage and then listen to interviews given in front of excited movie fans, but regrettably the package does not include any making-of content.

“Higanjima – Escape from Vampire Island” (2009) is out now on DVD (version reviewed) and Blu-ray, courtesy of Manga Entertainment. The running time of the main feature is 118 minutes approx, certificate ‘18’ and the movie retails for £15.99 on DVD and £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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