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DVD Review

DVD cover

Higanjima: Escape From Vampire Island


Starring: Hideo Ishiguro, Dai Watanabe and Asami Mizukawa
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 18
Available 04 October 2010

When Akira (no, not the animated one) is helped to escape from a gang by a mysterious beautiful young woman, she turns out to have information about his brother, Atsushi, who has been missing for two years. According to Rei, he is fighting vampires on an uncharted island known to the inhabitants as Higanjima. Of course, Akira's friends are sceptical until they endure a near fatal run-in with one of the creatures. Akira is determined to help his brother, and his friends are not prepared to let him go alone. Unfortunately, they soon discover they have been lured there by Rei as prey for the vampires, led by Masa, the seemingly invincible boy-like master. However, Atsushi really is on the island, but he has a guilty secret of his own...

These days you can't turn around without bumping in to a vampire; they're all over the cinema, TV, and book shelves. Ever since the original Bram Stoker novel, these creatures have always been partly about eroticism (forbidden love, if you like), but let's not forget the fact they are primarily supposed to be evil abominations. Like zombie films, there are so many in existence that any new addition has to be radically different in order to stand out from the crowd.

Higanjima is based on a best-selling manga comic series. South Korean director, Kim Tae-gyun and Death Note screenwriter, Oishi Tetsuya prove to be a strong combination, and it certainly shows on screen. The film has several strengths. One is it's diversity regarding inherent genres. Like John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, it straddles a handful of formats - in this case horror, fantasy, mystery, action and martial arts. Secondly, it avoids the diminishing returns by uncovering something new constantly throughout the film. So we get a master of the fighting arts, a mythical beast, a vampire harpy, a vampire mad scientist throwback to the war, a whole village full of vampires, and much more.

The success and entertainment value of this venture is down to two fundamental factors. The story is tight with a progressive plot, and has real heart. Ultimately, though, it is the characters which shine through. They have depth, are likeable and, as in real life, each have their little foibles. More than any of the aforementioned genres, this film is essentially about friendship and the lengths real friends will go to in order to help each other. Don't think it's sickly sweet, because it's far from being that. On the contrary, it has significant substance.

At first glance there appears to be a hatful of extras, but they are only a few minutes each, and mainly consist of similar appearances at screening previews around the world. The last of these is probably the best, when the director and main actors are chatting off-stage and their enthusiasm is infectious. This release might have scored a nine, but my check disc means I am unable to comment on the packaging.


Ty Power

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