IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: MICHIO YAMAMOTO’S BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY

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MICHIO YAMAMOTO’S BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY

Between 1970 and 1974 Toho Studios produced three vampire movies under the guidance of director Michio Yamamoto. The director had only one feature film under his belt before these flicks, a crime drama for Toho, and despite how well these turned out, he would come to direct only one other full length film. While certainly Japanese productions, this trio of vampire flicks display a lot of the traditions of the genre, with coffins, gothic houses, ghoulish villains, spooky and sexy vampire girls, along with beautiful damsels and brave heroes. They feature some familiar Toho faces and have become known as The Bloodthirsty Trilogy. These three vampire flicks from the legendary studio are certainly worth a look by any vampire or horror movie fan.

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THE VAMPIRE DOLL (1970)

First of the trilogy finds Kazuhiko (Atsuo Nakamura) returning from business abroad to visit his fiancé Yuko (Yukiko Kobayashi from Destroy All Monsters). Her mother (Yoko Minazake) tells him Yuko died in an accident, but then why is he seeing her at night? When Kazuhiko disappears, his sister Keiko (Shogun Assassin’s Kayo Matsuo) and her fiancé (Akira Nakao) go to Yuko’s home village to investigate. What they find is something out of a nightmare…one they may not wake up from.

The Vampire Doll (Chi o suu ningyo) is a spooky flick as directed by Yamamoto from a script by Ei Ogawa and Hiroshi Nagano. It’s almost a gothic fairy tale as a young woman from tragic beginnings walks the earth in death, in search of blood. It’s got loads of atmosphere, a few surprises, follows the classic tropes well and has a charming cast. Yukiko Kobayashi makes for a sexy yet scary vampire and Kayo Matsuo, a classic damsel in distress. There is some blood, but the film is mostly atmosphere and Yamamoto proves he has an effective visual style for such a tale.

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs!

Yukiko Kobayashi as the young woman turned monster, Yuko.

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LAKE OF DRACULA (1971)

Second film (known as Noroi no yakata – Chi o suu me in Japan) finds pretty Akiko (Midori Fujita) still suffering from a childhood trauma that she experienced as a little girl in a spooky old house. The nightmare returns, when the fiendish man (Shin Kishida from 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) she saw back then, now stalks her lakeside village draining blood from his victims. Can her doctor boyfriend (Osahide Takahashi) save her and her sister (Sanae Emi) from this bloodthirsty fiend?

Yamamoto’s second foray into vampire folklore is again written by Ei Ogawa, this time along with Masaru Takesue. Once more he delivers a film that is is atmospheric and spooky. Shin Kishida makes for a creepy vampire and the flick is filled with gothic visuals such as the expected old houses, coffins and fanged fiends. Here the vampire is said to be a descendant of Dracula, as his father had Dracula family blood in him. As usual in these films, our bloodsucker has some sexy vampire girls to accompany him. Another solid and spooky entry in this series.

3 (out of 4) fangs!

Shin Kishida as Lake of Dracula’s unnamed vampire.

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EVIL OF DRACULA (1974)

Final film in this trilogy shows Yamamoto is really sinking his teeth into vampire lore. It finds teacher Professor Shiraki (Toshio Kurosawa) journeying to his new job at an all girls school. Soon he finds trouble as someone, or something, is stalking the nubile young students and there have been disappearances. A disturbing first night at the recently widowed principal’s (Shin Kishida) house leads Shiraki to believe he’s involved. Shiraki’s beliefs may get him and pretty student Kumi (Mariko Mochizuki) killed, as the principal and his recently dead wife (Mika Katsuragi) may be something unearthly.

Evil of Dracula, or Chi o Sū Bara as it is known in Japan, is Yamamoto’s last vampire film for Toho and is again written by Ei Ogawa and Masaru Takesue. It’s fiend’s origin comes from a legend that a Westerner, who was shipwrecked in Japan centuries before, was cursed for denouncing his Christian faith and thus became a vampire. The flick is atmospheric, Kishida once again makes a creepy bloodsucker, though his vampire principal here is no relation to Lake of Dracula’s fiend, and Katsuragi is also effective as his vampire wife. There is nudity in this one, as our vampire prefers to bite his pretty victims on the breast and it might be the most gruesome with bloodletting and face stealing among the ghoulish activities. This was the last film in the trilogy, Toho seemingly quitting while they were ahead with three solid entries.

3 (out of 4) fangs!

Shin Kishida as the fiendish principal snacking on his students.

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In conclusion, this is a spooky and atmospheric series. Three stand alone films that have no connection other than the subject matter and actor Shin Kishida playing the lead vampire role twice. They were moderately paced, but none of them overstayed their welcome, with the longest being only 85 minutes. Yamamoto proved he had an eye for gothic visuals and gave us plenty of fangs, blood, creepy old houses and a bevy of pretty vampire girls. Despite doing a good job with these three flicks, Evil of Dracula would be his last feature film before doing some television work and then fading from the business.

All three Bloodthirsty Trilogy flicks are now available on Amazon Streaming and in a blu-ray set from Arrow Video.

Japan’s Christopher Lee? Shin Kishida sans make-up.

photo: https://wikizilla.org/

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 -MonsterZero NJ
Sources IMDB/Wikipedia

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: 10/31 PART II (2019)

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10/31 PART II (2019)

Sequel to the indie Halloween set anthology flick 10/31 once again presents a horror movie marathon hosted by Malvolia, the Queen of Screams (Jennifer Nangle). It tells five tales, with some fun trailers this time, by a host of new indie filmmakers, all taking place on Halloween.

After opening with some amusing trailers, the best being Treaters from Zane Hershberger, and then an introduction by Malvolia, the show begins. We start out with A Samhain Liturgy written and directed by Tory van Buskirk. It’s a classic tale of a babysitter (Rhema Srihartiti) encountering peril and evil on Halloween night. The tale is a mash-up of more than one classic horror scenario, has some very disturbing moments and follows the classic tropes with a few twists. It can be gruesome at times and the make-up FX are well rendered. Lead Rhema Srihartiti makes a nice heroine as teen babysitter Holly and Devin Douglas, a very creepy kid as Tommy.

Second story is Dead Lift from director Stephen Wolfe. Story finds down on his luck rideshare driver Jeremy (Tim Robinson) picking up a very ominous passenger (William McCarthy). The segment is spooky and atmospheric, but also a bit talky and feels like it wears out it’s welcome long before it’s over. Dead Lift also stars Ashley Nief as Jeremy’s long suffering girlfriend Whitney. Does score points for trying to do something a little different and having a bit of a Phantasm vibe in spots.

Next up is the very comical and cheesy Apache Hatchet Massacre II from director Max Groah. Basically a story of a Halloween party being held in a cabin on an ancient Native American burial ground. There’s a lot of overacting and the segment comes across as very cheap looking and just plain silly. It doesn’t feel like it fits in with the rest of the stories, which take a more serious approach and look far better produced. It simply comes across as filler. Thankfully, AHM II is mercifully short.

Fourth story is Overkill from writer, director Drew Marvick and is an amusing tale of two serial killers (Aaron Strong and David E. McMahon) fighting over the same shapely babysitter (Anastasia Elfman) on Halloween night. Segment is amusing and features some good gore, but is another segment that seems like it’s a bit long for it’s one sentence scenario. On the plus side, the segment does feature some nice nudity from shapely Lauren Fogle (as “Hot Chick”), which is a rarity for this anthology series.

Fifth and final tale finds Tory van Buskirk back writing and in the director’s chair for Sister Mary, a story of a sexy nun with a dark and bloody secret. It’s an effective segment with some disturbing moments, plenty of blood and lead London Grace does a really good job as the disturbed, conflicted, tormented…and possibly haunted?…Mary.

Overall, this was another fun and spooky anthology from this indie franchise, featuring a different set of directors than the first flick. Like the original 10/31, the stories are a bit uneven, but the makers show potential and most stories have Halloween spirit 🎃 along with some great electronic scores from Rocky Gray! 10/31 Part II is available to stream on Amazon Prime!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) jack-o-lanterns.

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Sorry, this is as close to a trailer as I could find!

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BARE BONES: THE TRICK OR TREAT PICTURE SHOW (2019)

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THE TRICK OR TREAT PICTURE SHOW (2019)

Nostalgia heavy anthology, presents a couple of stories surrounded by faux trailers and some old style ads and PSAs.

On one level this flick written and directed by Anthony Ashmore is commendable for it’s trying to be an authentic nostalgia piece. It’s filmed in 35mm and then transferred to VHS for an 80s video age flavor. It has the look of the old school movies it emulates, with scratches, faded color and sound that hisses, pops and clicks. Unfortunately, the drawback is not enough effort put in the actual writing with ho-hum stories that don’t really go anywhere and a couple of weak trailers that don’t seem to have much purpose other than be filler, something this little flick has a lot of. Overall, the sum of the parts are greater than the whole as the nostalgia element is done so well, while the stories themselves are kinda dull, even at only an 84 minute run time. At least it’s heart is in the right place. Check it out on Amazon Prime, as a heartfelt curiosity, though don’t expect much of an actual horror movie.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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