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January 9, 2014

Movie Review: Sanguivorous (aka Kyuketsu, 2007)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Naoki Yoshimoto

Four characters. Solarized black-and-white photography. Subtitles. Dreary, droning musical score. Art film credentials. Are you still with us? Okay, how about vampires? Interested?

Such is the dilemma facing prospective viewers who elect to sit down with Sanguivorous, hailed as Japan’s first avant-garde vampire film. This reviewer wouldn’t put much faith to that claim, as Japan has cranked out tens of thousands of films over the years. It’s hard to say what Sanguivorous is “about,” although it is happily, only “about” an hour long.

According to the official press release, Sanguivorous is about a “young woman suffering from mysterious physical ailments who's horrified to discover that she's descended from generations of vampires. When with her boyfriend, she struggles to control her peculiar appetite. But it's in her blood …”

Fair enough. We open up on the aforementioned woman who is feeling wan and pale. Her obnoxious “otaku” (Japanese slang for “nerd”) boyfriend seeks to horrify her with stories about vampires. The first ten minutes are the only parts of the film that feature any dialogue. From here on out, it’s droning mood music.

Originally to be played with live musical accompaniment, the film’s music score by director Naoki Yoshimoto is atonal and monotonous. More a parade of unrelated images than anything else, Sanguivorous stumbles from one meaningless sequence to the other. There are two scenes that warrant attention: One, an older but sinewy and muscular vampire man (Ko Murobushi) writhes around on the floor in a pool of blood, which due to the film’s processing, looks like molten silver. The other scene is where the lead female vampire, tired of her undead ways, walks to a clearing in a public park kitted out with a handy guillotine and ends it all.

Sanguivorous is kissing cousins to E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten (1990). Both films feature stark black-and-white images, grating musical score and a narrative using a series of dances. Did you like Begotten? You did? You STILL might have a hard time sitting through all 59 minutes of Sanguivorous.

If your gatherings tend to draw obese girls in death rock outfits, you may want to throw Sanguivorous on the big screen TV while cranking out Bauhaus on the hi-fi.

I can’t even come up with a review totaling more than 500 words on this! The DVD includes a making of featurette, where director Yoshimoto is seen dutifully turning off the camera at the end of his interview! What does this tell you? Oh, well …  

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