Isn't it interesting that there never seems to be a shortage of vampires in the world? Well, fans of Draculas and Twilights past are going to have an absolute ball, as this writer did, watching Sion Sono's new film Tokyo Vampire Hotel. Before we continue, we must direct your attention to one of his earlier works, Love and Peace, which combined the X-Factor with a subplot involving a turtle that grows to giant size when his owner becomes a star on a talent show and runs amok a la Godzilla. Tap into that, and you will whet your appetite for more of Sono's work.
Amazingly, this is a theatrical cut-down, which was originally broadcast via Amazon as a nine-part super mini-series. Although you might want to seek out the full series after you see this, rest assured that you won't miss any key story or character elements here. It may run at two hours and twenty two minutes, but it only felt like half that by the end. This version has played at several film festivals and recently received a July 2018 screening at this year's Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
Sono has encompassed all the traditions of the Stoker classic and its' universal (and Universal!) influence in an epic and operatic tale crossing centuries to modern Japan in the year 2021. Two rival kingdoms, the Draculas and the Colvins, decide to reignite their rivalry through the essence and life-blood of modern girl Manami, celebrating her 22nd birthday.
The gravity of her situation becomes clear right at the outset during an extreme mass-shooting by a woman out to protect her Reese-like. Before long, the intention is clear, as the backdrop to this story is the Hotel Requiem, where young men and women are enticed into a near Utopian existence. Unfortunately, the very life-blood of a living, breathing hotel has to be satisfied in the shape of a matriarch figure, who needs Manami's blood to evolve.
Unlike the teen angst of the Rob and Kristen blockbusters, this is firmly entrenched in a gloriously blood-thirsty tale that will not fail to satisfy vampire movie fans. If you want to cross-pollinate a few other classics in the mix, add a touch of Cronenberg's The Brood, more than a squeeze of From Dusk Til Dawn, and John Woo's Hard Boiled as well. Violence is the driving visual here, with some spectacular fighting and gun-play, plus well-coordinated physical gore effects echoing Brian Yuzna's Society and the work of Alexandre Aja. However, these are clear influences that colour the vision without making it feel like a derivative homage to the vampire genre.
Sono knows what his goal is, and audiences are certainly going to get their money's worth. Add some memorable one liners (listen out for one Manami says to the matriarch who's bound to the hotel later on in the film!), a little bit of screwy sentiment, and a couple of songs, and it's mission accomplished.
One last thing - if there was a record for the longest pre-credit sequence, this would win it - it is an astonishing forty (yes, forty) minutes before the title appears here. Whether or not this was a hang-over from the mini-series, we don't know, but that has to be a record. No ten-minute Bond sequence here! Tokyo Vampire Hotel is one of the best vampire epic of recent years. A must-watch.
TOKYO VAMPIRE HOTEL / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: SION SONO / SCREENPLAY: SION SONO / STARRING: AMI TOMITE, KAHO, SHINNOSUJE MITSUSHIMA / RELEASE DATE: TBC