It’s a glorious time for vampires, at least in the hands of filmmakers looking for forgiving audiences to anoint their mediocre projects: The strident HBO Southern gothic True Blood broke records with its second-season debut, Twilight made the transition from novel to screen with its teenybopper sexlessness intact, and there have somehow been three Underworld movies. Blood: The Last Vampire—a live-action entry in the franchise launched by a 2001 anime film—adds martial arts to the mix, but in an already-crowded marketplace, it doesn’t bring a sliver of originality. Its premise of a 400-year-old half-human/half-vampire tasked with fighting her own kind isn’t far removed from the Blade series, and its third-rate winged beasties discover the limits of CGI on a budget. Every scrap of footage here has been done better somewhere else.
The lumpy melting pot of international elements doesn’t help, either: The source material is Japanese, the director American, the star Korean, and the common language is broken English—some of it dubbed, the rest of it sounding like a rough translation. Gianna Jun stars as Saya the vampire slayer, a perpetually sullen, inscrutable teenager/centuries-old creature-of-the-night who takes orders from “The Council” about what to kill and when. While hiding out at a high school on a U.S. air base in Japan, Saya befriends an American student (Allison Miller) and the two go hunting for Onigen, an all-powerful demon whom only Saya can defeat. The mythology in Blood: The Last Vampire is actually far more convoluted than it sounds, bearing the mark of a property that’s been floating around in various forms (anime, manga, videogames, novels) for the better part of a decade. Veteran choreographer Corey Yuen slips in a few slick action sequences amid the confusion—a showdown on a truck wedged between two cliffs is a particular highlight—but even those are digitized to videogame abstraction. It’s all a forgettable exercise in cool for its own sake.