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Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

This film is an adaptation of the third novel “Death Chase” of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter series. He is also the author of the Black Guard novels.

Bloodlust was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajira and animated by Madhouse Studios. He also wrote and was the main animator for the movie. Kawjira credits include Ninja Scroll and Wicked City.

Bloodlust is a gothic horror dark fantasy film with elements of science fiction and post-apocalyptic. The story is set in a distant post-apocalyptic future where vampires rule the night but despite this, they are being hunted to the point of extinction. It focuses on a Dhampir, a half human and half vampire named “D” who works as a vampire hunter for the right price. His job is to rescue a young noble woman after she was kidnapped while sleeping. Along the way, “D” encounters the Marcus Brothers, a deadly family who hunts down all creatures of the night and kill them on sight. “D” teams up with the Marcus’s sister Leila, who along her brothers are set out to destroy any vampire on sight for massacring their family.

As the film progresses, D learns of a much bigger plan relating to the kidnapping of the noblewoman and the future of vampires and humans. There are numerous dangerous encounters with supernatural creatures who seem intent on stopping them. Themes such as forbidden love and death are common throughout the film and each is explored.

In the world where supernatural creatures exist, humans and vampires have been warring for a long time with each group seeing the other as extremely dangerous and nothing less than complete destruction of the enemy will suffice. Humans can be just as bad as the other side too despite them seeing themselves as the victims. Some humans interbreed with vampires and a subspecies like Dhampirs exist. These hybrids are distrusted and scorned deeply by both sides.

The story themes are pretty tragic and are effectively portrayed by the cast and the dialogue. The action moves at a brisk pace so the story does not drag on or have any filler to it. You are never bored as the film is very high stakes and anybody could die at any given moment. There is a sense of urgency in the movie.

The animation is the major highlight of its film. It’s very realistic and fluid and the detailed expressions on the characters faces are compelling. I did not see much computer animated generation too as most of it is hand drawn cels.

The film has a really good art direction mixing in both science fiction and gothic horror. The background designs of the world look really highly detailed. It has a very dark visual style and dark color scheme that fits into the narrative. Character models look very realistic and distinct from each other and they are highly faithful to the original light novel. The supernatural creature designs look really grim and horrifying. They each has their own special abilities and personalities. The movie adds some new monsters that were not part of the original novel but takes few other liberties.

Action is another major highlight of the film. Each character has a highly skilled specialty in their profession and they don’t hold anything back during combat. The fight choreography is fantastic with each fight scene being equally thrilling and high stakes. There is a variety of good set pieces and each scene is very ultra-violent and bloody. Each enemy “D” fights does not back down and they all have special tricks up their sleeves. Each attack is coordinated with speed and careful planning as any hit can be lethal.

I liked the cinematography and each camera angle has good shots. The wide shots look very impressive brings the viewer into the scene. There is a sense of dread in the grim atmosphere throughout the film and this propels the narrative. There is also a strong element of suspense in the film and with numerous plot twists and turns.

The musical score is haunting and brooding and grim and it fits perfectly well with the story and atmosphere of the world. The quality of the audio and sound effects is pretty good too for a film that was released in 2000.

“D” is very stoic and does not do much speaking in the film. He works alone most of the time and he drifts around from place to place looking for monsters to hunt down, especially vampires. He shows glimpses of kindness and love in his heart despite his dreadful past. But throughout the film he is a cold-blooded ruthless killer who doesn’t show any mercy or has any remorse for his actions. He is struggling with his identity as he is neither human nor vampire, just a creature to be scorned by the two warring sides. His character does evoke sympathy. Much of the comedic relief in the film comes from a speaking parasite that inhabits the left hand of “D”. The parasite is unnamed but is referred to by many as “Lefty”.

Lefty does a lot of the speaking in the film and he is the only source of humor. He helps “D” out by dispelling any object that blocks his way, but much of the time he comes off as annoying and whiny. I found the humor to be cheesy that fell flat most of the times even if there were a few humorous gems. Leila the main female character just wants to survive and hunt down any vampire that comes across her way. She has a single-minded dedication to hunting vampires and despises them passionately. As the movie progress, Leila realizes that not all vampires are inherently evil and changes here attitude towards them just a bit. The chemistry between Leila and D is interesting especially seeing how despite their different backgrounds, they manage to work very well together.

One of the main vampire characters Meier Link wants vampires and humans to live together. He sees humans as equals rather than prey. This makes him the complete opposite of other vampires and he shows a lot of restraint in not feeding off humans even though he is a vampire.

The characters overall are all likable and multi-dimensional and the motivations they have are believable.

The film has its share of downsides to it. The plot is pretty thin and mostly focused on action rather than complex story telling or dealing with moral dilemma. The plot leaves out a good chunk of information and backstory that is not fully established. Horror is used as a backdrop and its focused on more of its action then its lore or anything else. There are glimpses of the backstory and the lore of the past but these are fleeting and never explored in any depth. The English script has its share of dialogue hiccups the most common error I found was a mistranslation of the word “dhampir” when its pronounced as “dunpeal”. However, for the most part, the English translation of the dialogue is pretty accurate.

I really liked this film overall and fans of the series will love this movie. Even if you have not read any of the Death Chase books, you will still find the story easy to follow and enjoy this adaptation. It is accurate to the original novel series and accessible to newcomers of the vampire hunter franchise.

Its going to get 4 stars.

If you enjoy gothic horror and post-apocalyptic science fiction, then you are going to be highly invested in this film and have a great time watching it.

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