Higanjima is an eerie island occupied by vampires, from where none has ever come back alive. When teenager Akira hears that his missing brother has been seen in the island, he decides to investigate with several friends.
Asian vampire movies are usually a love or hate impacting experience for me. On one hand, you have to appreciate that they don’t always prescribe to Western cliches in their cultural differences. This tends to make things a bit refreshing and unexpected providing a pretty good viewing experience. On the other, Asian horror films can be very silly, and high on the cheesy dialog train. There often is this almost “too” frequent need to overact especially when involving young teens. “Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island” starts out a bit on this note, in which I kind of glaze over on during the routine execution of high pitched Asian kids. They often chase each other, yell and act like their pants have sprung into flames making each line and action feel like I’m just turned on the Little Rascals. Yunno, the drill…. those lines like “hey guy, no YOUR the dummy!”….. “why I outta…..come here you!” Ya, those inherited little directorial quirks get under my skin.
This film has some pretty decent vampire action going on. The opener has a young hunter by the name of Higanjima (Dai Watanabe) carrying an oversize wooden pole that he bashes into the faces of vamps. Yep, bashes, I said..It’s kind a cool too.
There exists an undocumented island within the Asian collective of over 7000 islands. This island is called “Higanjima”. It is referred to as “Vampire island”. When a group of teens discover a vampire feasting on a young girl, they not only take him on despite the odds of winning, but manage to befriend a young girl who is on her way to the island. Rei (Asami Mizukawa), as she’s called, tells them that she escaped but is going back to save her friends. She also invites the reluctant group to join her. Akira (Hideo Ishiguro) is told that his missing brother Atsushi may be still there. One that has been missing for the last 2 years. Sounds like a setup to me????
Did I mention that this first vampire has green skin, seems to be ok in the light and although strong seems to be easily duped by clever young kids who hide an leap out like frenetic wombats?
“Higanjima” falls somewhere between a decent vampire film and letdown. It’s a pretty long drag, which bases alot of the filler material on the drama end of things. These parts, while indeed building on the characters relationships were sections I could have done without. When things do get turned up, there’s plenty of swordplay and vampire attacks. Which is no surprise seeing that the island is filled with these things. The pack or island is led by Miyabi (Kôji Yamamoto) who was released on accident after being imprisoned for centuries. He’s easy to spot as the most likely in need of a tan. He tends to let his minions run amok and chase the team about. Kind of more like playing with food. A regime of vampire haunters is also gathering and training to take down the fangers when they’ve have completed their preparation.
Now as you might expect, Asian vampire films tend to incorporate alot of martial arts. Though in this case, that aspect is really played down. The majority of human on vampire action arrives under the sword swinging Atsushi. When he gets rolling, there are a few good decapitations and arm amputations to follow.
Another aspect that slightly bothered me, was that much of the screen seemed too dark to make out some of the action. It does provide ambience but I was thinking maybe I might have missed a few things that were dimly lit.
Higanjima” does have a few surprises which arrive in the way of a pretty cool looking vampire bat chick and a confrontation with a giant gargoyle. Miyabi also has been playing a bit with redesigning vampires to be more efficient, though they seem to always get beaten with enhancements or not.
As a film, it does bring some fresh ideas to the Asian horror realm and has a few good lead ups to Sinbad-type characters. Higanjima seemed a bit long, and did drag midway but picks up in the 3rd act. The back story seemed decent enough and I did highly enjoy sections. Overall it may not be a top 10 selection for vampire movies, but it does have its charm and action moments.
Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island (2009)