The Japanese video market of the 1990s produced some pretty amazing
films, among them this highly audacious take on vampires, an exhausted
subject this film treats with considerable freshness and ingenuity.
MY SOUL IS SLASHED (KAMITSUKITAI) appeared in 1991.
Directed by the talented and prolific Shusake Kaneko (of SUMMER VACATION
1999, GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and DEATH NOTE), it starred the
iconic Ken Ogata (of Shohei Imamura’s
VENGEANCE IS MINE, Paul Schrader’s
MISHIMA and Peter Greenaway’s THE PILLOW BOOK) and newcomer Hikari
Ishida, who won several Japanese awards for her performance. The film
was fairly successful on the Japanese video circuit but never got much
play outside Japan (aside from subtitled VHS copies from the once-mighty
greymarket outfit Video Search of Miami), which is a shame.
Ishikawa, the head of a large pharmaceutical company,
is killed in an act of corporate espionage. As he’s dying he’s given a
blood transfusion in a hospital. What nobody knows is that the blood
he’s injected with is that of Dracula, stored in the hospital by a
mysterious young woman. The latter accosts Ishikawa’s virginal daughter
Saeko at her father’s funeral, advising Saeko to drip a few drops of her
own blood onto her father’s cremated ashes. This she does, and a year
later, during a full moon, a stark naked Ishikawa appears before a
More freak-outs are in store as the undead Ishikawa
turns up at his office, feeling out of sorts and desiring tomato juice.
His discombobulation is explained by the young woman who set everything
in motion and recognizes Ishikawa for what he is: a vampire who can’t go
out during the day, doesn’t cast a reflection and is repelled by the
sight of a crucifix. She also claims that after ten days she can make
Ishikawa a flesh-and-blood human again via a blood transfusion (ignoring
pointed warnings that if she does so “something bad will happen”).
In the meantime Ishikawa uses his vampiric powers to
assume the form of a rat and spy on his wife being courted by a new guy.
He also investigates the dastardly machinations that led to his death.
The guys who killed him, however, aren’t exactly laying idle, and are
determined to do Ichikawa in a second time--and as he’s about to become
a human, the killers might just succeed!
Truth be told, this film has little to recommend
directorially. Shusake Kaneko’s helming is workmanlike at best, and
marred by a distractingly histrionic music score. Yet that latter
element aside, Kaneko’s no-frills approach actually works to the film’s
advantage. An important factor of the superbly imaginative script is the
mundanity of its suburban atmosphere, with pivotal sequences taking
place in the protagonist’s unassumingly decorated living room, a kids’
playground and the Volkswagen Bug the heroine drives. In this film there
are no old dark castles or mist-shrouded forests to be seen, and, even
more unexpectedly, there is NO onscreen blood-sucking.
Ken Ogata’s moving performance as Ishikawa is a
standout element, but the real star of the film is the screenplay by
Kaneko and Chigusa Shiota. Appreciably hip, unceasingly inventive and
quintessentially Japanese from start to finish, it succeeds in doing
something I’d long thought was impossible: injecting the done-to-death
vampire genre with new life--or perhaps more accurately, blood.
MY SOUL IS SLASHED (KAMITSUKITAI)
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Producer: Shohei Kota, Mitsuo Sato, Nobuaki Murooka
Screenplay: Shusuke Kaneko, Chigusa Shiota
Cinematography: Koichi Kawakami
Editing: Isao Tomita
Cast: Ken Ogata, Hikari Ishida, Harumi Harada, Sumiyo Hasegawa,
Shigesato Itoi, Hirotaro Honda, Miyuki Kato, Hideyo Amamoto