The best thing about the world “ending” is that the resulting post-apocalyptic wasteland becomes a tapestry painted whatever the hell you the creator think is totally awesome. Do you want antiquated fashions to sit along side far future tech? Go for it! Want cool laser guns and slime monsters? Sure, dude! The end of the world is the ultimate sandbox– you stomp through it, destroying the creation of the kids there before you, then recreate it in your own totally radical image.
That’s what stuck out to me the most upon rewatching Vampire Hunter D for the first time in at least a decade. We have this world set 10,000 years after the “fall” of human civilization. All the monsters and creatures of the night have returned to the world, and the remnants of humanity live in fear of things beyond their comprehension. Werewolves, witches, and mutants work together, all under the thrall of vampire Nobles who rule over the lands like feudal lords. Humans live in what amount to towns straight out of the Old West, using remnants of old technology to live like scrapyard homesteaders. It’s a whole bunch of disassociated things mashed together to create a far flung future both alien and familiar, and that setting is pretty awesome.
The story itself is essentially a cross between Dracula and a Clint Eastwood western. Count Lee, the local vampire Noble, has taken a liking to one of this “subjects,” Doris. He’s going to turn Doris into a vampire, have some fun with her, and then dispose of her when he tires of her in 50 years or so. This isn’t the tragic romance of Dracula proper, since there’s no “she’s the reincarnation of my beloved” sort of stuff going on. This is all a way for the immortal jerk to alleviate his boredom for a few decades. Doris wants no part of this and hires a Hunter to deal with her problem.
D is that classic example of the silent man of action. He speaks through his actions and through rare moments of imparted wisdom to those in need of it. He’s the sort of character who exists solely to allow for the crazy events to transpire– a vessel for violence and strangeness. These sorts of characters are “cool” in that they’re guides into a world far cooler than them.
That fact leads to my favorite scene in the movie. D enters Lee’s castle, looking to rescue Doris before Lee can make her his bride. The entrance into the castle is lined with all manners of creatures and monsters– fanged worms, skeletons, slimes, and even a few Xenomorph-like things. Most of them don’t make any moves on D, since he has some amulet that keeps them at bay. Because of that protection, they’re just these things sitting there, pulsating and oozing with menace and fear. Their entire existence is to sit in this hallways and carry on with what’s likely a painful, meaningless, agonizing existence.
That’s the sort of world this is– the monsters exist not for any natural means, but to accentuate the power of the vampire Nobles, and D’s stride through his hallway shapes the entire scope and vibe of the movie.
The rest of the movie hits some other interesting beats. Lee’s number one henchman, Rei, gets a neat little arc. Rei’s a mutant with space-altering powers– he can bend space around him, allowing him to teleport and redirect attacks. He works for Lee because he wants to become a Noble himself, but his aspirations are shot down repeatedly. He still bears a grudge against D and wants to see him dead, but he also ends up fighting against, and losing, to his master. Lee’s daughter, Lamika, also has a decent story, where she learns of her father’s hypocrisy, turns sides, yet still clings to her vampiric nobility. These supporting characters are all far more interesting than D himself, but his blank slate “cool” allows us to visit these characters and see their “minor” stories play out within a larger context.
But that’s also part of what keeps Vampire Hunter D from being one of those all-time classics. It’s largely a collection of cool moments and vibes, and while that alone makes it worth watching, it’s not something that gels into a cohesive whole. If the entire thing was a sort of travelogue through this demented Old West Apocalypse, then that’d be one thing, but dwelling on the human characters and their plight isn’t too interesting, and the back and forth of rescuing Doris more than once is far too repetitive for an 80 minute movie.
If only the entire movie was like D’s passage through the castle– one weird encounter with a monster after another– basically Castlevania the anime. Still, it’s totally worth revisiting. The Midwich Medusas and all of their fellow creatures are awesome to behold.
You may not have noticed, since I stuck the link up there a few weeks ago without saying anything about it, but I decided to take the plunge and set up a Patreon for this place.
If you dig what I do, and you have the means to do so, it’d be totally awesome and stuff if you could toss me a few bucks. I’m gonna work on some rewards or whatever to make it worth peeps’ while, but for now it’s just a straight-up donation thing.
If you have any suggestions or whatever, let me know. If you think I’m a horrible sell-out, let me know that too. Then give me money because you’re probably a horrible sell-out too and we can all bask in the shame together.