At this point, you’re either a splattercore fan or you’re not. If you saw RoboGeisha at SIFF this year, you probably know what to expect: genre-fucking twists, facile plots, and tons of blood gushing out of dozens of severed limbs. The violence in RoboGeisha (or The Machine Girl, or the best splattercore film so far, Tokyo Gore Police) is omnipresent—hidden sword blades fly out of mouths, elbows, and butts, and they slice into just about every body part imaginable, too. In that respect, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is more of the same: If you enjoy the genre, you’ll probably find it equally glorious (with one highly notable difference, much more on that later).
Damned if I could tell you what the plot’s all about: There’s a high school, a girl vampire who falls in love with a normal boy, a mad scientist and his sexy nurse, and a big fight between a vampire girl and a girl who is resurrected from the dead, Frankenstein-style. The Universal Monster tropes (Igor, Dracula) are all represented, and things build to a fairly satisfying conclusion.
But here’s the thing: There’s a lot of blackface in Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. And when I say “blackface,” I mean “blackface.” As in, Japanese women with their faces painted black (with huge white lips painted over their lips) dancing around, waving spears, and making ooga-booga noises, savage-style. When they’re not putting on a minstrel show, the women talk about how they wish they were black, and they admire how powerful black women’s legs are (the Frankenstein Girl gets a set of legs with the power of a black woman, and the film treats it as though she has superpowers, leaping hundreds of feet at a time).
I don’t know enough about Japanese culture to know if blackface is an acceptable thing or if the filmmakers are trying to be shocking or what, but I do know that the blackface scenes rob the gory violence of its brain-damaged innocence. It transforms the movie from an over-the-top festival of glee (say, a Don Rickles show) into something mean, stupid, and embarrassing (an Andrew Dice Clay routine). It seems weird to say this about a genre that involves dismemberment as a matter of course, but Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl doesn’t have the same charm as other movies of its kind.