Vampire Clay
Also known as: Chi o suu nendo
Medium: film
Year: 2017
Writer/director: Soichi Umezawa
Keywords: horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 81 minutes
Url: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7026370/
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 22 June 2022
It's like two mismatched films, edited into one. Not everyone will be a fan of the juxtaposition.
One of those films isn't schlocky at all and is quite a naturalistic, convincing portrayal of a small-town art school. (Hardly any of the cast had much of an acting CV, but you wouldn't guess. Also, the only experienced actress here is the wife of the writer/director.) Anyway, a student, Kaori, has returned from Tokyo and loves talking about how everything's different there. More expensive still lives, more teachers and students, much harder to be top of the class, etc. This art school's teacher, though, doesn't seem to like such discussion.
This is quite good, but not always very comfortable. I disliked the teacher. Don't say things like that to your students, no matter how many minefields in your past they might have trodden on. Mind you, it can't be much fun to have your students asking if they could have a different teacher, for occasional lessons every so often.
The other film, though, is a horror film with outrageous special effects, thanks to a writer/director who's best known as a make-up artist and special effects meister. It's about killer clay. The teacher digs up some clay at the start of the film... BUT IT'S EVIL! It eats the class hamster, then it starts on the students. This is clever, in its wacky way. Imagine having a fist fight with a wet clay man. The effect of a knife or a fist will be different from anything you'd see in nature. I also admired moments like the clay fingers that won't let you use your mobile phone. It's pretty cool... but it often looks silly. Wiggling clay tentacles will occasionally look like penises. The goofy sculpture monster at the end is brilliant, but it'll make a lot of moviegoers laugh their heads off.
Incidentally, the Japanese title makes it sound like an unofficial fourth film in Toho's 1970s Bloodthirsty Trilogy. (All four have a Japanese title of "The Something That Sucked Blood".) It couldn't be more different from them, though.
This film even has a sequel, from 2019.
This is basically a low-budget J-horror with lurid special effects, but I think it's clever. Sometimes. If you look at it the right way. I liked the scene where the first victim hasn't realised what's happened and thinks she's talking to her friends. It's certainly much more original than the vampire film you might be expecting. I like the tone. It's possible to take the film seriously. (Assuming you're not thrown by weird tonal leaps, at least.) But, that said, my teaching background meant that I personally found the naturalistic half-film's content a little off-putting.