Review: Vampire Doll (1970)

If you've ever wished you could combine gothic 70s Hammer flicks with Japanese cinema, you're in luck. Director Michio Yamamoto's Vampire Doll delivers plenty of creepy goodness despite its derivative plot and cheeseball performances. The tale follows Yuko, a young man who visits his adorable lady love in the countryside. Unfortunately for the poor guy, his girlfriend seemingly perished in a car accident prior to his arrival. Given the mysterious nature of her untimely demise, it's only a matter of time before Yuko stumbles across something sinister... and promptly disappears as well. Now it's up to his sister and her boyfriend to figure out what the hell is happening inside this kooky (and spooky) Japanese manor. Given that Vampire Doll belongs to the so-called Bloodthirsty Trilogy, it's easy to see which path this story takes. Plus, you know, it's right there in the title.

Despite its age (and the occasionally goofy nature of the material), Vampire Doll manages to elicit a surprisingly high number of shocks and genuinely creepy moments. And while the film drags a little toward the middle, it pulls out all the stops for one frightfully memorable finale (complete with a nifty arterial spray). Tracking down this flick no longer requires downloading dodgy illegal copies or picking up sub-par DVD releases. The fine folks at Arrow Video recently unleashed the Bloodthirsty Trilogy in all its gothic glory (alongside Lake of Dracula and Legacy of Dracula). The set is well worth the cash, especially if you have a thing for classic Japanese cinema -- and you still have some mileage left for tired old vampire stories.

Vampire Doll might lack originality, but it makes up for this shortcoming with a heaping helping of atmosphere and tension. Plus, the titular vampire doll delivers the chills in ways I hadn't expected. Arrow Video, those clever bastards, have delivered again.