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Nippon Nights: Vampire Clay

Roxie Theater
Event organized by Roxie Theater

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Japanese director and master makeup artist Soichi Umezawa gives life to a plasticine demon that subsequently devours the denizens of a rural art school.

“The best movie where people are eaten by a sculpture" The Verge.

If you’ve paid any attention to Japanese genre cinema over the past 25 years, you may be familiar with the craft, if not the name, of Sôichi Umezawa. A special-effects makeup artist with over 70 credits, Umezawa impressed and arched many an eyebrow in 2014 with his segment “Y is for Youth” in ABCs of Death 2, demonstrating that there was a unique voice and vision behind the hands that helped concoct the gooey spectacle of lo-fi genre gems like Death Trance and Alien vs. Ninja. It was wondered (at least by this programmer) just what story Umezawa might wish to tell were he ever afforded the director’s chair on a feature film. The answer, it turns out, is an imaginative and hilarious marriage of The Blob and The Evil Dead, which pits art students against creeping globs of bloodsucking modelling clay. Seriously.

Concisely unfolding his B-movie conceit with unflinching sincerity, Umezawa resourcefully conjures up an inventive barrage of charming practical effects for his plasticine fiend as it attempts to imitate and subsequently devour the denizens of a rural art school. There’s also an inescapable and endearing meta-quality to the clay demon insofar as its properties emphasize the medium of its own execution, as well as the filmmaker’s own evident passion and talent for sculpture. It’s both an inspired permutation of the Japanese creature feature and a cautionary tale for artists who let their artistic proclivities consume them. (TIFF)

Directed by Soichi Umezawa. 2017. Japan. In Japanese with English subtitles. 81 min. DCP.