LAKE OF DRACULA
THE BLOODTHIRSTY EYES; JAPULA; LAKE OF DEATH
(Chi O Suu Me)
One of the clear influences on Michio Yamamoto throughout the trilogy is the Hammer horror film, which were at their height of popularity during this era. Quite clearly, he has set out to copy the Hammer Dracula films here. In comparison to Hammer, Yamamotos films tend towards a much more measured and sedate pace. You keep suspecting that a Terence Fisher or some other Hammer director would have pushed the vampire scenes here for something more. The films vampire, for instance, never does much more than glower. Nevertheless, Yamamoto generates a degree of spookiness during many of the vampire appearances the girl in the hospital getting up from the bed with a spooky smile and running through the corridors; a scene where the vampire draws the sister Sanae Emi to him; and particularly during the opening scenes when the young Akiko stumbles into an old abandoned house and meets a white-faced woman sitting at the piano. The best scene though is one where the vampire pursues Midori Fujita through the house. Michio Yamamoto is too pedestrian a director to be lyrical or unnerve an audience but there are certainly times when the film evokes something eerie.
What makes for an interesting undertow to the film is the way the script plays up a certain ambiguity where it is suggested by those around her that everything the heroine experiences is something that she could have imagined. The sister keeps smiling with ambiguous intent and for a good part of the film we cannot be entirely sure if she has succumbed to the vampires thrall or not. At one point, she almost seems on the verge of seducing the heroines boyfriend away. The film even gives it a nominal rational explanation, suggesting that the heroine made up the story about meeting the vampire at the beginning because of rivalry over her sister getting more attention from their parents. It lends an intriguingly Freudian ambiguity to everything, even if the film weighs in too heavily on the side of obviously supernatural for the film to hover in a genuinely uncertain territory between psychological horror and mundane rationalism.
Michio Yamamotos films also have a tendency to seem confused about the nature of the supernatural menace. The film clearly identifies the vampire with being Dracula upon a couple of occasions, yet the end explanation about how the womans son grew to the age of 25 before becoming a vampire clearly contradicts this. It is hard to tell if this is something that exists at the script level or is a confusion due to the translation. What is intriguing about this explanation is comparison between it and Western vampires. Western vampires reside in Christian notions of dualities of good vs evil, of fleshly corruption vs spiritual purity. The Japanese vampire here resides more in a question of racial pollution and purity of blood, who is seen as normal for the period of his youth before the foreign pollutant in his blood finally emerged and took over. While the Western vampire film traditionally sees the vampire as a repressed carnal force bursting its way up through polite society, the Japanese vampire by contrast sees the vampire as a foreign racial threat that suddenly erupts through the placidity of everyday life.
Clip from the film here:-