Based on a manga, Higanjima: Escape From Vampire Island sounded awesome. I mean, first of all that's a great title, second of all the concept of a vampire island is so delightfully trashy that it could have only been good.
If you forget that Uwe Boll's House Of The Dead existed and also took place on an island.
The bad news is that Escape From Vampire Island isn't good and most definitely doesn't live up to its premise. The film is surprisingly joyless considering that its key idea was so inherently entertaining. That's like calling a film "Look Out! The Dogs Are Taking Over The Planet!" and then taking it seriously. Why would you do that?! After a promising opening scene set on the titular island, we're soon introduced to our main characters who turn out to be a truly one-dimensional bunch: stereotypes you'd find in a manga or an anime series minus the fun. The smart one with glasses, the fat one who eats a lot, the stupid but harmless one, the girl who likes someone but doesn't say anything, the cool one with a rockabilly haircut... I swear they are this transparently unimaginative. Again, I would have let that pass if the film had been somewhat tongue-in-cheek and well aware that its characters were rubbish but it's not, it thinks we like them, it thinks they're good! And we really don't and they really aren't. Not only are they one-dimensional but they're boring AND whiny as hell. Half the time they're either complaining or crying like infants.
Basically, in this movie, you're just sitting around waiting for that kinda badass blonde vampire to show up and say something likably random. Every time he's on screen, the film finds the tone it needed all along: silly, over the top and fun. Sadly, he just kinda pops in and out of the movie as the plot demands, like the kind of boss that taunts you in a video game during the entire thing before you actually face him right at the end. Whether he's undead or just plain dead, he's the best thing in this movie and he knows it. We also get a big guy with a mechanical sword instead of an arm and some old lady vampire that turns into a bat-banshee. Fair attempts at making the film more entertaining but those are fleeting moments without much weight. The design of the vampires themselves is actually really good, so good in fact that you just wish the whole film had been about vampires rather than that group of losers we are given to spend time with. These guys should have been killed off one by one slasher movie-style but the movie likes them so much that we're never even given this sadistic pleasure. It's like the film goes for a Battle Royale-esque scenario with vampires but Battle Royale was shamelessly OTT and completely self-aware, Higanjima is waaaay too serious and earnest to work as that kind of movie. On top of everything, it's just not that bloody or gory enough.
All in all, I don't really recommend Escape From Vampire Island unless you're a big fan of the manga and you wanna see it come to life. In which case, sure, check it out. Otherwise, despite a couple of enjoyable stylistic aspects and that badass vampire villain, this movie lacks a basic sense of fun and fails to live up to its potentially genius premise.
What a shame.