Lionsgate // 2011 // 118 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // September 6th, 2013
They're dying to keep him alive.
Vampire movies have been around since cinema began and, it might seem, especially with the current bloodsucker craze, that there are no new twists to add into the formula. But people keep coming up with little changes to make their movie different. Now, these bits of minutiae don't really alter the game and only rarely do they make a movie better or add anything substantial to the genre. They do, however, ensure that more and more vampire movies will get made. This time, we get Vampire, a movie with a title that guarantees it'll be overlooked on the shelf with a plot that will make sure nobody will care enough to seek it out.
Simon (Kevin Zegers, Frozen) is a popular teacher who lives wth and takes care of his mother (Amanda Plummer, Pulp Fiction), an Alzheimer's patient, in his tiny apartment. But Simon has a secret; he's a vampire, but not the supernatural kind who stalks and bites his victims. Instead, he seeks out suicidal young girls and persuades them into suicide pacts. Once he gets them to a remote location, he gives them sleeping pills and drains their blood. Once bled dry, he drinks up, but the police may be closing in.
Vampire is a psychological drama that, oddly, fails entirely to bore into the psychology of the killer. It can't really be called a psychological drama, but masquerades as one to fool viewers into thinking there was something interesting going on here. Nope, and while the idea of another indie vampire movie wasn't the most welcome thing in the world, I was happy to see that it was really about a serial killer. It's not like that's particularly original, either, but it was something. Until I realized pretty quickly there was actually nothing, at which point I slogged through the remainder of this bore.
Shunji Iwai (Swallowtail Butterfly), director mostly of movies about teenagers, appears to have deliberately drained the story of any suspense that he might have built by having Simon have endless conversations with his depressed victims. Having to listen to depressed teenagers is a certain kind of horror in itself, but in a very different way than makes sense in a horror movie.
As they drone on endlessly about how great it's going to be to die, Iwai (who also served as cinematographer) goes crazy on the camerawork, switching angles willy-nilly and even turning the camera onto its side at one point for no good reason at all. Oh, wait, he was being clever, though that's the kind of pretentious claptrap pretending to be cleverness that should have been beaten out of him at some point.
It wouldn't be so bad if there was some substance to the story, but it's just as lifeless as the rest of the movie. The Alzheimer's angle just seems like it was shoved in to add some indie quirkiness. It has nothing to with the issue at hand, which itself doesn't carry any resolution. The performances are as flat as the story and the whole thing just collapses in on itself. I would have been a whole lot happier if it had just been some dumb vampire movie; at least then there would have been some biting.
Vampire arrives on DVD from Lions Gate in a bare bones release. The 1.78:1 image has a generally flat look to it, with whites that are much too bright at times. I think it might be intentional, but it doesn't look very good. The surround sound mix is quite a bit better, with decent use of the rear channels and perfectly clear dialog. The only extra on the disc is a trailer, so the disc is no more inspiring than the movie.
Shunji Iwai was clearly trying to do something different with his take on the vampire and serial killer genres, but the movie really doesn't work, coming off more like a pretentious bore than anything scary or sinister. In many cases, and especially in this case, when you're talking about well-worn genres, it's best to stick to the tried and true path. Then, at least the filmmakers will satisfy some percentage of the people watching their movies. The only thing satisfying about Vampire is when it's finally over.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R