I’m tempted to say that there are no real vampires in Vampire, Iwai Shunji’s new film, when in fact the opposite is true. There is one real vampire, but real in the sense that the main character (Kevin Zegers), a character rooted firmly in reality, does drink blood. The problem with calling someone a vampire these days is that you immediately see a sparkly Robert Pattinson flying through the trees and snarling. This film is less a vampire movie and more a “K with the H of G movie,” or killer with the heart of gold.
Read the review below.
- Writer/Director: Iwai Shunji (New York, I Love You)
- Cast: Kevin Zegers, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rachel Leigh Cook, Kristin Kreuk, Aoi Yu, and Adelaide Clemens
An average high school biology teacher somewhere in America, Simon (Kevin Zegers) seems completely unremarkable, until you find out he’s inclined, fairly regularly, to drink large amounts of human blood. Targeting suicidal women online, he convinces his victims that he’ll help them die by letting their blood into jars. But one of his conquests goes horribly wrong and he ends up meeting and falling for another woman (Adelaide Clemens) who offers to let him drink her blood regularly, if he can promise not to drink from anyone else. It seems as though it’s going to work out until a jilted and obsessed woman (Rachel Leigh Cook), aims to expose his secrets.
Though it may not have been intended as such, this film is a remarkable critique of the different nodes of vampire culture in America. We come across guiltless murderers, cape-wearing posers, a woman who believes in vampires, and a woman obsessed beyond reason with a man she hardly knows for no apparent reason. The fact that it takes place in a heavily forested town and that it includes a number of chuckle-worthy vampire film jokes makes me more and more inclined to look at it as a critical response to the American obsession with vampires and the value set that obsession fosters. This movie does a great job of pointing out the types of things people fantasize about when they think of vampires, and then shines the harsh light of reality on it, as if to say: “but if that was possible in the real world, this is how ugly it would look.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like my vampire flicks (regardless of genre). But I’m also aware of the fact that there are cultural implications, and I think that criticism like this film is an important part of understanding how story-telling is changing and why.
Some of the camera work, including crooked Dutch angles, felt a little uncomfortable. There were moments in which the film felt very Japanese and others in which it felt American, and I wish that the styles had felt a little more integrated. There is also a fairly graphic rape scene, which definitely turned some of the audience off (to the point of walk-outs).
I really enjoyed this film from a cultural perspective, but I’m worried it won’t sit well with American audiences who like their vampires a specific way. At the Q&A following the premiere, Iwai Shunji explained that the inspiration for the film came from an idea he had about a serial killer who was more like a friend to his victims. Thus, I gather he envisioned his film to be about empathy, compassion, addiction and suicide, which it is. Sadly, I think in this country you can’t mention vampires without sending the American mind into a very different direction, as aptly proven by my self-defeating post here (sorry, Iwai Shunji!).
Watch the video review now…