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This is not a vampire flick. It shouldn't really be necessary to point
this out, after all the summary makes it very clear. But it would seem
that the reason for this film's overall cold reception is precisely
that it doesn't feature supernatural, love-lorn beings to satisfy
inhibited sexual desires of self-destruction. Rather, it presents an
altogether uncomfortable view on real-life blood-thirst and a
controversial look at suicidal obsession.
If you're familiar with Iwai's work, then neither the subject matter nor the style come as much of a surprise. Iwai's staple theme is alienated youth and the thin line between friendship and destruction. In 'All about Lily Chou-Chou', he explored bullying and underage prostitution against a backdrop of how virtual and real-life personalities differ, 'Swallowtail Butterfly' dealt with the ups and downs of a group of misfits bonding and betraying each other, and 'Hana & Alice' showed a close high-school-girl friendship with elements of rivalry over a particular boy.
'Vampire' follows a story which actually happened in Japan: a man convinces young women in suicide chat-rooms to die together with him, eventually tricking them so that he may consume their blood. The focus isn't so much on why he wants to do this (apart from ambivalent references to the quest for immortality), but rather why these women want to die - and this is where I see a continuity with Iwai's other work. It's not so much about the story itself, which takes somewhat unfathomable turns and ends up in a confusing mêlée, but rather the visuals, which create a mystified, surreal and at times even humorous perspective on death. The proverbial 'vampire' is actually seen as a perversion of this theme, which becomes obvious in a rather gory parody of the 'serial killer' image, complete with fangs and cape.
If you wonder what a Japanese film with American actors may look like, then this one may be very well for you. To me, it's been worthwhile just for seeing that the styles of Japanese cinema - character vagueness, visual rendition, and most of all quietness - can be translated into English rather well. However, if you really expect a vampire flick, better wait until the next 'Twilight' segment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just finished watching this film at Sundance, and it was nothing like
I expected. Very little gore, a cool and somehow likable main
character. Why Keisha Castle-Hughes has top billing I don't understand,
when she only has one scene at the very beginning. Adelaide Clemens
stood out, as the girl who just might save our "hero," had not Rachael
Leigh Cook, great as the pushiest would-be girlfriend I ever saw, went
and ruined it all. Amanda Plummer gives an outstanding performance
while only uttering one word in the whole film. Kevin Segers is
terrific as Simon. Simon is vampire as boy next door, without any
annoying vampire clichés to get in the way.
Now my problems with the film. The dialogue was a little trying at some points, but since the writer/director is not a native English speaker,it's forgivable most of the time. The movie did go on too long, there were moments where I thought "okay, that's the end," followed later by, "okay, now that's the end." One of the final scenes, featuring Kristin Kreuk of Smallville fame, is charming doesn't give us any more insight into Simon's story. Was she the first? Why is this flashback being featured at the end like this, when Simon's story is, essentially, over? My biggest problem with the film were the rotated shots. For no apparent reason as we see Simon and his new friend fishing, the shot is upside down. There's at least another few shots that are sideways. They added nothing to the film and only inspired me to tilt my head for a better view.
The film also features a insightful study on the depressed and suicidal. Both actors and director bring their pain to the forefront without any over-dramatic clichés. The scenes between Simon and the women are poignant, especially the non-vampire scene with his student.
If you're looking for a horror movie, this is not it. The most gruesome scene in the film features the main character only on the sidelines being repulsed by it. But if you like vampire as ordinary hero -- and not the fangy or sparkly kind -- you may enjoy it.
Sure feels like Vancouver, BC during the dreary days, which creates the appropriate mood for the flick. Its title unfortunately associates it with some real stinkers. It is not one of those. I don't know where the movie fits, but it leaves a significant after-taste. I use these user reviews to help decide whether or not I will watch the movie. If you do too, then it's a watcher, but strangely so. It feels Canadian, as in raw and hand-held sort of. Acting is solid, and the story keeps your attention. Vampire, no. Sanguine something, perhaps. It should not be castigated just because it is not polished to the extreme, and all tricked out with CGI.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well I have to admit this is one of the strangest movies I had the
opportunity to see in last few years. It's obviously not a horror or
supernatural flick as title might have suggested - but it's a full
pledged slow burning drama that almost has the 'art movie experience'
feel to it. First and foremost - this is NOT a movie for average
film-goer. It's slow paced, disturbing, unnerving, a true psychological
drama with after burn effect that's not even particularly fun to watch
but has that kind of hypnotic quality that holds you throughout the
The way the movie is shot is sort of semi-documentary style and while some shots do look relatively cheap (it was probably filmed on shoe-string budget), the way the camera moves and shots are placed - there's almost a voyeurish characteristic to it, like the director Shunji Iwai is forcing us to observe what happens to these women and to our main character, and although we might be repulsed by it - we can't look away. It's also a novel way to dive into the world of suicide and strange obsessions and even though we can't feel much empathy for Simon and the way he's using suicidal girls for his own 'vampiric' urges - it all has a deep, profound sense of tragedy that it's not just black and white or right or wrong. The question of morals is left as a gray area here; we are merely observing what is happening and drawing our own conclusions. Acting is minimalistic, but it does serve the movie well - the scarce, empty locations and deeply melancholic orchestral soundtrack only enlarge the feelings of sadness, nihilism and the impossibility of belonging or fitting in.
In short - this is a really special kind of movie, one that will stick with you for a long time as you dwell on the fate of it's protagonists and also leave you to fight with your own feelings of insecurities, sense of abandonment and questions whether life is worth living that sometimes creep on us in our darkest moments through life...
Well-worth seeing but a duly warning: not meant for the faint of heart.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was really surprised after watching this vampire movie. It is refreshing after all the soap-opera vampire dramas that have been on TV and movies recently that make the vampires corny stupid creatures. If you are looking for blood and gore, this is not gonna be your kind of movie, but if you are into psychological thrillers with extremely well created characters go for it. Perhaps the thing that hooked me up the most in this tiny indie movie, is that each of the characters that appear have a story to tell, even if their appearance is short. It has many elements that have not seen in a movie before with the touch that the director gives, such a suicide community online, and a serial killer that actually kills the victims with their consent, making him kind of sweet. You will never understand for sure if he is a vampire or why he does what he does, but you get really attached to different characters in one way or another and you cannot help feeling empathy for more than one in different moments. There is no way you can hate Simon (the main character), even if he is a "serial killer", and when you hear the victims, you also get why they don't wanna live anymore. The dialogs are breathtaking, and the acting of every single actor is just fabulous. Definitely the casting team made excellent choices, I didn't know most of them, but that was an amazing surprise, again, specially for being an indie low budget movie. I would have given it a ten if the last half an hour of the movie didn't got slower, and because of the photography. Although it is good, some scenes are extremely long for just one shot. However, I would recommend it if you want something new, deep and with a deep psychological content about vampires.
From the director of two of the best films about teenagers ever made, All About Lily Chou Chou and Hana and Alice, Vampire is an idiosyncratic art film. It was Iwai's English language debut, premiering at Sundance in January of 2011. It was so poorly reviewed that it barely even got released theatrically anywhere (only in Japan, as far as I can tell), and only recently became available in America via Amazon download. The truth is, it is a disaster. Thankfully, though, it's a very interesting disaster. With expectations adjusted accordingly, I liked it, at least a bit. Kevin Zegers plays a high school biology teacher who has a secret life as a serial killer called the Vampire because he drains his victims' blood. His victims, though, are consenting, wishing him to help them commit suicide. His pretenses are generally false - they believe he's going to commit suicide alongside them (or, alternately, that he's going to use the blood for scientific research on suicidals), but he is a gentle man. He actually believes himself to be a vampire, or maybe he wishes he were one, and he drinks the blood afterward. The film is often lovely - aided by a gorgeous, ethereal musical score by Iwai himself. There are a couple of killer sequences, particularly the film's only real horror sequence, where Zegers is forced to accompany another serial killer (Trevor Morgan) as he hunts and murders a woman by suffocating her with a plastic bag. Of all the deaths I've encountered in movies this past month (I only watch horror films in October), this was by far the most terrifying to me, with the woman just left to stumble around trying to escape her plight. The real failure of the film comes with the subplot involving Zegers' Alzheimers-ridden mother (Amanda Plummer), whom he keeps from wandering out of his apartment by attaching giant, white balloons to her. This feels like something out of a terrible indie comedy (well, it did premier at Sundance!) and it just never works. There are a lot of other instances of people just not acting like real people ever would.
To those that enjoy the Dracula vampire movies, don't bother with this one. This is not a fantasy. This is a true modern day sanguinarian vampire drama that is very enjoyable and very believable. While some may consider if bordering on horror, only due to a second vampire within the story, it is a well written and portrayed drama of true vampirism, where people truly are addicted to drinking human blood of others. Most will enjoy this as it fails to be as predictable as it first appears, and everyday life drama is well portrayed. It is disappointing that that many gave this a low rating, most likely as they simply wanted to see the typical fantasy vampire horror movie. This isn't it - this movie is real life, and truly could be based on a true story.
I write as a fan of Shunji Iwai's cinema: he is a master. An auteur.
The slander written of this film, by previous reviewers, should be ignored. What has been crafted is unique, cerebral, and very disturbing. A must see for fans of cinema, especially followers of Shunji Iwai.
The story, casting, cinematography, and editing, all feel like his previous outings, but the one difference is the obvious: the topic on display is not one routinely viewed in American cinema, which makes this film all the more important.
Vampire belongs in-line with the great films Hanna and Alice, and All About Lily Chou Chou.
No need to explain the storyline, because this film should be watched carefully.
I'm always interested in vampire films that are original and stay true
to the complexity of a blood sucker surviving in the modern world and
yet is able to refrain from being whatever Twilight was all about.
'Vampire' is definitely an interesting take on the genre, which focuses
on a young science teacher who preys on girls looking to commit
suicide. The most interesting thing about this film is how the vampire
himself seems to be surrounded by crazy people and I'm not talking
about his victims. The sane characters are the depressed people looking
for death and the other characters all seem to have personality
disorders or are psychopaths, which then makes the lead seem that much
more of a nice guy. The film starts out really interesting and has a
very cool cast of actors that are well known in connection to the
horror genre, but the film begins to fizzle out when it goes from drama
to art-house drama about halfway through. Then, the film continually
drags with scenes that are unnecessarily too long to be entertaining.
The weirdest part is the long list of Horror veterans with crazy small
parts throughout the film that go nowhere. Kind of a huge
disappointment, but Vampire doesn't deliver the horror as much as it
smothers you with drama.
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Iwai steps out of his Japanese comfort zone to produce an all-English
film that never sparks to life. A young teacher with a thirst for blood
helps wannabe suicides to die, at the same time taking payment in blood
to satisfy his craving.
Iwai goes after lyricism and visual poetry but forgets plot and character. These dull, droll people - they are all too sharp, witty, beautiful, young and clear-eyed to in any way convince that they are clinically depressed - wander through the frame, spouting little clunky monologues that are forgotten as soon as heard. There are some nice images here, you'd expect no less from Iwai, but the master storyteller who gave us Swallowtail and Love Letter does not inhabit this film. The subtlety and youthful longings that permeated Hana and Alice are also conspicuous by their absence. There is no dramatic tension, no empathy, no persuasive on-screen relationships - Martin and his mother never really convey a sense of shared history. A relationship with a cop seems forced in order to introduce an equally wooden stalker character. The script is badly under-realised, and everything after that can't move beyond that initial failure.
Iwai on top of his game is one of the world's best filmmakers, so it is deeply disappointing to see this flat, facile film in his oeuvre. Brief glimpses of his visual prowess remain, and allied to a stronger narrative, give hope that the old Iwai will show up in his next film. It's small consolation for having to sit through this.
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