Dark Hearts is a vampire story that isn't a vampire story—a figurative take on well-worn folktales characterized by a literal thirst for blood, heightened sexuality, and bodily immortality. Such folklore has been exploited time and again by shrewd marketers targeting young adults—the demographic most driven by hormones, afflicted with delusions of invincibility, and unschooled in artistic discrimination. DH strikes at the core of these primordial desires but raises the creative bar by taking the literal to the figurative. It's been argued that all successful artists attain immortality through fame as do the subjects they choose to depict—so long as each model's essence is truly captured by the artist, and perhaps even sacrificed by the model for the sake of the work. If this be the case, then screenwriter Christian Piers Betley has successfully married the symbolic immortality of fine art to the time-honored vampiric folklore to engender a unique brand of bloodlust and a far more plausible anti-heroic struggle for immortality. Betley's story flourishes under the direction of Rudolf Buitendach (a man with an apparent love for the industrial underbelly of Los Angeles) who draws impressively visceral performances from stars Kyle Schmid (who plays struggling artist, Colson) and Lucas Till (Colson's naive younger brother, Sam) as well as from newcomer Sonja Kinski (sultry singer and kept girl, Fran) who moves deftly between femme fatale and fragile waif. Theme-wise, other volatile ingredients in the pot include fraternal rivalry, psychological addiction, paranoia, mental/physical abuse, and men with guns—all of the makings of a complex thriller and a Shakespearean tragedy. Some characters could have been imbued with a bit more dimension. For example, Goran Visnjic plays the all-too-familiar violent mobster with no apparent motive beyond a psychopathic need to possess and harm. Overall, however, DH is a winning, atmospheric debut piece from an up-and-coming filmmaker whose future work I await with anticipation.
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