By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Vampire,” from the celebrated Japanese director Shunji Iwai, takes to the opposite extreme in artistry. Iwai, in his first English-language film, wants to explore vampire nature, but he wants to do it in an anti-”Twilight” style. Tough, gritty, bloody, and smeary.
“Vampire” contains scenes of torture, murder, and grisly bloodletting; I don’t recommend it for children, or those sensitive to violence. But it aims — and succeeds — at a more naturalistic approach to blood-fiending. Its protagonist, played by Kevin Zegers, holds down a day job as (ironically enough) a biology teacher. In his spare time, he pretends to be suicidal on a twisted website catering to suicidal people.
When he finds a suitable woman, he sweet-talks her into what she thinks is a suicide pact, and he drains her blood to keep himself alive.
The question of whether Zegers is actually a vampire, in the sense of being an immortal being (as opposed to a deluded human), never gets definitively settled. Iwai put a lot of mystery into his movie, alongside the everyday aspects of what his character says and does. He also throws indistinctly odd visuals which may or may not be metaphorically intended.
“Vampire” has attracted some hateful, snotty reviews online from people who like their horror scenarios by the book, their blood circumspect, and their vampires sleek creatures who look straight from a model shoot for some extremely expensive perfume. Iwai wanted a film without easy answers, and indeed his character attempts to talk philosophical with some of the people he’s about to dispatch. But try as he might, he doesn’t get any satisfactory answers from these conversations. That’s true enough for almost anyone, regardless of the blood. (end)
“Vampire” is available on DVD.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.