Review: ‘Interview’ Director gets Vampires Right in ‘Byzantium’


While it’s more accurately a Gothic Thriller, Byzantium is definitely one of the best Horror offerings of 2013 (and if I had seen it a few weeks ago, it most certainly would have made my Top 10 List).  I remember thinking, as I watched, that Byzantium is the movie Interview with the Vampire tried to be (but failed miserably).  Turns out the link between these two films goes way beyond my mental association, as Neil Jordan directed both.  So if Interview was an embarrassment (at least in the eyes of Horror aficionados), Byzantium more than makes amends; every aspect of this film is superior.  I do believe we have a future classic here.

 Read my review after the jump.

Official Synopsis:  Two mysterious women seek refuge in a run-down coastal resort. Clara (Gemma Arterton) meets lonely Noel, who provides shelter in his deserted guesthouse, Byzantium. Schoolgirl Eleanor befriends Frank and tells him their lethal secret. They were born 200 years ago and survive on human blood. As knowledge of their secret spreads, their past catches up on them with deathly consequence.

Just when it seems like Vampires have been done to death (no pun intended) Byzantium is like a breath of fresh air in a dark and musty crypt.  While giving due respect to the classic Vampire films that proceded it, writer Moria Buffini fearlessly breaks established rules–and even makes up a few of their own.

For example:  The vamps in Byzantium don’t catch fire in sunlight, don’t grow fangs, don’t sleep in coffins, and don’t mutate into other animals.  What’s more, Buffini imagines Vampires as an Old Boys Club.  When Clara steals the secret to immortality for herself and her daughter, she runs afoul of the “Brethren”.  According to established traditions, females don’t deserve to become Vampires–and they may NOT create others.  It’s ironic that an all male group seeks to keep women from doing the one thing they are superior at: Creating Life (in this case, granting immortality through death).

Clara and Eleanor (the film’s female vamp protagonists) are both played with undeniable skill.  While they are mother and daughter, they are on different ends of a bloody spectrum.  Both women require human blood to live, but Clara gets it from people she uses and manipulates whereas Eleanor only kills people on the verge of dying–and always with their permission.  A parasite on one side, and an Angel of Mercy on the other.  By giving the main characters vastly different modus operandi, Buffini’s Vampires are not innately evil–rather they are as diverse as the rest of us mortals.  It’s also worth noting that the most fiendish character in Byzantium (played with exquisit sadism by Johnny Lee Miller) is human.

There’s a love story in Byzantium that’s sure to please the Heaving Bosom Brigade.  While I find it difficult to believe a 200 year old vampire would have any interest in a 16 year old boy, they look so cute together that I’m willing to let it slide.

The scenes of characters becoming Vampires are utterly–beautiful!  Byzantium is, in fact, drenched in stunning imagery and geographies.  I’ll carry the image of black mountains and blood-red waterfalls with me for quite some time.

Byzantium is a smart, stylish, lavish, beautiful piece of cinematography.  This one can be enjoyed by Gore Hounds as well as more moderate mainstream movie viewers.  A bit long, but never boring, Byzantium is simply a must-see.

4 out of 5 Skull-Heads

 Trailer: HERE

Release Date (VOD, Limited) June 28 2013
Studio IFC Films
Director Neil Jordan
Writer (s) Neil Jordan, Moira Buffini
Starring Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Caleb Landry Jones, Danny Mays, Bradley James, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, Tom Hollander

About Saucy Josh

I write a blog for intelligent Horror movie aficionados called Blood and Guts for Grown Ups: View all posts by Saucy Josh

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