A sexy, new vampire thriller called Byzantium is set to open tomorrow and I snagged some free screening passes this past Tuesday.
The words “subtle” and “vampire” aren’t found in the same sentences nowadays. Amidst the glut of vamp and supernatural schlock, Byzantium stands apart as a smart twist on the genre and mythos.
The quick lowdown – 2 beautiful vampire women, Clara and Eleanor, end up in a seaside town, take up residence with the hapless owner of a dilapidated hotel, and try to set up their next years of life. Following the trail of bodies left in their wake, however, are two vampire detectives. Byzantium is based on a stage play by Moira Buffini called “A Vampire’s Story” and Buffini wrote the screenplay.
The bulk of this film is carried by the gorgeous and subtle performance of Saoirse Ronan as Eleanor Webb. Her ability to shift from vulnerable into predator with a single look is chilling. Her compassion and moral compass set her apart from the more accepted notion of vampires that we get in the devious and sexy Clara (Gemma Areterton).
As Eleanor Webb unfurls the many petals of her story and we learn who these women are, where they are from, and how they exist, we get drawn deeper into this film’s take on vampire creation. While the two men on their trail get closer, the stakes raise higher and higher. Slow moments are punctuated by the tension of just how precarious of a position these two women are in and an occasional well set-up dose of humor.
Kudos all around to the supporting cast on this one. I found myself particularly moved by Caleb Landry Jones as Frank, the boy Eleanor chooses to tell her secret to, who is terminally ill with leukemia. The direction and editing created a lush feel and while the storytelling moves slowly, it doesn’t make for a dull experience. This is a vampire tale for adults and that’s definitely not a bad thing.