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Byzantium (2013)

It seems you can’t go anywhere nowadays without a new film/tv/book/whatever being added to the vampire franchise. Going for more grown up fare than the Twilight/Vampire Dairies is this 2013 British film directed by Neil Jordan whose had previous with the vampire genre 20 years ago with Interview With The Vampire.

Mother and daughter vampires Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) have been surviving by themselves for two hundred years. While mum Clara makes money the only way she knows how-stripping and prostituting, eternal teenager Eleanor longs to tell her story and not be always on the run in order to hide their secret. They arrive in a seaside town which Eleanor recognises from their past. Soon they are not only trying to cover their backs with the local townspeople but also from the haunting figures of their past.

The characterisation of the two women are strong. Clara is a someone whose been forced into horrible situations and uses her cunning and survival instrincts to help her and her daughter survive.  You’re never exactly sure what Clara is thinking and whether she cares for human life at all or whether they are just a means to an end. Her daughter Eleanor is more empathetic and only kills those who are looking to die. She is also desperate to tell someone about who she really is, repeatedly writting down her life story and then ripping it to pieces.

As with Neil Jordan’s previous works there is a great sense of atmosphere and distrubing visuals which are somehow mesmarising at the same time. Scenes such as Clare being bathed in river of bloods in the cliffs for example are both disturbing and sensual. There is also great acting from the two leads as well as the supporting cast. Jonny Lee Miller in particular makes for a thoroughly discpicable villian and Sam Riley is interesting as one of the more nicer vampires looking for Clara.

The movie does attempt to have some original features. The vampires don’t have fangs but grow an enlarged fingernail instead to cut their victim’s skins. The way they turn into vampires also involves some weird island and a cave. Overall though in spite of these features I woudn’t say that Byzantium is the most striking or memorable vampire film I’ve seen, although its probably one of the better acted.

Some of the aspects just didn’t work. Eleanor has an awakward romance with a local boy which is initally sweet but you wonder why Eleanor wants to share her story with a guy she’s only just met. She’s been around two hundred years but sometimes she doesn’t seem that smart. Clara’s reluctance to share with Eleanor the real reason why they are on the run is also grating-they would have avoided a lot of trouble if they had just been honest with each other. I was also a bit bored of seeing Clara in her underwear/naked for half the movie as well-although I’m sure some viewers will find that a positive thing and it has to be said Gemma Arterton does look great. It just felt like some of the scenes were not relevant to the plot and basically just there for Arterton to get her kit off.

Rating 3/5- an enjoyable and bloody addition to the genre but not memorable enough after the credits roll.

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