Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A vampire movie with little bite

The new season of HBO's True Blood is well under way, adding yet another helping of vampire mayhem to an already crowded field. These days, vampires seem to offer something for everyone, including, of course, the avid tween hordes who adored and supported the commercially successful Twilight movies. Can vampires for pre-schoolers be far behind?

Although, director Neil Jordan's Byzantium can't be accused of sinking its fangs into the same old vein, a case of vampire fatique (maybe mine) keeps it from drawing fresh blood. I'm too sick of vampires to go for this downbeat, time-fractured story about a sexy vampire (Gemma Arterton) and her resentful teen-age companion (Saoirse Ronan).

When the movie opens, Arterton's Clara's is working as a lap dancer to support Ronan's Eleanor. A vampire with a conscience, Eleanor only will feed on people who regard death as a comfort. Her vicitims tend to be old and sick.

The movie takes its time clarifying the exact nature of the relationship between Eleanor and Clara, which I won't reveal here. Of the two, Clara is by far the more enthusiastic vampire.

Written by Moira Buffini, Byzantium gets lost in a gloomy, noirish fog as the story vacilates between the present and the 200-year-old story of how the two women became vampires.

Best known for movies such as Mona Lisa, The Butcher Boy , The Crying Game, Jordan makes his second foray into the world of vampires, following 1994's adaptation of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire.

Telling the story from the point of view of its women characters proves vaguely interesting, but the tale isn't developed in the most convincing ways with Ronan's Eleanor trying to figure out how to have a "responsible" relationship with a young man (Caleb Landry Jones) she meets in the crummy town where the two women flee after Clara decapitates one of her victims.

There's also a running backstory about male vampires who harbor a long-standing grudge against Clara, who evidently broke their manly rules.

Byzantium leans more toward the Swedish movie, Let the Right One In, than toward more traditional vampire fare, but it's nowhere as creepy, resonant or memorable.

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