Neil Jordan seems to like making films about vampires, werewolves and other creatures that stalk the night. His first vampire film Interview with the Vampire was very good and also the only film where Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise play supernatural characters. Neil Jordan’s new vampire film, Byzantium is a relatively low key affair as the story is set in a small coastal town. The location is a good choice and it should add something interesting to the film.
The story concerns two women who visit the town and decide to stay in a deserted guesthouse which is called Byzantium. The two women are called Clara (played by Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and they share a dark secret. Both are vampires and they have lived for 200 years. Like most vampires in works of fiction they survive by feeding on the blood of the living. Clara seems happy to do this and appears to enjoy being a vampire. Clara is also Eleanor’s mother which adds another dimension to their relationship. Eleanor seems rather uncomfortable with the fact she has to survive on blood and she is conflicted about her fate. She was also only sixteen when she became a vampire and she will look like a sixteen year old forever as these vampires do not age.
Eleanor becomes intimate with a young local lad from the town called Frank and she eventually tells him her secret. This naturally complicates things and the situation gets worse when dead bodies start turning up in the town drained of blood. The mother and daughter also appear to be under threat from a secret organization that is hunting them. This group attempted to kill them two centuries ago but failed. Now they have returned to try again and they are led by a man called Darvell (played by Sam Riley.) Darvell appears to be a vampire himself as he is seen two centuries ago as a young man and he still looks the same in the present day. Clara and Eleanor will have to fight to stay alive and avoid their pursuers. Their motives for choosing to stay in the town are unclear so the viewer will have to watch the film to find out why. Maybe they fled there hoping to lose the people hunting them. Unfortunately, killing a bunch of people in the town will not exactly help them keep a low profile.
Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan are good choices for the lead roles and it will be interesting to see them as mother and daughter. Both are capable actresses and Ronan in particular has a nice ethereal look that adds to her character. Tom Hollander also appears in the film as a teacher and it is a change to see him in a movie that deals with the supernatural. He and Sam Riley are welcome additions to the cast.
Neil Jordan is a reliable director and he makes interesting movies that sometimes involve people living on the fringes of society. The viewer is given a nice window into the world of the outsiders that appear in some of his films. Byzantium seems to follow that trend and it will be interesting to see what the director does with the film.
The trailer is well produced and very dramatic. It introduces all the main characters and also shows some nice cinematography.
The coastal setting gives Byzantium some atmosphere and the coast itself features a fair bit in the trailer. There is also plenty of action including chase sequences and it is clear the film will have plenty of killing too. The special effects shown look convincing and don’t appear to be over the top. The vampires in this movie seem to have some special abilities like being able to grow long claw-like nails which are briefly shown. They can also walk around in the daytime and they have a reflection in mirrors. The movie omits some of the more outlandish rules and powers often used in vampire lore which is not a bad thing.
Fans of the more offbeat vampire movies like Near Dark, The Hunger or Interview with the Vampire may enjoy this film and appreciate its style.
Byzantium will be released on May 31st. Have a look at the trailer and let us know what you think.