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24 Jul 2013

Home Video Review: Byzantium May Be the First Decent Vampire Flick Since the Scourge of the Twilight Films

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Gemma Arterton in Byzantium. Gemma Arterton in Byzantium.

Director Neil Jordan makes Byzantium a vampire film that is actually worth watching. Now available via IFC On Demand, this is the first decent vampire film since the undead started sparkling and moping in the Twilight films.

Saoirse Ronan stars as Eleanor, a vampire permanently stuck at the age of 16 for more than 200 years. She roams the Earth with her prostitute vampire mother, Clara (Gemma Arterton). Eleanor likes to write her stories down and then throw them away, as a means of keeping her secrets. She meets an interesting and ill boy (Caleb Landry Jones) and starts thinking that her vampire life is kind of boring.

It’s nice to see a vampire story with a majestic scope that goes beyond mere camp. Jordan literally uses waterfalls of blood in his movie, and brings his true sense of style to the proceedings. Ronan and Arterton keep things interesting, even when the script gets a little dull.

Sam Riley (so good in Control) shows up as a former soldier with a secret, and gives the vampire back-story additional depth. That depth is what makes this the best vampire movie in a long while. It’s not a great film—dull stretches abound—but it does give the genre an injection of something different.

Ronan was having a bad year after the horror that was The Host. Perhaps this will get her back on track. It’s good to see her talents devoted to something worthwhile after her appearance in one of the year’s worst films.

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