Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Movies: Perfect Creature (2006)

Sci-fi vampire horror, ‘Perfect Creature’, from writer/director Glenn Standring, is set in an alternate reality New Zealand (Nuovo Zelandia), in which vampires and humans have co-existed peacefully for 300 years. That is, until someone who threatens all of this is born. I love vampire films, but I’ll be the first to admit that this one didn’t sound too promising on the surface. I gave it a chance though and was pleasantly surprised by the storyline, which was actually a reasonably original take on the sub-genre.

300 years ago, through some sort of genetic mutation, some male children began to be born as vampires. Due to their superhuman abilities and hugely long lifespan (over the 300 years, no vampire has died) they were seen as more perfect versions of human beings and highly revered as beings who are ‘closer to god’. Since that time, they became known as ‘Brothers’ and formed a church, which their human devotees attend.

Although the vampires of this world do not prey on humans, they still require blood and so willing volunteers donate it for the Brothers to consume. It’s an organization similar to the Catholic Church, where people donate money, receive guidance and confess their sins to the priests. Oh, and the Brothers also withhold masses of information from humans and forbid things such as research into genetics in order to maintain their power and encourage dependency.

Regardless of this peace, the Brothers still seek to make a ‘perfect creature’ that is half human, half vampire and continue to conduct genetic research secretly. Unfortunately, every attempt they make ends in either death of the newborn or a virus that causes them to go insane being present. When the half-vampire, half-human, so-called “perfect creature” Edgar (Leo Gregory) is finally born, it appears that he does not have the virus and is raised by the Brotherhood. However, as he grows up it becomes apparent that he too is infected, and he goes onto attack and kill people in an effort to start a war and stop Brothers from “serving” humans. Edgar’s biological brother, Brother Silas (Dougray Scott), and Lilly (Saffron Burrows), a human detective, team up and try to stop him.

The movie’s main plot makes a refreshing change from the “sexy vampire” and “vampire with a soul” storylines that have been made and remade countless times over the years. It also seems to cross over into the serial killer sub-genre too, which is much more appealing than the action or romance crossovers that have previously been offered. For example, Edgar always kills women and gives Silas various clues as to his whereabouts and the location of his next murder, in order to both assist his own capture and taunt Silas. There are also action and romance scenes in the movie, but they aren’t the main focus.

The setting of the movie is also really interesting, combining scenery, props, transport and costumes from Victorian England and the 1920’s-1960’s with modern and futuristic technology, architecture and clothing. There’s something of a Steampunk element to the cityscapes, which are further enhanced by the long, wide angle shots consisting of CGI mixed with real footage. This random mixture makes the film’s look rather unusual and unique and it really does seem like an alternate, darker version of a place that already exists. The closest visual style to it in a film that I can think of is ‘Bladerunner’, but even that is somewhat different to Nuovo Zelandia.

The acting is generally quite good too and Dougray Scott gives a particularly strong performance as the unemotional and inquisitive Silas, which is contrasted by Leo Gregory’s portrayal of madness and violence in Edgar. This again makes their relationship seem more like a police officer and serial killer than siblings or vampire hunter and vampire. Saffron Burrows, is also quite decent, but is not that memorable in her role. That seems to be more due to the character she’s playing rather than any lack of ability on her part though. Lilly appears to swing between tough cop from the streets and vulnerable woman devastated by the loss of her child far too often, but I suppose that is a plausible character trait for a grieving mother.

There are, however, two things about ‘Perfect Creature’ that really drag it down. Firstly, the completely pointless sub-plot of Lilly and Silas falling in love. It adds nothing at all to the movie and just pads it out with unnecessary scenes. They may have been attempting to add some kind of ‘forbidden love’ element to the story (Brothers are not allowed to be romantically involved with anyone) in order to appeal to wome...audience members who might like that sort of thing. It certainly didn’t appeal to this audience member that it may or may not have been aimed at though. If anything, it detracted from the film and made Silas somewhat irritating when he was around Lilly or discussing her with others. It’s unfortunate, because until that point, there had been very few disappointing features to the film.

The other huge let down is the ending, which seems rushed and strange. There is a sudden shift of who the enemy is and a flurry of narration from Silas that’s only purpose seems to be to lead into a sequel. Even the production quality seems to deteriorate slightly and it takes on the feel of a pilot film for a series, rather than the stylish and atypical sci-fi / fantasy horror movie it had previously been. Were it not for this ending, it may even have been easier to overlook the irrelevant romance between the two main characters.

Whilst there were two rather substantial failings in ‘Perfect Creature’, for the most part, I did enjoy it. Although it probably won’t become remembered as one of the greatest films ever made, I appreciated Glenn Standring’s efforts to go in a different direction with a vampire movie and definitely recommend it to fans of sci-fi horror and modern bloodsuckers.


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