Halloween nights are generally accepted as a splendid time to pop in a nice horror film, sit back with some candy, and enjoy the fright fest. So that is what I did, choosing Byzantium (2012) as my nights attraction. The moment I finished the final minutes of Byzantium I relished in amusement; the feeling that the film had departed unto me. No sooner did I switch the television off did I start to recount the last two hours of my life, and slowly I began to realize that I did not feel that this film was nearly as grand as my first reaction. It may have been the festivity of the occasion that had clouded my judgement or the sugar high, but as days have passed I feel as though I was tricked… not treated. While the acting is done quite well, the plot has so many holes that it only takes away from the immersion that horror so desperately needs. Believability in the moment is everything in a movie such as this and Byzantium missed the mark.
There are many things that Byzantium does incredibly well. It doesn’t overdo the gore in order to up the scare factor, as what many pitiful horror films do. It also doesn’t attempt annoying jump scares, which so many horror films rely on. What it does well is convey the tragic life story of two 200 year old vampires. Eleanor, played incredibly by the stunning Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Atonement,) and her mother Clara by Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Quantum of Solace.) Both play off each other quite well, however, neither of them ever get quite fully fleshed out due to the poor handling of the story. There is almost too much dead air in this film, which can be interpreted as trying to create a desolate atmosphere. However, in all actuality, this results in a droningly slow progression of the story. So when the time comes for the film to reveal the exposition it is done so in clumsy flashbacks. What could have been an incredible deviation from the overdone dramatization of vampires succumbs to boredom. If you are looking for something like this you should see the director Neil Jordan’s masterpiece Interview with a Vampire as this film is an attempt at return to form for Neil. Too bad it falls quite short of the mark.
Still, the film has charm, in a creepy sort of way, and it was enjoyable enough to sit through the two hours. My suggestion is to see it if you have an itch for a vampire movie that doesn’t have anything to do with high school teenage angst or dating or wooden spikes. There are a few moments in this film where the poetry shines and makes the experience well worth a night in. This film, brought to you by IFC Entertainment, can be found in BluRay and DVD.