(Ireland/UK - 2013)
ANTIVIRAL) and writing down her story for him. Frank gives the memoir to their creative writing teacher (Tom Hollander) and soon, more men from Clara's past are on the scene. In Eleanor's story, we learn that she and her mother are over 200 years old and that Clara was a prostitute servicing some Napoleonic-era soldiers who were part of a vampire order called the Pointed Nails of Justice. Clara tricked her way into joining this He-Man Woman-Haters Club, and they've been after her and her daughter since.
BYZANTIUM has a great opening half hour, but then meanders a bit when it gets bogged down in the 200 years ago backstory and even more when one of the soldiers (Jonny Lee Miller) tells his own story within the flashback. It picks up again in the home stretch, but the final scene between Clara and Eleanor feels rushed considering the emotional buildup to it, as one interpretation of the film could be as a metaphor for a concerned mother (it's not often you see vampires being concerned about money and keeping a roof over their head) learning to let go of her child. Even with its problems (sorry, but "Pointed Nails of Justice" just sounds too goofy for a serious film), it's just nice to see a vampire film for adults that isn't populated with brooding hotties headed straight for the Teen Choice Awards. A terrific Arterton has the showier role, attacking it with sometimes feverish gusto while avoiding the easy pitfall taking it over-the-top, but it's Ronan's Eleanor who's at the heart of BYZANTIUM, effectively conveying the human side of vampirism, showing no malice or desire to harm anyone and struggling with the anguished burden of eternal life. With one foot in the arthouse and the other in the multiplex, BYZANTIUM sometimes takes on too much and becomes too unwieldy for its own good, but it's an interesting take on the vampire genre that will certainly find a cult following rather quickly. (R, 118 mins)
FRIGHT NIGHT 2: NEW BLOOD
(US - 2013)
This mostly follows the template of Tom Holland's 1985 classic, with the twist of turning Jerry Dandridge (previously played by Chris Sarandon in 1985 and Colin Farrell in 2011) into "Gerri" Dandridge and utilizing both the legend of Elizabeth Bathory and riffing on Julie Carmen's "Regine Dandridge" (Jerry's vengeful vampire sister) from FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1989). It's all a rather slipshod affair with a mostly uninteresting cast (only British TV vet Murray seems above the material), and thoroughly unlikable characters. Waller plays Evil Ed as a smirking douchebag until the plot requires him to be a horror geek, and Peter Vincent, so brilliantly played by Roddy McDowall as a has-been TV horror host in the 1985 film (in a performance that, believe it or not, briefly generated some Supporting Actor Oscar buzz) and acceptably by David Tennant as a Vegas magician in 2011, is here a cynical, hard-drinking, asshole reality-TV monster hunter played by Sean Power. It's hard to imagine McDowall's Peter Vincent telling a vampirized Evil Ed to "Kiss the cross, bitch!" which is pretty much the level of this loud, stupid, and boring film. The only real surprise FRIGHT NIGHT 2: NEW BLOOD offers is Evil Ed telling the Bathory story and having it play out onscreen in animated graphic novel form. It doesn't really serve a purpose, but it's something, I guess. Bland actors, dull performances (in their defense, they're all British or Irish and with the exception of Murray, using American accents), and the mandatory shitty CGI splatter. What a forgettable, pointless waste of time. (Unrated, 99 mins)