Gore galore

ByzantiumTinseltown 2014. “Yes, it’s red carpet time once again folks. And the winner of the year’s most blood-drenched movie goes to Neil Jordan’s epic gothic vampire romp ‘Byzantium’!”

Wishful thinking on this enthralled critic’s part, perhaps, but a rollercoaster of a story from frame one, in which virtually every participant – both in front of and behind the camera – ticks the boxes: cinematography, music, script, editing, locations, casting and some stunning special effects. This is Jordan’s second foray into the world of the undead, following his Oscar-nominated ‘Interview with the Vampire’ in 1994. Leads Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan are utterly beguiling as a rampant mother-and-daughter duo of 200-year-old vampires, reeking mayhem in the run-down quarters of an English seaside town. A neat touch is that their vampiric incisors have been replaced with prosthetic thumbnails for making jugular incisions.

Sixteen-year-old Eleanor (Ronan) yearns to be a writer, constantly recording gothic elements of her turbulent life. Despite her self-effacing demeanour, Neil Jordan dresses her in a red hoodie, which seems to be a subtle reference to the hooded dwarf in Nicholas Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’. And for serious cineastes (who need to get out more often), watch out for Jordan’s homage to the famous arcade chase between Harrison Ford and the woman replicant in ‘Blade Runner’.

When Eleanor falls for Frank, an anaemic youth bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Bob Geldof, it seems her secret may be revealed. Mother Clara has moved into a derelict seafront hotel and converted it into a bordello. When she’s not supping from her post-coital clients’ throats, she’s grappling kung-fu style with two fearsome undead heavies of The Brotherhood.

Jordan’s surprising location choice of Hastings provides cinematographer Sean Bobbit with some seedy fairground and arcade backdrops, plus the looming charred skeleton of the town’s Victorian pier, torched by vandals three years ago. The movie’s final denouement between Clara and The Brotherhood is certainly not for the squeamish.

Screenings at the Courtyard, Hereford on 2–3 August.


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