Director: Vincent Lanno
Starring: Carlo Ferrante, Fleur Lise Heuet, Pierre Lognay
Following up on Germany’s Urban Explorers the spotlight travels to neighbouring country Belgium for a mockumentary that is surprising in its originality…
After much trouble organising it a film crew arrive at a family house in a middle class part area of Belgium to make a documentary. The family are vampires who all seem pretty jaded and cynical as they talk about life as vampires and how silly humans are. The film crew follow them as they interact with the rest of ‘the community’ and offer a real insight into what is truly a different world.
There is George, the head of the clan, who likes to talk about his theories on the world. Beth is the mother that seems a little unhinged and gets off on talking about drinking blood. Samson is the cocksure teen male that does what he wants and finally there is Grace: she wants to be human. As Vampires progresses the plot shifts to Grace and her yearning to be ‘normal’ and the reactions of her disgusted family. As this happens it emerges Samson has committed one of the few things deemed ‘wrong’ in the community: having sex with ‘the leaders’ wife. As a result he and the family are in serious trouble.
The movie is teeming with originality and genuinely imaginative ways of characterising the vampires within. The idea of a group of vampires living integrated with humans and society poses a lot of creditability reducing risks but director Lanno and writer Frederigue Broos handle the plot and its potential pitfalls well.
An issue such as how the vamps can live with humans, despite wanting to kill them for their blood, is solved with the explanation that they have in their household something known as ‘The Meat’. ‘The Meat’ is a human being who has been assigned to them as a sort of living blood bank that they keep locked up as if that person were a pet. When the vamps want to eat a meal they bring ‘The Meat’, in this case a young woman, into the kitchen and have her lay down on the dining table. They all take a limb and get stuck in, sucking at her blood. She literally is being treated as if she were a piece of meat. She never really talks and is always spoken down to. She is kept alive though as they are used to the taste of her blood and it is hard to find good ‘meat’.
They also get their ‘meals’ with help from the police and local authorities. Any crooked drifter or illegal immigrant that are deemed a problem or shouldn’t be in the country are taken to the vampires as food in order to quietly ‘solve’ the matter, plus cut down on paper work. This, and ‘The Meat’, are ways of keeping the bloodsuckers happy in order that they don’t go around killing every human. It seems their integration with man is only capable due to man offering up ‘undesirables’ as a way to pacify them.
As is usual in vampire films these coffin dwellers are immortal. Most of the characters that appear on-screen seem happy with this but there is one who isn’t: Grace. The young girl (at least she appears to be young) of the clan does not like the idea of living forever. While the others all wear black and look a bit pale Grace constantly wears bright pink girly clothing and make up. She yearns to be human and to experience death because she feels it will at least give her life meaning (which is a bit profound, if the theory were explored further). This causes her to commit suicide a couple of times so she can at least pretend to have suffered death. Of course she survives every attempt due to her being immortal and she is upset after every suicide that she is still alive. The sight of her hanging herself while Samson watches and mocks is morbidly surreal.
The vampires claim they have no limits or rules like humans do yet they often offer the camera crew insights into their traditions (which do follow rules). The vamps that don’t ‘have children’ (turn humans into bloodsuckers) are treated as if they are second class citizens. They aren’t allowed homes or overly valuable possessions as they are seen to not be helping continue the growth of the communities population. This means they have to live in the basements or cellars of vamps that have had children. The leaders wife being off-limits sexually is another restriction imposed despite the protests they don’t have any. The community seems happy with a sexual free-for-all environment which sees them having intercourse with anyone they like (even their own ‘parents’).
There is a lot more in Vampires that could be detailed but won’t be due to spoiling what happens within. Towards the end of the movie is a plot development that shifts the narrative greatly. It feels as if a different film is being viewed but it all ties into the overall storyline eventually and offers more interesting insights into ‘the ways of the vampire’. Much like a real documentary Vampires is at moments funny, upsetting, enlightening and intriguing.
It’s difficult to understand why this flick hasn’t been seen by a greater audience or received more praise. It’s actually innovative in a clichéd genre that could do with more movies like Vampires.
Available on region 1 DVD and currently being streamed via Netflix US with English subtitles.