We Are the Night (2011)

We Are the NightStarring Nina Hoss, Karoline Herfurth, Anna Fischer, Jennifer Ulrich, Max Reimelt

Directed by Dennis Gansel

Distributed by IFC Films

Truth be told, I had little hope for We Are the Night going into it just based on the poster art, which seemed to be a little too Sorority Row remake for my taste. However, I was proven completely wrong in my assumptions because the flick ended up being a great new twist on the vampire subgenre of horror. And for those of you out there who revel in modern foreign horror, We Are the Night will be of great interest to you.

In We Are the Night we initially meet a troubled 20-something named Lena (Herfurth) who, almost in a desperate cry for attention, resorts to an assortment of petty crimes around Berlin. When she decides to rip off a well-known pimp, she catches the attention of local law enforcement, particularly an up-and-coming officer named Tom (Reimelt), who seems to admire our protagonist’s penchant for ripping off the bad guys and feels an immediate connection with her, despite her best efforts to stay off his radar.

One night Lena heads to an underground dance club where she decides the partygoers there make excellent targets for her petty theft escapades. She begins dancing with a beautiful woman named Louise (Hoss), who happens to be the leader of a small vampire cult made up of entirely women who has been searching for “the one” for centuries and seems to think it’s Lena. Upon their first encounter, Louise decides to change Lena’s life forever and transforms her from a boyish street urchin into a luscious man-eater with just one bite. As if Lena’s life wasn’t complicated enough already, now she has immortality and a very demanding ‘maker’ that she needs to please.

We are also introduced to Louise’s two other companions – Nora (Fischer), the bouncy and playful vampire of the group, and Charlotte (Ulrich), who sullenly yearns for the life she left behind in the 1920s. Lena finds herself frightened and intrigued by her new life, but she soon settles in nicely with the other ladies once she realizes the power she now possesses. But as anyone who is familiar with the Spider-Man comics knows, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and she soon realizes the vampire life is not all it’s cracked up to be when innocent blood is shed and Tom’s life is in jeopardy once the cop puts two and two together and realizes the coven of vamps is responsible for a string of killings and other crimes in Berlin.

There is a lot to We Are the Night that feels very familiar, and horror fans who grew up in the 80s will recognize influences by vampire films of that era, including The Lost Boys and Near Dark. But rather than feeling like the movie is a rip-off in any way, director Gansel gives fans a few new twists to the popular vampire subgenre, including how the only vampires left in this world are women (“men were too selfish with their power” we learn, a surprising nugget coming from a male storytelling perspective) and there are only about 100 of them in existence all over the world.

Beyond the vampires and the love triangle that develops among Lena, Louise and Tom, We Are the Night also offers up some pretty badass action and chase sequences that were reminiscent to me of the 1998 flick Run Lola Run. To say the cinematography work by Torsten Bruer was remarkable almost doesn’t seem like enough of a compliment here because it’s his work that truly gives fans some serious eye-candy to chew on but also offers up some rather stunning slow shots that keep the movie feeling grounded in reality, too. The script, which Gansel co-wrote with Jan Berger, doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays the humor subtly while still managing to give the audience a few emotional gut punches that keep the story both compelling and engaging.

The gore in the movie doesn’t really go balls out, but I rather enjoyed that about We Are the Night, and as someone who generally is opposed to CGI work in film, the VFX work is surprisingly believable and looks fantastic without being too obvious. US companies should take some notes from the Germans on how good CGI work is done because the team on We Are the Night really nailed it in the CGI department.

My biggest complaint about We Are the Night is that the film’s narrative stumbles a bit in the third act and could probably lose about 10 minutes off its running time, but the lag in the film’s finale wasn’t enough to take me completely out of the story either. The film also has a very slick and polished feel to it that may be a turn-off to the horror purists out there, but I found that style complemented the story rather nicely. I know there are some people out there who may not appreciate the open-endedness of We Are the Night’s resolution, but I’m always open to movies that don’t give up all the answers once the credits start rolling.

Overall, We Are the Night ended up being a far better movie than I had expected going into it. It’s ambitious, energetic and downright fun. Gansel and his female-led cast manage to breathe refreshing new life into what some feel is an overdone subgenre in horror these days. And while there are a lot of things to We Are the Night that seem to tread dangerously close to other vampire films we may have grown up loving, there is still a lot of ingenuity at the heart of We Are the Night that demonstrates there are still unique vampire tales to be told.

4 out of 5

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