Perfect Creature (2006)

Click here for all the Fantsia news & reviews!Pefect Creature reviewStarring Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows, Leo Gregory

Directed by Glenn Standring

Perfect Creature is a hybrid vampire fable set, as the opening titles indicate, “in a world not unlike our own”. The city of Nuovo Zelandia is an impressive, vast, tall, densely populated urban sprawl rife with gothic & steampunk stylistic flourishes. It’s a place not bound by any one era in which our own world exists – the architecture, wardrobe, and vehicles are a mix of late 1800’s and 1930’s aesthetics. Unusual airships float through the always foggy skies, classic first generation automobiles cruise the streets, futuristic antiquity abounds in the detail. The city has an industrial feel– it’s a rather oppressive place, picturesque in its decay with desolate post-apocalyptic vibes. Imagine if Alex Proyas clubbed Martin Scorsese over the head and hijacked the art directing duties of Gangs of New York and you’ll be in the right general headspace of Nuovo Zelandia.

The societal framework of this neo-earth is defined by a synergistic relationship between mankind and vampires. The bloodsuckers, born centuries ago of “genetic mutation” rather than supernatural means, have their immortality and superhuman strengths revered rather than feared by mankind. Known as The Brotherhood, they are a benevolent ruling class who act as simultaneous political figureheads and curators of the people’s spiritual path. Their doctrine is a mix of science and scripture; longevity brings The Brotherhood wisdom of the ages that they use to serve mankind. By outliving plagues and societal scourges, they have the benefit of long term experience and foresight. In return for the help and guidance of The Brotherood, man pays sacramental homage in the form of blood in vast church ceremonies, ensuring the survival of The Brotherhood and with it the ongoing symbiosis of the races.

The take on vampire lore is the most impressive aspect of Perfect Creature – it’s interesting that these usually maligned creatures have been reconsidered in terms of how they might actually work in favour of man, given their non-mortal and super-strength advantages.

The rub is that one of The Brotherhood, a head scientist working in a eugenics style program that is attempting to nurture ongoing Brotherhood births, has broken from the fold and is preying on innocents. As such, it is up to humanity and the “good” members of The Brotherhood to hunt down this menace before he poisons Nuovo Zelandia with his noxious, eugenics-experiment-gone-wrong personalized version of vampire blood. He strikes singular and en masse – throats are torn out in shadowy corners, but the master plan is to poison the entire city.

It’s a great premise that gets off to an absorbing start. Along with the cool looking cityscape, you’ll see plenty of odd contraptions including a blood hookah for vampires, complex scarab-like bullets specialized for vampire hunting that unfurl mechanically in slow motion, and nasty wrist-taps that allow for blood to be exchanged from vampire to man (another interesting inversion of typical vampire construct). The “bad” vampire, Edgar, is a pretty good villain – he strikes viciously and disappears back into the shadows by crawling frantically up walls and disappearing into the darkness. These sequences, as well as the enhanced vision abilities of the vampires, are handled with nicely kinetic visuals.

Later on, the narrative devolves into familiar territory: a battle between two brothers lusting for the same woman. Granted, the prerogative of that lust is not overblown in the cliché sense, it’s rather ambiguous and the film spares us the usual heavy handed romantic crap you get with traditional vampire fare. But with potential of the cleverly reworked vampire context, it seemed a shame that more wasn’t made of the complex directions the plot could have taken. On top of this, the end of the film didn’t seem like an ending, but a beginning. This movie felt like a pilot, which makes the result of viewing it that much more frustrating because you’re left with the feeling that there is plenty more in store for the characters of Nuovo Zelandia. Personally, I’d be way more likely to watch an ongoing vampire-based TV series in a dark setting like this than, say, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Oh well.

Anyway, it’s not a bad film by any means. The brooding atmosphere is driven by high production values and the effective score by Anne Dudley (formerly of The Art of Noise), and the acting is solid across the board. If you’re a fan of Dark City or City of Lost Children or that kind of thing, or if you’re a vampire junkie or completist, you’ll find something to like here.

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