Directed by Olivier Beguin
After being hit by a car while on a night out in Romania with his girlfriend, Livia, photographer Alex finds himself in need of a blood transfusion. Unfortunately for him, said transfusion appears to carry a few side effects – including an aversion to sunlight, systemic distaste for garlic, an increasing blood lust, and regular appearances of a grinning, fanged and blood-soaked version of himself staring back from the mirror. Yes, folks, it looks as though Alex has contracted vampirism from contaminated blood. Or has he?
While his concerns are initially met with scepticism by Livia, she is eventually forced to try and help Alex with his situation, setting him up with offal dinners and accommodating his strange new behaviour in the hope that whatever stresses have him acting so strangely will pass in time. As Alex’s condition worsens, however, the strains on their relationship become apparent, before the truth is out.
Olivier Beguin’s Chimères is another attempt at a more grounded and realistic approach to vampire mythology focused strongly on the personal effects of such a transformation, and for a while it’s quite successful at being so. Rosset and Kohoutova convince well in their roles, with a chemistry that – for the most part – feels genuine as Livia attempts to keep Alex focused on his work and home life while juggling the fears that her beloved may be suffering a mental breakdown. Fulci regular Catriona MacColl also shows up for a few finely-tuned scenes as Alex’s less sceptical mother, though her character’s influence on the direction of the narrative is ultimately minimal.
Despite the players working well together, Beguin’s characters fall flat with little to truly connect them to the audience. Thus, the major failing of Chimères comes to light as the second act approaches – you’re unlikely to truly give a damn what happens to any of them, and so the main reason for hanging on becomes the curiosity of just how Beguin’s take on the vampire is going to play out. Is Alex truly undergoing a metamorphosis, or simply losing his mind?
When the answer is revealed, it’s as bombastic as it could be with some startling gore effects, yet it simultaneously takes the movie on a sharp right turn and down a road bereft of further interesting ideas. Pacing begins to slip as Chimères transforms into a montage of hunt and attack scenes punctuated with (admittedly well drawn) visual character moments between Alex and Livia. This, too, however, meets an abrupt and unfulfilling end before the film shifts focus once again, and drops gear once more. With stronger confidence in its construction, these changes may have been less frustrating, but Chimères rarely feels as solidly defined as it wishes to be. The finale is a prime example which, while providing the visceral goods and a strong dose of bloody action, takes the form of an extended and highly choreographed martial arts sequence that feels entirely incongruous with all that has come before.
The technical side of things is where Chimères finds its strongest assets, with some impressive cinematography and lighting for the budget, and robust editing. Beyond that, however, is a shaky attempt at intimate connection that ultimately transforms into dolly shots of people being beaten to death. Ringing hollow in the end, Chimères is a respectable effort at doing something different with the genre, but those looking for a much more well-rounded and confident approach would be better served checking out Scott Leberecht’s excellent Midnight Son instead.
2 1/2 out of 5