Not Like Others (UK DVD)
Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Peter Pontikis
Starring Jenny Lampa, Ruth Vega Fernandez, David Dencik
Distributed by Chelsea Films
Swedish vampire flick Not Like Others (aka Vampyrer) introduces us swiftly to destitute bloodsucker sisters Vera and Vanja. Leading a sombre, empty existence on the streets of Stockholm, life for the two is a daily struggle to not only survive but keep their existence hidden. When Vera feeds on and kills the leader of a biker gang in a nightclub’s toilet, the sisters are forced to run for their lives in the streets at night, pursued by his vengeance-seeking brethren.
Sounds like a relatively interesting, and potentially exciting, little flick, doesn’t it? Well, that isn’t the case at all. Writer/director Pontikis instead forms Not Like Others as an attempt at a cerebral character study focused on the lives of these two sisters. It’s a pity, though, that their characters are barely (if at all) developed beyond the fact that Vanja wants to attempt to live as a normal person alongside her newfound human love while Vera is vehement that the two will never be able to integrate into human society.
Moving at an extremely slow pace, the events of the film play out in one evening, punctuated by a few flashbacks. Essentially, the sisters shuffle around the dark streets talking about life, walk into a party attempting to steal some money, and talk in a movie theatre. One of them kills a would-be rapist taxi driver (after much talking), and they eventually get caught up on by the bikers. There’s nothing of any real substance here, and while the plodding tempo and solemn, low-key visuals seem convinced of their poignancy, it’s just plain boring.
The bikers are never explored, instead acting as a group of pursuing revenants clad in leathers and helmets. For the entire film it’s an inevitability that they will catch up with the duo, but in keeping with the subdued nature of the proceedings, the final showdown -- as with the majority of violence in the film -- is entirely absent; not that it would particularly matter as by the time we get there, both the leads and antagonists are such cinematic non-entities that their grievances carry no resonance. The fact that the sisters are vampires is also close to completely arbitrary. They have no fangs, instead using a knife to puncture victims’ throats; possess no superhuman abilities; and can be hurt just as easily as any human. Take away the vampirism, and it could just as easily be the story of two vagrant sisters – hell, even two prostitutes – who are forced to kill a budding rapist and head on the run, one of them trying to get out of the life they’ve made for themselves. Due to this shallowness of the alternate approach, the obvious allegory falls apart.
One scene in particular is an impressive piece of storytelling, however, with the sisters standing below a passing metro train at night, screaming their lungs out in ecstatic delight as the squealing metal drowns them out: The only opportunity they have to really let themselves go without drawing attention. Touching moments such as this are ultimately extremely rare throughout the sparse 75-minute runtime (which still feels too long), even if the film is convinced that it’s full of them.
Chelsea Films’ DVD release of Not Like Others comes supplemented with only the trailer, a fittingly empty disc for a predominantly empty movie.
1 1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5