DVD Pick: Perfect Creature

…starring Dougray Scott and Saffron Burrows, written and directed by Glenn Standring.

Although Perfect Creature purports to be a vampire movie, it’s not really a vampire movie;  it’s an well-conceived alternate history/mystery/thriller with a few vamprie elements thrown in (no doubt for the marketing sclhubs).

The logline sounded promising.

Paraphrasing here:  In a world where Isaac Newton’s cousin created vampires through genetic experimentation, and those vampires became part of the established church, calling themselves ‘the Brotherhood’ , dedicating themselves to priestlike service to maintaining harmony with humans instead of eating them, and they’ve also become the leading scientists of the age, someone’s gone all Lugosi…

It’s a pretty cool premise.  Writer/director Standring establishes this alternate world quickly, with grace and style.  He imbues the setting with strong steampunk sensibilities and adds in the vampire element without getting stuck in the mire of vamp cliches.  In this world, the Brotherhood are human-kind’s benevolvent watchers, and the established religion includes literal blood sacrifices by the faithful.  There are airships and steamcars, and it looks fairly Edwardian London.  Here we find Brother Silus (Scott) on the trail of another Brother engaging in the usual Hollywood Vampire behavior.

Brother Edgar has gone feral and this is problematic, because none of the Brotherhood have done this throat biting thing for 300 years.  The police, with Detective Lilly (Burrows) are also on the trail, and soon we’re in the midst of an intrigue-laden vamp hunt.  The Brotherhood want to keep this quiet to alleviate fear and maintain their influence.  The police want the killer.  And Brother Silus wants to help his birth-brother Edgar, who has his own agenda.  And, of course, Brother Silus can’t help but be attracted to Lilly…

The performances are strong in this New Zealand-made film.  The art direction and look of the sets is stunning and quite creative.  The action scenes move fast but are consistent and build to the plot points.  The story is clever and multi-faceted.  But perhaps the best thing about Perfect Creature is how it manages to immerse the viewer in this alternate world — to make the fictional history and atmosphere both plausible and fantastic at the same time.  The film also benefits by playing strongly to a handful of themes without being heavy handed.

It’s a damned site better movie than most of the offerings at your local cineplex, and about vastly superior to much of what passes as horror/sci-fi these days.  After watching this movie, I found myself wondering why it hasn’t been on the Sci-Fi Channel, or seen wider release.  The only thing I could come up with was rampant anti-New Zealand bias.  Seriously, how does the Sci-Fi Channel, which routinely shows so many grade B-staight-to-video-schlockfests, miss out on something this good?

Bottom line:  if you’re into speculative fiction or alternate history, or would just like to see a fresh take on the hoary old vampire mythos, you should definitely add Perfect Creature to your viewing list.

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