Vampire is a bizarre, morbid film constructed as a series of implausible interludes that go nowhere and ultimately say nothing relevant or insightful about its thematic subtext, which is suicide. So few movies are built upon such a dark, unpleasant subject, and even fewer are successful. The only latter example I can recall off the top of my head is Downloading Nancy, a heartbreaking yet compelling portrait of an emotionally broken woman, played by Maria Bello, who meets a man, played by Jason Patric, over the internet and enters his life with the understanding that he will end hers. I listed it as among the best films of 2009, while virtually no one else responded to it. It’s not that I agreed with the drastic decision made by Bello’s character. It’s just that I recognized that, for all intents and purposes, she was already dead.
Vampire is also in part about suicidal people that rely on the internet, the difference being that they hope to attract like-minded people, meet each other in person, and kill themselves together. One of the film’s biggest weaknesses is that, of the several suicidal characters we meet, most of them are either underdeveloped or don’t believably appear to want to kill themselves. In either case, emotionally investing in any of them is impossible. There is only one character, a young woman named Ladybird (Adelaide Clemens) who I felt had a genuine reason to want to die, namely getting into an abusive relationship with a forty-year-old man, being so blind to his abuse that she fails to let him leave her, and allowing him to kill her son from a previous relationship. As to whether or not she actually does die, decency prevents me from revealing.
The title is both figurative and literal, although this is in no way a supernatural story about a tragic figure doomed to soulless immortality. It refers to a man named Simon Williams (Kevin Zegers), a high school biology teacher. He frequents a pro-suicide website, makes connections with young women that want to die, meets them in person under the pretense that he will die with them, and then creatively finds ways of draining them of their blood before storing their bodies in a series of freezers that are curiously scattered. He collects their blood in a series of glass bottles; only once do we see him actually drink from one of the bottles, and immediately afterwards, he throws up. If this repulses him, then why, later on, does he seem to relish sucking on wounds leeches left on Ladybird’s leg? And why does he willingly volunteer to donate blood near the end of the film, with the intention of giving someone life rather than taking it away?
Whether or not Simon is a serial killer is open for debate. All I know is that we’re given absolutely no psychological insight into this man, and the rules under which he functions in the story are so random and confusing that even trying to understand him is futile. Why is he compelled to do what he does? Does he get a sick thrill out of it, despite the fact that he always broods, or does he believe he’s in some way helping these women? Why is it he will drain one woman’s blood without giving it a second thought, and then try to convince another to not commit suicide? And how is it that the world is aware that someone is draining women of their blood, and yet he can commit his crimes in someplace as public as a shipyard without getting caught? I distinctly remember an early shot of the police discovering a woman’s body in a portable freezer in said shipyard; even with that heaping mountain of evidence, nothing comes of it.
The entire middle section of the film is devoted to story strands that not only go nowhere but also contribute nothing to Simon’s overall story. For completely unknown reasons, a police officer (Kyle Cameron) decides to set Simon up with his sister (Rachael Leigh Cook), despite the fact that Simon is not looking to date anyone; the sister ultimately becomes so obsessed with Simon that she will show up unannounced and cook dinner, break into his apartment when he’s not home, and try to hack into his personal computer. Living with Simon is his mother (Amanda Plummer); because of her advanced alzheimer’s disease, Simon keeps her confined to her bedroom by having her wear a vest with several white balloon extending from it. Why he does this rather than send her to a nursing home, and how this is technically possible, I’m not sure.
The oddest subplot involves a man named Renfield (Trevor Morgan), whose obsession with vampires and serial killers extends to a lifestyle that includes bloody mannequin art pieces and prosthetic fangs. He engages Simon in an elegant home where he’s holding a swanky home-movie party, although it’s never explained how Simon knows him or even why it is he decided to attend. Be that as it may, he takes Simon for a ride in a vintage taxi, picks up a woman, takes her to a secluded area, and chokes her to death by putting a plastic bag over her head. Renfield then strips naked, puts on his fangs and a cape, drinks the woman’s blood, and has sex with her dead body. Simon can only sit in the car, staring vacantly. If there is a point to Vampire, this entire sequence does little to shed light on the matter.
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