Film review | Byzantium | Neil Jordan goes for the jugular in a Gothic vampire tale with a feminist slant

47266805_500x500_1Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan play mother-and-daughter vampires in Byzantium, a gory Gothic thriller whose startling departures from traditional horror lore give the overworked vampire genre a rejuvenating transfusion of new blood. Posing as sisters, Arterton’s Clara and Ronan’s Eleanor take sanctuary in a present-day English seaside town (Hastings, as it happens) and pursue very different paths.

byzantium1The fiercely protective Clara, who has always used sex to survive, turns the rundown local hotel inherited by Daniel Mays’ grieving loser (the Byzantium of the title) into a brothel. The melancholy Eleanor, who has been 16 for two centuries, is finding it harder and harder to resist the compulsion to share her story and befriends a teenage boy (Caleb Landry Jones) who is suffering from leukaemia. Meanwhile, remorseless pursuers of the pair, who call themselves the Brotherhood, draw ever closer…

byzantium2Adapting her stage play A Vampire Story, screenwriter Moira Buffini provides the undead duo with an intriguing back-story, which emerges in flashbacks to the early 1800s and underscores the tale’s striking feminist slant. Director Neil Jordan, returning to the bloodsucking realm two decades after 1994’s Interview with the Vampire, delivers bold visual flourishes throughout and really goes for the jugular in the film’s full-blooded action scenes.

Released on DVD and Blu-ray, and in Steelbook (exclusive to Zavvi) by StudioCanal.


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