July 11, 2007

DVD Review: Perfect Creature

Taking elements from the Victorian era through post-World War II, Perfect Creature brings a new take to the standard vampire mythos. Writer/director Glenn Standring takes the supernatural origins of the bloodsuckers and brings it a few steps closer to reality by presenting them as the next evolutionary step for humanity. The movie is interesting in its mashing of styles and concepts, but ultimately relies a bit too heavily on the standards of crime procedurals to make too much of an impact. Not to say it is bad, but it could have been so much better, making this a frustrating experience seeing what could have been.

Perfect Creature exists in an alternate version of the world. The story is set in the 1960s of this vastly different world, but the tale begins 300 years prior. Genetic science was discovered by alchemists which led to the rise of these vampires. First they were hunted down and killed, but time led them to be revered as being sent by God. Back to the film's present, the vampires, now called the Brotherhood, are the keepers of science and the head of the primary religion of the world. They use their blood and accumulated knowledge to cure diseases, while humans donate blood to feed the Brothers.

With the background set in place, the plot can kick into gear. It seems that one of the Brothers has broken rank and begun feeding, and killing, among the general population. His name is Edgar (Leo Gregory), and he has a secret that he is more than willing to share with anyone interested (or not, for that matter). A senior Brother, Silus (Dougray Scott), is on the case. Eventually, he teams with a human police captain, Lilly (Saffron Burrows), to put a stop to Edgar's reign of terror.

This is the biggest stumbling block preventing this ultimately middling work from being something more special. The look is fantastic. It may not have had the biggest of budgets to work with, but its Dark City by way of From Hell look works very well. It gives the impression of really being in another time, familiar yet strangely alien. On top of that, the vision of vampires of keepers of knowledge, religious leaders, and an evolutionary step seems to offer up plenty of topical material to pull from. Sure, there are touches of racism and distrust between humans and Brothers, but it is just a little window dressing on a story that is simply a serial killer in a different setting. Running alongside the police-procedural/serial killer tale is an assumedly forbidden romance as Silus and Lilly have an awkward chemistry with each other.

Acting is pretty good all around, although that is masked by some awfully slow pacing. There is some action and a couple of splashes of blood, but they are used more as punctuation marks to make sure the viewer is still awake. This is best demonstrated by the volume changes, much of the long dramatic setups and exposition are all at a pretty low volume, but watch out, when the action kicks up, so does the volume. Back to the acting, though, Dougray Scott has a quiet, almost regal presence, while Leo Gregory has an explosive charisma as our bad guy. Meanwhile, Saffron Burrows and those supernaturally high cheekbones holds her own as a woman making her way in a male dominated society as a ranking police officer.

This is an impressive, if uneven, outing for Glenn Standring. He brings an interesting vision to the screen, with a unique take on the filmed vampire tale. I just would have liked to see more of this society and the relationship between vampires and humans explored a bit more deeply, rather than the standard cops and killers story that is presented. On the level of looking at those surrounding details raises the film in my estimation, and shows that a lot of creativity and imagination went into putting it together. Now if only those last few steps had been taken.

Audio/Video. The disk I have was a pre-release screener, and as such is not the final production copy that you will find on stores. Although, I think that it will be pretty close. As it stands, the copy looked decent, blacks were deep, still allowing detail through, and audio was clear, despite the volume changes, which I believe to be by design rather than any potential flaws.

Extras. Two featurettes accompany the feature. The first is a twelve minute "Making of Perfect Creature" which goes into casting and development of the story. The second is "Designing Perfect Creature" which looks at the art, costume, and effects. Neither one is outstanding, but they do a good job of giving you an inside look at the movie, including interviews with Standring, Scott, and Burrows.

Bottomline. I liked this movie, more than I would have thought watching the film with no prior information, but less than I would have hoped following the setup and design. It is definitely of interest for fans of vampire movies or alternate universe sci-fi movies. It is not a great film, but one of great design, and a good dose of imagination.

Mildly Recommended.


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