Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #2: "The Addiction"

Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor) just doesn't understand evil. On the eve of completing her dissertation, she struggles to comprehend how mankind's cruelty towards itself has lasted so long. But a brisk evening walk in the Big Apple brings our girl face to face with her innermost demons. An encounter with a seductive vampiress (Annabella Sciorra) results in Kathleen's own transformation into a creature of the night, and it ain't a pretty sight. Along with her growing thirst for blood, Kathleen's moral outlook begins to warp, as she blames her victims for being at the business end of a set of fangs. Night by night, the addiction claims what's left of Kathleen's soul, leaving a seasoned bloodsucker (Christopher Walken) to set her on the path to salvation before it's too late.

Boy, does it stink being a vampire. But you knew that, unless a certain pop culture behemoth has you convinced that vampires are the worst Marvel characters Stan Lee never created. Compared to the genre's most fantastic examples, The Addiction is as grounded as vampire lore has ever been explored onscreen. It's as far removed from glamor as possible, with director Abel Ferrara (Body Snatchers) chronicling Kathleen's story as he would a junkie's. But while her ethical breakdown is coolly tragic initially, The Addiction loses its punch pretty fast. This is mostly due to Kathleen, who we really don't know much about when the bite is put on her, and after she turns, she just spouts off angsty rants best suited for someone who must own a lot of Jack Skellington merchandise.

The Addiction is the sort of movie that thinks knowing who Sartre and Kierkegaard equates to understanding their teachings. Ferrara has a philosophy in mind that's not altogether bad, but it's a matter of viewers just not caring rather than it being too cerebral. "Free will" (or the lack thereof) is the flick's favorite buzzword, with much made about Kathleen passing the buck to her victims while her condition reflects her own dark soul. But again, we don't know nearly enough about Kathleen to make any real judgements about her personality -- for all we know, she's just some grad student who went full emo when the Jungle Fever gal started feeling peckish. Taylor's a treasure of an actress, but not even she can breathe life into her morose monologues or help her supporting cast do anything but add to the body count. But leave it to the man, the myth, the Walken to steal all ten minutes he's onscreen, exhibiting equal parts authority and WTF-ery as a longtime vamp who's curbed his hunger.

For however short they last, The Addiction has moments that work, and I can see why it's earned the cult crowd it commands. Shot in smooth black-and-white and set amidst New York's meanest streets, Ferrara's story embraces a style that few other vampire flicks (if any) have taken to heart. The Addiction gets an A for carving out its own identity, but it script and soul are as transparent as Kathleen's reflection.

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