Vampires, written and directed by Vincent Lannoo, is a fresh and new take on the classic icon. Shot documentary style, it follows a family of vampires in Belgium as they take a film crew through their everyday lives.
The moment mother vampire, Bertha, grabs the cover off a boom mic – not once, but twice – cackling with fangs displayed – I knew Vampires was a unique film.
I just didn’t realize how special it would be.
I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Vincent Lannoo about what he calls “a mirror movie”. See the interview/review below!
Sure, there are elements are both genres within the film – and as Vincent explains – in everyday human life. What is so unique about it is that the movie has a steady stream of reality that goes well beyond what designer Kim Kardashian is wearing this week. It is the stream of joyous celebration of life that hit me hard – and that I haven’t felt since films like Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation or Roberto Benigni’s blatantly titled Life is Beautiful. Both of which are more or less drama pieces, so comparing a mock documentary about vampires seems silly. Truth be told it Vampires is closer to these films than `Spinal Tap meets The Munsters‘.
To call it a horror comedy simply does not do it justice.
Vincent Lannoo set out to make a vampire movie, but wanted to do something different. Something beyond Twilight. He wanted a different point a view – which was the documentary style. At first it was just to be funny, but it became more. It became an “exploration of human frustration”.
The characters come off so authentic due to Lannoo’s relationship with the actors. Each one was written for their true human characteristics. Even Grace – played by Fleur Lise Heuet – and her love of the color pink. He used what the actor had in real life to push the fictional counterparts further. With each little detail, it made the vampire equivalents perfect and natural.
There are so many moments where I had to stop and remember this was just a movie. The film is brilliantly real. It was important to Lannoo to keep the real documentary construction. The movie was shot at night, and the crew’s life began at 8PM. Their lives reflected those of the vampires. Which Lannoo says was very funny. “Sometimes shooting was so crazy because we were in that world. It was completely different. People outside of our shoot came to the set and they didn’t understand. For us, we mastered it. It was the key to success.”
The love and passion behind the film completely shows. Lannoo strived to have the film explore the depths of human contradictions. “Am I good? Am I bad? A lot of our movie exposes that.”
A great example is teenage son Samson’s bad streak. While the family is indeed exiled to Canada due to Samson’s romping with the wife of Belgium Vampire Leader `Little Heart’, his actions earlier in the film painfully echo real life and the cruelty of humiliation. Under the peer pressure of his friend, the two feed on a handicapped mental patient, then proceed to laugh at the poor man as he struggles with his own vampire transformation.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there are moments of laughter. As mentioned before, as the documentary crew enters the home and proceeds to attempt to interview Bertha, she grabs the cover from the microphone, laughing while doing so. A moment Lannoo said was not in the script. Vera Van Dooren had arrived on set on the second day of the shooting. The sound engineer was unaware that she was going to do it. “It was a joke for her.”
Later in the film, Samson has to travel by train. Making a face, he sniffs the car and proclaiming it stinks of humans. After they are exiled to Canada, we then see him playing a guitar in the subway for money – complete with a plaid shirt and Canadian flag cowboy hat.
Daughter Grace, on the other hand, is disgusted by vampire life. Immediately upon waking she pulls out her compact to put on a tan. She parades around in pink clothing while her family lives in dark colors. She even gets a human boyfriend. Humorous dialogue of hers can be seen in the trailer, but her character is by far the most compelling in the end. Her transformation in the film is what left me inspired.
Going into the film expecting a Christopher Guest-esque mockumentary will probably leave you unhappy. Going in open minded will perhaps unveil that underlying theme of the frustrations in human life. Because, as Vincent Lannoo himself said, “The subject of vampires is really perfect that.” If you pull that from it, perhaps it will leave you as in awe as I.