Like George Romero‘s Martin, Vampire is one of those pure-bred indie vampire dramas that skips the fangs and the flying in favor of conventional mental illness. Because he drinks blood, Simon (Kevin Zeggers; Frozen) considers himself––by definition––a vampire. He finds easy prey by scouring SidebyCide.com, a website where all the fucked up little emo kids gather to plan group suicides. Once they meet him in person, despondent young girls find themselves soothed by Simon’s gentle demeanor. When he suggests draining their blood as a painless way to end it all, they’re usually content to go along with his plan. He pushes in a few needles, tubes them up to some plastic canisters, and the girl is dead in no time. Which leaves Simon free to gulp down her blood like it’s 4th quarter Gatorade.
Group suicides are a major theme in Vampire––an entry in the World Cinema category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival––which makes sense when you consider that the English language production was written and directed by a Japanese director (Shunji Iwai). Group suicide is currently very popular in Japan, and setting the film in America (and starring American actors) seems incongruous, if only because Americans generally regard suicide as something very private. When Simon stumbles upon a vanload of teens who all want to commit suicide together, their collective decision seems hasty , desperate, and sort of silly, whereas to a Japanese audience it probably all comes across as completely realistic.
The problem with Vampire is that the entire film seems steeped in its own dismal brain fog of suicidal depression. The movie is so very, very slow, plodding along at an “artistic” pace with defiance, practically in-your-face with its sluggishness. It’s a movie so slow, it dares you to walk out of the theater. Simon seems to approach each life encounter in a muddy slo-mo, whether it’s dealing with Rachel Leigh Cook as an obsessive girlfriend, or facing down a hipster wanna-be vampire (Trevor Morgan; Mean Creek) who has a thirst for bloody rape. Instead of taking the time to develop plot points that drive the action forward, Vampire is content to tread water for its full two-hour running time.
The ingredients for a Martin-like cult classic are certainly present. There’s a lot that could have been done with Trevor Morgan’s character, in particular––he’s creepily convincing in the role of “Renfield“––but this is one of those movies that inexplicably abandons compelling subplots in favor of boring ones. Even when an individual scene starts to get interesting, it stretches on for so long, it eventually becomes tedious again. Vampire is too self-indulgent to be taken seriously. It’s a film with a complete disregard for its audience.