In a genre stuffed to the gills with sparkly Prince Charmings and sympathetic devils, Byzantium breaks the mold by focusing on a mother and a daughter. In this world, a secret society of powerful men exerts control over the secret of eternal life, preventing women from becoming vampires, so for the past two hundred years, our two protagonists have been on the run. Framed through the diary of the young daughter, Eleanor (played by up and coming actress Saoirse Ronan), this film hearkens back to Frankenstein and similar works of the Romantic Era, with flashbacks between the Victorian past and the modern present, and a mysterious source of power which wavers between being a gift and a curse. Byzantium deconstructs vampire tropes, with men who are creepy and predatory, a boy who is saved by the girl, and a rich story about trauma and abuse rather than conquest and power. There's even one scene where the director pokes fun at Twilight and its prominent use of Debussy's "Clair de Lune", interrupting the song with a kill. The violence is brutal and beautiful, with ephemeral scenes of blood and gore contrasted with moments of utter calm, and every shot is framed with purpose. To be quite honest, this film is my absolute favorite, and I've seen it at least half a dozen times. It is so richly directed and well-written that every viewing reveals new surprises. If you're a fan of the horror genre, and also interested in the role of women in speculative media, this is a must-watch. Byzantium is currently available for streaming on Netflix.
Vampire mother Clara and her daughter Eleanor flee to a seaside town to try to escape agents of the Brotherhood.
Neil Jordan, Uri Gavriel, Ronnie Masterson, Jonny Lee Miller, Kate Ashfield, Daniel Mays, Thure Lindhardt, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley, Caleb Landry Jones, Glenn Doherty, David Heap, Patricia Loveland, Warren Brown, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jeff Mash, Gabriela Marcinkova, Christine Marzano, Barry Cassin, Ruby Snape, Jenny Kavanagh, Edyta Budnik, Caroline Johns, Moira Buffini