Neil Jordan dabbled in vampires before, in 1994’s blockbuster Interview with the Vampire. I didn’t think much of it, but Byzantium, virtually unseen on these shores, is lovely. Oh, it’s gory, too, but lovely in that visually sumptuous style for which Jordan is known, making IFC Films’ Blu-ray a feast for the eyes.
The film takes its title from an old hotel into which Clara (Gemma Arterton, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) moves with her “daughter,” Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan, The Host). The women are vampires; for 200 years, they’ve been bound by blood, and that’s a thirst they can’t quite quench, although Eleanor sure wishes she could.
To survive, Eleanor seeks out the elderly. The more on the threshold of death’s door her willing donors are, the better to assuage her ever-growing guilt. For Clara, any man will do, so she operates as a prostitute to hook ’em quick and often. Because Arterton is so devastatingly, ferociously sexy, it’s damned believable.
A literate slice of art house horror, Byzantium will be despised by the average horror fan weaned on torture porn and The CW-cast slashers. Those with an appreciation for the Gothic, however, will sink their teeth into something quite good.
— Rod Lott