Starring: Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, Annabelle Sciorra, Edie Falco, Paul Calderon and Michael Imperioli
Directed By: Abel Ferrara
I don’t think I am hanging too far off a limb by saying that the vampire genre is one that has been done to death (no pun intended). We have seen tortured vampires. We have seen happy vampires. We have seen sexually driven vampires. However, what about philosophical vampires? And, is there any way it could be as involving and good as any film that has been done about vampires (like, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula). The answer, by a far margin, is yes. Brilliantly written by Nicholas St John, stunningly shot by director Abel Ferrera (Bad Lieuutenant) and acted with a fine toothed comb by Taylor, The Addiction ranks right up there in the top 3 vampire films of all time.
The film is shot in black & white, a bold decision by Ferrera whose impact I will elaborate on later. Now, for those that haven’t been turned off already, let me say: this was the first, but by far not final, decision that contributes to The Addiction’s greatness. The film is about philosophy student Kathleen Conklin (Taylor) who is bitten by a vampire. Story seem simple enough? Well, you would be wrong. Because, we witness her process of learning about a philosophical society, yet steps back in the early stages of the film to think about what is so evil about it. And, when she is bitten by Casanova (Sciorra) she is asked why is she letting it happen. And, that is something that has always gone through my mind while watching vampire films. It was fascinating to see it explored here. Why is it that people submit to the evils of vampirism? Philosophical enough for you? If this type of screenwriting isn’t your cup of tea, then The Addiction will not be for you. But, the themes explored here kept me involved, and made every form of dialogue that leaves a character’s lips mean something.
I have always thought that Taylor is one of the most underrated actresses out there. She tends to shine in things like 1989’s Say Anything…. and an episode of The X-Files in which she played a blind girl. In my opinion, she can act circles around half the big name actresses out there, and if this role of Kathleen proves anything, it’s that when given a chance to shine, she can come through in spades.Ferrera frames a shot from far away of her crying in bed, and we the audience feel every single moment of discomfort she’s experiencing. Without making it feel emo (unlike most depictions of vampires in today’s films). Her relationship with Falco’s character of Jean, her college roommate, is not clearly defined. And, it doesn’t need to be. Because, good actresses take what’s on the page and bring enough power to their performances to make them seem relatable without long descriptions of where they’re from. I wish someone else would give Taylor a shot like this, because what she brings to this role cannot be matched by anybody else.
As already stated, Ferrera’s choice to film The Addiction in black and white was just the beginning of what he brought to the table here. He uses it brilliantly, even at one point filming a shadow on Taylor’s face that makes it look like a tear. Yep, you read that right. Ferrera makes us feel Kathleen’s pain of coming to terms with her true existence. The black and white also contributes to big moments of tension that take place throughout the course of the film. And, while there is not a significant amount of gore, Ferrera stages a bloody finale that feels like a combination of Night of the Living Dead, Carrie and Near Dark. With each passing shot of Kathleen, we feel both the physical and mental pain of being bit. As she says at one point, guilt does not pass, it’s eternal. As is the pain of it. And, the combination of Ferrera’s direction and Taylor’s emoting brings this point across.
Now, I haven’t even mentioned Walken’s part in this film. And, I shouldn’t. Because it is when Kathleen comes across this character that her true change takes place. Which brings to the forefront: what exactly is she addicted to? The Addiction is a film that needs to be seen. Not only by vampire film watchers. But, anyone who enjoys a brilliantly written philosophical film. What is The Addiction’s point of reference? Is it talking about the blood addiction portrayed onscreen? Or is it a metaphor for drug addiction? Sex addiction perhaps? My conclusion? It represents tremendously effective filmmaking. As you can tell, I loved this film. And, in light of a film series named after that late time of evening when the sun goes down and bears absolutely no mentioning here, I would say this is the true study of what it takes to be evil. And, that urge to resist the fix that never seems to come to pass. Consider me addicted to great filmmaking. And, my urge to rewatch this periodically will not leave me soon.
Review written by Garrett Collins