Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Perfect Creature (Director’s Cut) – review

Director: Glen Standring

Release Date: 2006 (festivals) 2007 (General)

Contains spoilers

Strange things occur sometimes in the world of film releases. As far as I can tell, Perfect Creature has not had either a US or UK release (certainly not on DVD and I don’t think big screen) but the DVD is out in Holland and, according to the cover, it is a director’s cut – it is this Dutch release that I am reviewing.

The film is set in Nuovo Zelandia, a version of New Zealand in an alternate world, and the first thing to say is steam punk. Perfect Creature is a steam punk film, as well as being a detective noir and a vampire movie. 300 years ago alchemists stumbled on genetic science and a new form of human was born. At first called Nosferatu or vampire these genetically different creatures were hunted – indeed in the film it is mentioned that had the extermination of the vampires continued they would be just a myth. The alchemists also (accidentally?) released virulent plagues across the world.

The film begins one hundred years ago and a woman is pregnant with a Brother – as the vampires are now known. The woman has birthed several children before, the first was a Brother but the rest were born malformed. This baby is born a Brother and is taken to the church (the Brothers now represent the main world religion) and named Edgar (played as an adult by Leo Gregory), he is placed with his older maternal brother Silus (played as an adult by Dougray Scott). We hear at this point that the Brothers are only born male, hence the name.

Cut to the film's main timeframe (approximately equivalent to our 1950s/60s though very different) and we see Silus in an alley, he listens with his sharp senses (in a brilliantly constructed sequence that portrays his enhanced awareness) and we also see a woman, her throat savaged. He sees another Brother, Edgar, blood on his mouth and fires a projectile (later revealed to be a tranquiliser) but misses. Edgar escapes.

In Jonestown, a slum suburb which is suffering from an outbreak of influenza, the police raid a man who has been selling influenza vaccine on the black market rather than distributing it. The police team is headed by Lilly (Saffron Burrows) and we get more of a flavour of this world. The man is arrested for endangering public health and thus is not entitled to legal representation and is destined for the Hell House. We learn later that Lilly’s husband and daughter died of influenza.

Silus is still searching, on church orders, for Edgar but has been instructed not to involve the humans. All this changes when Edgar is seen, by a child, attacking a woman – again showing the flavour of the world, the journalist asking questions later at the crime scene is summarily arrested. Lilly and her team have to work with Silus and they do capture Edgar – his crimes are then politically hushed up. During the arrest Lilly is bitten by Edgar and almost killed but is saved by Silus by feeding her his blood and he, in turn, becomes fascinated by her.

Silus is told what has happened to Edgar. He was involved in state sponsored genetic research (something that is illegal) to try and encourage births of Brothers as one has not been born for 70 years.

He created a virus and infected several women. They did carry Brothers, but miscarried as the virus took them and turned them feral (think of Rage from 28 days later and, as in that film, the virus is carried in blood). Edgar has been infected and this causes his blood lust as well as destroying his sanity, in fact it is predicted that he will be the first Brother since the peace with humanity who will die. Edgar is bound in a wicked looking cage but promises he will escape, he will kill Lilly and he will infect Edgar – in fact he will spread his plague through the world. As you would expect, he does escape…

We have the main lore already in my description, the vampires are not supernatural they are an evolutionary step, perhaps, or an aberration. Those who attend the church donate their blood to the vampires and some drink from the vampires in certain rituals, the blood offering visions.

The film looks wonderful and the world it draws around us is fascinating. The effects and cinematography just cannot be argued with, watching it you are drawn into a graphic novel painted upon the screen. To a degree it reminded me of the vampire movie The Breed (which I must review at some point); we are in an alternate world (though the world of The Breed is much more a dystopian totalitarian regime), humans and vampires are living in harmony (or trying to) and one rogue vampire threatens to breach that harmony – though that is were the similarities end.

Acting wise all is good and special mention must go to Saffron Burrows who steals the show with a powerful performance. Dougray Scott’s performance seems alien and distant but that is right for the role. I also want to mention Scott Wills as Lilly’s second in command Jones. He didn’t have too much to do but what was there was excellent.

The film itself is a little languid but it, to me, worked that way. This is a thoughtful piece with a rich background. Don't get me wrong, there was nothing languid about the pace, it was more the atmosphere. Perhaps the main story is not quite as original as the background and setting but the film is astoundingly original nonetheless. The outbreak of infected could have been concentrated on a little more, but then the film would have been accused of being derivative of 28 days later or Rabid which would have been unfair.

I thoroughly enjoyed this; they tried to do something very unusual and unique. I have read that the cuts were poor in the second half of the movie and that the film was confused, I didn’t get this but then, allegedly, the disc I have is a director’s cut and I may have seen a different cut of the film (I have also read that the 90 minute running time is being lowered for the US release). This will never be a big seller but it deserves cult status. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


dale said...

You're what makes the blogosphere great. This is in that ten percent that has ninety per cent of the actual value of all information. And I'm not even that into vampires.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

thanks Dale

Anonymous said...

Wow, this one sounds like a real keeper. I certainly hope this gets released in theaters in the U.S. I think my enjoyment of Night Watch was affected by having to see it on dvd (luckily Day Watch will be playing here - I can't wait). Even if its not this sounds buy-worthy.

I guess this is the movie that makes all those bad movies you've reviewed worth it huh ;)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Mateo, more than a US release, I hope they don't do anything silly and cut it (as threatened).

As I said in the review I've read some negative things about this - and can only assume that the director's cut is better put together. I even read someone saying they couldn't understand why Edgar went off on one - when the film clearly pointed out that he had contracted the virus and it attacked the brain. Either the cut they saw was terrible or (and equally likely) it was written by someone who doesn't pay attention!

Coming across a good one, especially a new good one, does make it all worth it. I've been lucky recently, however, in that I have seen a few good ones - still watching the crap as well though!lol

Anonymous said...

I've never been a person who thinks there's much a difference between the different cuts. Some people swear by a certain cut of a particularly movie but to me a few scenes here and there don't matter all that much.

How steampunk is this, by the way? Didn't you say this takes place mostly in the 1950s/60s? This doesn't sound like the steampunk environment I'm used to. Does it have weird fictional technology? That's primarily what I think of with steampunk.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It is steampunk flavoured definitely - it is often in the background. The 50s/60s was more a timeframe. The sky is filled with airships, there is a car clearly with a steam powered engine on the back. The weapon Silus has fells Verne-ian. The slum has almost a Vicorian air and yet a TV looks like it has a 50s screen. Control panels in a brother's science area look quite steampunk and the patients in bed (with the virus) appear to be in a Victorian asylum like setup.

Very difficult to put a finger on, most of this is (very rich) window dressing and steampunk was the best descriptive name I could use - to me it seemed to fit.

LoBo said...

I just bought the Dutch Blu-ray of this film. I noticed it was on your top 100 list and then continued reading more reviews until i decided i thought i might enjoy it, so i bought it.

Looking at pictures from it and seeing the trailer, i think this will great on Blu-ray. It's also good this film brought something new to the table, and not just used ideas we have seen in plenty of vampire films.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I'm sure it'll look spectacular on blu-ray :)

LoBo said...


I finally saw it yesterday. Sadly, i was disappointed.
As you said, i also like to look of the film, but the story was nothing new. I think the story could have been better and more interesting.

Too bad. I don't think it was poor. I did only find it average. Perhaps i expected something different or/and had too high expectations.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Lobo sorry to hear that, but at least you got something out of it

Ian said...

Saw this one on the BBC last night. Rather enjoyed it, and surprisingly, so did MiMi despite being Vampirophobic.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

glad you did :)