Friday, December 18, 2009

She Lives by Night – review

dvdDirected by: Brett Hull

Release date: 2001

Contains spoilers

In some respects it is difficult to believe that this film was released in 2001, it feels somewhat more retro than that. This probably isn’t helped by the graininess of the DVD print that makes it feel older than it is and yet gives the film an interesting chunkiness.

It is odd in premise and one feels it probably didn’t achieve all it was capable of but never mind, how many films do?

reflected in the mirrorIt begins with a girl (Liliana Cabal) fixing her makeup, for reasons that are plot fundamental her name is not given for a while but I can tell you that she is a vampire and so the fact that she can fix her makeup in a mirror is important as it begins establishing the lore from the get go. The man with her makes a comment about the darkness but she can see perfectly well.

fangs outHe comes on to her and she suggests he is going a little too fast. She is, he reminds her, the type of girl who accepts lifts from strangers. She gives him a speech about her womanhood, but it is seductive rather than preachy, suggesting he takes his time with her. As she leans in we see fangs emerge and she bites. Elsewhere Roger (Sara Jade Woodhouse) and Eleanor (Melissa Timms) are in bed – it is clear their relationship is casual, Roger isn’t one to be tied down.

Liliana Cabal is AngelaThe girl is on the road trying to get a lift. We note that she wears a cross. She tries to flag one car and steps into the path of Roger who hits her. He pulls over and finds her, telling her not to move as he tries to get help but she stands and claims to be okay, asking for a lift into town. In the car he asks her name and she can’t remember, she has amnesia. He suggests going to a doctor but she is adamant that it won’t happen, her purse has no id.

Sara Jade Woodhouse as RogerThey get to town and she realises she is called Angela. She asks to be dropped off and he pulls over but then takes her for coffee. They talk more though her lack of memory and his lack of commitment does curtail their conversation somewhat. Outside he gives her money and his card but then suggests that she stay with him. This didn’t feel unnatural as the filmmakers took pains to actually build a relationship with the characters. As for the dialogue itself, for this is a very talky film, it seemed (in most parts) fairly natural, as written, but the delivery did veer towards soap opera.

dream clues to her identityThat night she dreams. She is in a desert wearing white and sees a figure (herself) in a red dress in the distance. She follows the figure and finds, on a log, a rose. She picks it up but pricks her finger. She watches the blood as it spills to the sand, becoming a pool of blood that she scoops to drink but it turns into sand in her hand. When she wakes she notices that she has semi-emergent fangs. It was an excellent representation of her subconscious trying to both tell her what she is and that she is hungry.

The next day Roger’s friend Carl (Pat Collins) picks him up for work. It is clear that Carl thinks (correctly) that Roger is a player and it is clear he is somewhat jealous of him. During the day we see Angela struggling with the sunlight – she needs to put on shades as it is too bright. Carl, meanwhile, is arranging a cinema trip for the next night with his friend Helen (Shauna Scott) and suggests that Roger brings Angela. That night Roger cooks bolognaise, and whilst trying not to be rude it is clear that Angela is uncomfortable with the food. She is fascinated as red wine pours but when she tastes it she reacts, saying it tastes wrong.

nearly dream feasting on RogerShe dreams again. This time Roger is in the dream and she places her hand on his heart, he bleeds through the shirt. She opens it and goes to bite him... Roger wakes to find Angela, naked in silhouette, at his bedroom door. They sleep together. The next night they attend the cinema as a couple but, when they get home, Roger cuts his finger. Angela offers to kiss it better, starts sucking heavily on the cut and then reacts as though nauseous – running to the bathroom. However it is less nausea and more her fangs emerging that causes her concern. Roger becomes concerned as she looks paler and paler and she nearly bites him (he thinks she is initiating a sex game) but she stops herself – causing a friction.

I put a spell on you, and you are mineShe fully realises now just what she is and Carl turns up. As Roger has gone out he is going to leave but she prevents him – with a method that seems like mind control – she bites him. It is clear he is disgusted with her but enthralled. He can’t speak against her (though he does refer to her as it) and has to sneak to the house at night and drive her through town, helping her prowl for meals. For her part, she is sliping out of Roger’s bed and he notices, becoming jealous as he has fallen in love with her. She, too, has fallen for him, though one wonders whether she has, due to her amnesia, more confused food and sex.

Can their love survive?The question becomes can their relationship survive? With Carl enslaved (and then disposed of) and the nosey Helen on the menu, could Roger forgive her? Of course he is simply jealous, thinking she is brazenly cheating on him.

We have covered most of the lore here. Stakes come into this (Helen carves one) and Angela is faster and stronger than she should be. It is intimated that she has unnatural speed at one point, which didn’t seem to fit the ‘almost human’ level of lore we got – of course we only see her becoming (again) what she truly is. Vampires can make another vampire purposefully.

feedingThe film does get, as mentioned, somewhat soap opera in tenor and can drag a little. It is a nice creature study but not the greatest film. That said there are many, many worse films to watch and the simplicity of this film saves it from itself at times. Of course, Liliana Cabal having a certain something helps a lot. Niceties aside, however, it isn't worth more than 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

Looks kinda fun, though. Might try it out.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Its not a great film, but it has a certain something - which in some respects makes it more frustrating as you wish it achieved its potential.