Thursday, May 13, 2021

Vamp or Not? Breeder

This is a 2020 Danish film directed by Jens Dahl and I suppose it sits within the Torture Porn sub-genre (kind of, as I’ll discuss it pulls short) and then veers off into revenge territory. However, there is a central premise around defying aging that made my friend Leila wonder if I had seen it and whether I thought it might be classifiable as Vamp. That, you will see, became a slightly tricky answer to find.

The film starts with a woman, Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen), riding her horse in an indoor school. Her voice-over says that whilst she has never liked dogs, she has always loved horses. She waxes lyrical about horse and rider becoming as one. It is intimated later that she is an Olympic level dressage rider. Home, she goes to the bedroom but her husband, Thomas (Anders Heinrichsen), is sleeping and roles away when kissed. She ends up on his computer (using his log-in) and sees he has had a mail from Dr. Isabel Ruben (Signe Egholm Olsen) which contains a picture of what looks like branded flesh (the brand reading 14k) – you’d think that the alarm bells would be going?

Anders Heinrichsen as Thomas

Thomas is a financial trader. He watches a programme where Isabel is interviewed. She is talking about an anti-aging technique her company has developed that “extends the telomeres and lowers the c-reactive proteins” (telomeres, and shortening thereof, are associated with aging, c-reactive protein is produced during infection/inflammation). She admits that the technique currently only yields results for men and calls aging a disease.

Isabel and Thomas

Mia is getting home from jogging when she sees Nika (Eeva Putro) struggle to pick up dropped groceries and hold a baby, so offers to hold the child. Just then Isabel arrives and quickly ascertains that the young woman is an au pair, is Russian and snags her hair with a ring – managing to take a sample. Isabel meets Thomas and it is clear he is arranging the financing for her company – he is upset that they she has gone public so soon – she remains cavalier.

Thomas and Mia

Before she leaves, she and Mia speak, it is clear that Mia wants a baby but her and Thomas' love life is problematic. Isabel suggests showing him what he might have and then refusing it might produce the desired effect. So Mia gets dolled up but then shows Thomas a picture of another man and asks whether he thinks him good looking. He is a prospective sponsor (of her equestrian exploits) and she is off out to meet with him. A good dose of jealousy gets Thomas amorous, but he seems quite rough and violent... However, he suddenly stops, unwilling to continue. Mia takes herself away, puts on riding boots and kneels, digging a spur into her thigh as she masturbates. It seems she is a masochist and he is likely a sadist – yet the husband and wife do not recognise each others’ kink, it seems.

Mia comforts Nika

Meanwhile Nika has gone out. A man, the Dog (Morten Holst, Heartless), bumps into her, grabs and drugs her and pulls her into a van driven by the Swine (Jens Andersen). The woman vomits and the Dog decides to brand her there and then, rather than waiting to get to their destination. Later she manages to get out of the van unseen when they reach a road closure. However rather than go back to the family she works for, she bangs at Mia and Thomas’ door. Thomas stops Mia contacting the authorities by insisting he'll drive Nika to the hospital himself – and then takes her to Isabel instead. Mia sees his car parked away from the hospital, on a “where’s my phone” app, and goes after them, sneaking into the old factory that is Isabel’s base of operations and straight into trouble.

a victim

So the Dog and the Swine are both misogynistic sadists employed by Isabel for that very reason. She is already selling her technique to very rich men and this involves finding women who are a DNA match for the client and impregnating them with the client’s sperm as the anti-aging material comes from the baby. She has Thomas under control by the promise of money, the lie that the women are volunteers and by making him think he murdered 14k, or Elly (Oksana Kniazeva). She does reveal that she thinks she can replicate the technique for female clients by injecting the victim’s egg with client DNA – it seems Mia comes up as a match for Isabel herself.

Morten Holst as the Dog

Now I mentioned around the Torture Porn aspect and the film does position itself there, with the two sadists (actually mainly the Dog) torturing their wards (even the pregnant ones). However, these scenes are nowhere nearly as harrowing as they might have been and it really did seem the filmmakers pulled their punches. Don’t get me wrong, they are still unpleasant but nothing next to some of the more notorious films in that genre. There was the potential for the film to take a direction with Mia, who disliked dogs and is a masochist, developing a Stockholm Syndrome with regard sadist the Dog – this was not capitalised on. By the end of the film the victims get loose and (despite one having developed such a Stockholm Syndrome, showing that the Mia variant of this may have been considered) extract their revenge. But is it Vamp?

marker shows where to cut

Well, this is exploiting people (mothers and their children) to reverse aging in men – that gender aspect is hammered home. The babies are allowed to come to term, be born and are then taken. However, we don’t know what they do with them – we see a child born, marks made along its back (for incision points as a scalpel is brought to bear, no anaesthetic applied, but the procedure is interrupted by the escaped victims) but we neither see nor are told what they then extract and do with it. We do see a bin-full of infant corpses, so the infant victims do die, probably due to the surgery or possibly out of convenience for the perpetrators. It is that lack of communication from the narrative that gives me pause… What is being used? Perhaps they couldn’t work out a narrative explanation that sounded vaguely plausible. Isabel has developed other techniques before this, including a smoothie (and she is around two decades older than she looks). That said, the devouring of children for youth (in any which way) is pretty darn vampiric.

the victims are degraded

In truth the actual vampire of this is capitalism and the pursuit of money. It is money that primarily seduces Thomas and binds him to this morally black project (with fear of arrest and perhaps just a little guilt used in case he wavers). It is the invisible, powerful, rich men who have benefited, again personifying the capitalist ideology. Isabel herself might have looked to (and nearly succeeded in) treating herself but, this aside, her primary gain is money. If we think to Eat Locals the thing that is able to buy authority (in the form of the soldiers) and prey on the vampires is the cosmetic industry looking to develop an anti-aging product from the vampires that they can sell and Dracula himself bleeds “a bundle of bank notes and a stream of gold” when his coat is cut by Harker.

Sara Hjort Ditlevsen as Mia

All told the technique used for anti-aging (whilst not very well explained) is vampiric in nature. The film itself is too Torture Porn for those who dislike the sub-genre, and pulls its punches too much for those who like that sort of thing. The film is steeped in misogyny but the revenge aspect and final denouement are not enough to counterbalance. Ultimately, the film will be disturbing for some viewers because of the subject matter rather than the skills of the filmmakers.

The imdb page is here.

On Blu-ray @ Amazon UK

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