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Perfect Creature
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by Jay Seaver

"Not quite 'Perfect', but certainly has potential."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: For "Perfect Creature", the question of "what if vampires were real" isn't quite good enough; it asks what if vampires were real, but instead of being feared, they were objects of worship? It's kind of a dodgy idea, but the film runs with it. If the film is disappointing, it's not because of the basic idea.

Although the long-lived, blood-drinking "Brothers" have long organized as a church and claim to protect humanity in exchange for their blood, we find that one - Edgar (Leo Gregory) has started to act more like a traditional vampire, biting and exsanguinating young New Zealanders. The church, naturally, would very much like to keep this under wraps, and have Edgar's brother Silus (Dougray Scott) tracking him down. Eventually, though, one of his killings is seen by a young boy who calls the police. The case is assigned to Lilly (Saffron Burrows), who immediately sees that it's a ticking time bomb. Though no Brother has ever harmed a human, there have also been no new ones born in seventy years; their mutation (which occurs exclusively in males) leaves them sterile. Even though most people go to church and have their blood drained regularly, there's still a certain level of resentment, as personified by Lilly's partner Jones (Scott Wills).

In some ways the very things which make Perfect Creature so interesting work against it. Writer/director Glenn Standring has created a world which follows from its premise without feeling particularly beholden to making it match ours. It's a steam-engine world, with technology lagging behind our own, blimps in the sky, and a constant paranoia of disease (I imagine all that sharing of needles in church doesn't help). It's a nifty look, although Standring takes it a bit too far - we're really given no reason to think of the Brothers as creatures of the night, but it seems as though the sun never comes out in "Nuovo Zelandia". The film often ends up on the wrong side of the line between "atmospheric" and "murky".

Dougray Scott's performance falls in the somewhat murky category. His character is supposed to be stoic, but Silus often just feels lifeless. He seems a decent, idealistic guy, to the extent where it's hard to figure out how he's somehow risen almost to the top of the Brothers' hierarchy. He doesn't seem to have the ambition, or much personality at all. There's really nothing to suggest he exists before the film starts. Brother Edgar is completely insane, but Leo Gregory throws himself into the role with relish. There's no question who's in charge of any scene he's in. Saffron Burrows is great to watch, too; Lilly's background is familiar and a little generic, but there's always the sense that she's actually lived it. Scott Wills plays his less-sophisticated cop broadly, but Jones's crudity is a good contrast to the very professional Lilly.

The film is set up as a cat and mouse game, and while sometimes there's not a whole lot of "game" to it (Edgar actually tells them where he'll take his next victim at the start of the film), there are a few good chase scenes. Standring frequently reminds us of the Brothers' enhanced senses, so when Silus and Edgar are tracking each other through walls and throwing a good beating down, , it's a pretty good rush. The excitement does stall a bit towards the end, as we get the almost inevitable conspiracies and cover-ups (which, frankly, we've been waiting for ever since a Brother priest commended schoolchildren on recognizing that the Brothers were the source of all good and humans the source of all bad). And the end is kind of a head-scratcher - sure, it's something new and different, but what's it mean?

To a certain extent, "Perfect Creature" is a victim of its own ambition. It reminds me of the original film of "Alien Nation", in that it posits a world rich with possibilities for satire, commentary, and good old science fictional (or horrific) adventure, but confined to a single hour-and-a-half-long feature, it's stuck as an odd-looking crime film, chasing down one man when there's a whole world to explore.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16305&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/06/07 10:21:09
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

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