The tween-angst vampires of Twilight have had their run; now it’s time for some more grown-up bloodsuckers to take the stage. Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and Clara (Gemma Arterton) are the toothy immortals at the center of Neil Jordan’s moody, mesmeric horror film. They’re youthful in appearance, but pushing nearly two centuries of clandestine living among the Irish underclass. Unfortunately, they’re forced to go on the run after Clara beheads another of their race—a gorgeously gory sequence—and end up in a small seaside town, where they turn a decrepit hotel into a thriving brothel.
Jordan is no stranger to tales of the supernatural, though here he grounds the fantastic elements in the melancholy grittiness of his recent modern-day mermaid fable, Ondine (2009), as opposed to the slick, star-power gloss of Interview with the Vampire (1994). Ashen atmosphere is paramount—gray skies, barren pebble-stone beaches, shadowy underpasses, all ethereally photographed by Sean Bobbitt—while the performers create a memorable vision of a community on life support that is given a strange, sensual boost by these unearthly interlopers. (Eleanor’s tentative friendship with a sickly young man, played by Caleb Landry Jones, is especially affecting.) A subplot involving a mysterious sect of all-male exsanguinaters proves to be a bit of a drag on the proceedings. But Jordan’s poetic sensibilities more than make up for any flaws. His uncanny aptitude for conjuring up resonantly metaphorical images—from a pointed fingernail pushing toward a vein to a waterfall turning into a literal river of blood—proves there’s plenty of life left in this undead genre.
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