In an alternate Earth, about three hundred years ago, alchemists stumbled onto secrets of genetic engineering, & created a virus which accidentally caused a jump in human evolution.
Effecting males only, a new species of homonid was born with fangs & extreme longevity. An alchemical-scientific religious institution protected these males, which came to be known as Brothers.
In our world we would call them vampires, & in our world they were exterminated with wooden stakes & fire. But in this parallel Earth, they were protected within the Church, which by their superior natures they eventually came to dominate. With priestly authority, they use their powers almost as angelic protectors of the humans.
Blood of the Brothers had healing powers & was offered as sacrements to human church-goers. The Brothers' own need for human blood was met by a bloodbanking system, not by predation on mortals.
And because the church has dominated the sciences, three hundred years of scientific advancement has resulted in a very different world than ours. It is a partly Victorian; partly post-World War II; partly East European world -- a grubby, derilect world where the genetic experiments of those past alchemists linger in the form of recurring, virulent influenza plagues.
I'm attempting to describe the amazing world of Perfect Creature (2006), a vampire movie in which the word "vampire" is never stated. The costuming & set design & CGI teams have constructed a visual world with dark beauty & conviction.
Such dirtilly complete worlds have been constructed before, in films like the very first The Crow (1994), in Brazil (1985) or Nineteen Eighty-four (1984) which like Perfect Creature projected at world of "stunted" or retro though decided scientific advancement. Even Blade Runner (1982) imagined the future as decadent & stewing in its own filth.
Perfect Creature's artistic vision of an alternate Earth if familiar enough to be recognizably us, but so aeshetically & culturally shifted as to not be us.
The brilliance of the environment constructed for the film could easily have overwhelmed any actor's presence, but characters are so well integrated into this vision that whether Brothers or humans, they definitely seem part of the world they inhabit, & their moments of heroism or desparation or cruelty are always emotionally effective.
For three hundred years Brothers within institutionalized & science-dominating religion have worked tirelessly for the benefit of humanity.
Invariably institutions have their own agendas as well, & there are secrets within the Church which if widely known might turn humanity against Brothers.
On some subliminal level humans do fear or dislike Brothers as being too different, too powerful, perhaps even too condescending. But on the cultural surface at least they are adored, & no one believes it is even possible for a Brother to kill a human.
But the type & nature of the plague that gave rise to the Brothers three centuries before has never recurred. And self-preservation has induced secret monastic experimentation on human women, experiments that were much more horrific in outcome than the Brothers wanted or expected, though they don't stop their experiments even when harm is done.
Their goal had been only to discover & duplicate the precise method by which a viral infection three centuries before caused some women to give birth to a new species of male. It may even be possible to shift this method enough to cause the birth, for the first time, of Sisters, so that the species can reproduce rather than become, however slowly due to their extremely long lives, an extinct offshoot of evolution.
Not only have the experiments destroyed human lives in the most ferocious ways, but one of the Brothers became infected with an experimental virus, which drove him into a new frame of mind that could only be called Madness, though to Edgar (Leo Gregory), he had made the most important evolutionary leap of all, straight into predator mode.
Haunting a ghetto & feasting from the necks of humans, the Brother with whom he was raised, Silas (Dougray Scott), pursues the renegade from the Order, hoping to capture him alive & imprison him, if need be, forever.
At first Silas & the church try to cover up Edgar's murderous crimes, because of a fear that humans may turn against Brothers. But soon the police have to be involved, as the church needs human assistance, & Silas partners with the mortal policewoman Lilly (Saffron Burrows).
Because Brothers cannot reproduce they live indeed as monks, & are taught never to expect physical love from humans. But Silas is drawn to Lilly, a perversion that never permits the story to become a dumbass romance like far too many vampire novels written by women for women with masturbation fantasies about vampires. Instead, the mutual attraction puts unique pressures on both characters' lives, without derailing the horror & suspense.
Silas' church-sanctioned, permissible means of "loving" a mortal is priestly in nature, & he makes Lilly officially his to be "watched." The brotherhood's tradition of watching is not greatly developed in this story, but is obviously an extreme type of their general function as Protectors of humanity, to protect most especially one member of the human race, like a personal guardian angel.
When Edgar realizes his best-beloved Brother cares so much for Lilly as to become her watcher, she becomes Edgar's chief target, his bargaining chip to convince Silas to feast of his brother's blood, become similarly infected, & learn the superior position of the predator.
Simultaneously Edgar is using his blood to infect select humans, & a plague is spreading through the ghetto. The church eventually decides they can never effectively imprison Edgar permanently, as he always manage his escapes. The most they can hope for is containment of the virus he is unleashing.
This we are told will be achieved by the firebombing of the entire ghetto area, killing all the infected, killing Edgar, & sacrificing as well all those innocents within the ghetto who are not infected.
This Silas cannot allow, perhaps for love of Lilly who is held captive in the ghetto, but very likely also because he takes his purpose as human Protector more seriously than the self-preserving Church is doing. He is destined, in fact, to become the enemy of his own Order, a heretic pursued even as he now pursues Edgar.
And in all this is the faint promise of motherhood among the mortals, after viral infection, giving rise to the "perfect creature," the first Sister.
This is in sum one of the best vampire films ever made, a science fiction take on the mythology that works beautifully with themes of Alternate History or Parallel World. And two actors stand out for effectiveness.
Leo Gregory as Edgar is not one of those two. He, like everyone in the film, is excellent at his role, but he mainly provides plot motivations & never becomes more than the monster of the tale.
But Silas & Lilly are played so beyond well, they are truly remarkable characters, & it is the conviction in these performances that make the the whole movie much more than a gloomy visual experience. It is additionally a gloomy experience of the spirit.
Saffron Burrows plays Lilly as a cruel cop whose cruelty is born of a cultural expectation & duty, for she definitely does have a heart. She looks the part of a beautiful amazon suited to a Kafkaesque world, & it's by far the best she's ever been.
This actress is someone who has generally creeped me out because of her chin implants, to the point that I've wondered how she even gets employment after having so disfigured herself. The cleft chin implant is one of the most common facial surgeries after eye lift & cheek implants, & probably the worst that plastic surgery addicts seek.
Michael Jackson has the same model of implant. And Saffron's implant is identical to Jacko's even to the point of occasionally permitting the viewer to see the base of the "knob" it becomes on their chins.
On Saffron it makes her look like she has a fleshy beard or a transplant from Kirk Douglas. In the television series Boston Legal when James Spader's character cannot resist her alleged charms, one can only assume he has a deviant lust for elfin butt.
But in Perfect Creature, her elf-butt chin makes her look otherworldly, born of a society that has experienced three centuries of horrific gene-altering viral diseases. She strides through the story a bit like a hero in an illustrated novel or comic book, not quite physically real, but impressionistically appropriate.
Dougray Scott as Silas is a little more normal in his great good looks. He has a little trouble talking normal with the fake fangs, but he obviously practiced, & didn't lispe too greatly.
He plays the role with a stoic gloom. He cocks his head like a puppy when threatened, rather than using his great strength & power to hurt those who threaten him. His is a sensitive soul, the sort of soul the humans are supposed to believe exist in Brothers, but which the brotherhood will be alarmed to find really does reserve its greatest concerns for the well being of humans.
I cannot praise this film too greatly. It attempted something few films have completely achieved, & it achieves it, presenting a truly otherworldly experience.
Continue to the next vampire film:
Reign in Darkness (2002)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl