A publishing executive believes he’s turning into a vampire.
This is a weird film to write about. If I were writing about it in terms of my enjoyment only, I’d probably have given it a 4/5; if I were writing about it in terms of cinematic prowess, I’d have given it a 2/5; and so, I settle (unsatisfactorily) on a 3/5. The reason that I find it so hard to give a rating to this film is because, honestly, the script is pretty basic and the storyline is nothing that we haven’t seen before, but the acting is something entirely unique. I had never seen this film before watching it last night, nor had I really ever intended to because of it’s bizarre reputation and horrid reviews, but after recently watching “Mandy” (and really enjoying it), and then seeing an interview with Cage about a few of his favorite films, this one piqued my interest. In the interview I saw (with GQ Magazine- linked here), Cage talked about how in this film he was trying to channel German expressionists in his work; he was referencing silent horror films and other early methods of acting. The idea intrigued me, and I felt that this was something I really needed to see, and I was certainly glad I did. This film is quite funny, though I wonder in what scenes Cage was trying to be funny, and what scenes were meant to be interpreted as serious. His performance in this film is incredibly physical, totally unique, and altogether unforgettable, though that doesn’t mean that it worked in every scene.
“I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire!”
Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage, “The Rock”) is a successful publishing executive in New York who frequently takes home girls from nightclubs and bars. One night, when Loew takes home a woman named Rachel (Jennifer Beals, “The Book of Eli”), whom bites him on the neck during their lovemaking. The next day, Loew begins to suspect that he might be a vampire, and as his week goes on, his vampirism (or delusion) and thirst for blood grows stronger.
So first, the bad stuff. As a whole, this movie is rather basic, the plot is super thin, and the characters are unlikeable. Now, that doesn’t inherently make a movie bad, there are plenty of films that I’ve seen that I’ve liked that have those qualities (though usually they’re arthouse films). This movie gives us nothing to really attach to as far as someone to care about. Cage, even from the beginning of this film, is rather unlikeable. He’s a man that thinks of himself as higher class than his other fellow humans, even going so far as to put on a faux hoity-toity accent that he believes make him sound more intelligent (though in reality he sounds rather strange). He’s a man that is absolutely horrible to his assistant, that tries to find new woman every night, and he’s a man that seems to have no respect for anyone other than himself and his shrink, Dr. Glaser (Elizabeth Ashley, “Happiness”). The plot is rather simple, and doesn’t really have any twists: Cage gets bit and thinks he’s turning into a vampire. The whole time this is happening however, we continuously see things from both inside and outside Cage’s perspective; ie what he looks like to others and what he himself sees. Inside Cage’s mind, he truly is a vampire, but in the real world we’re not sure. If there was any real interesting bit to that aspect of the story, it would be at near the beginning of the film, when Cage talks to his Ashley about how he felt aroused when a bat came into his apartment and he had to fight it off. The only reason I found that part interesting is it gives Cage a motive for wanting to turn into a vampire- maybe the idea turned him on and that helped break his already fragile mind. The problem is that the film doesn’t really explore the idea that Cage might just be crazy, and he’s already a bit of a jerk, so I don’t really feel sorry for him as he falls further into the depths of his depravity even if he is just crazy. (SOME SPOILERS FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE PARAGRAPH) Another thing that kind of bugged me about the plot is that this movie is billed as a comedy, yet one of the major plot points is a brother trying to murder Cage for raping his sister. That’s not funny at all; that’s dark as heck and it totally feels out of place in this movie. (SPOILERS END)
Now, the good stuff. Nic Cage’s performance is, if anything, unforgettable. That’s not to say that the choices he made in this movie worked every time, there are a fair amount of scenes when I wondered what the heck he was thinking. But… this film is never boring and that is entirely thanks to the versatility and craziness of Nic Cage. If you’re a big fan of Nic Cage freaking out, then this is the quintessential film for you. Where else can you get Cage running around in a blood soaked shirt, carrying a plank from a pallet, asking random strangers to kill him because he’s a vampire? Where else can you see Nic Cage jump up on a desk without prompt and scream at his secretary? This movie is absolutely hilarious when it comes to some of the choices and facial expressions Cage uses, but knowing what Cage was trying to accomplish- channel a German expressionist actor- makes his performance even more intriguing. As I mentioned, I hadn’t seen this film before I watched that GQ interview, and perhaps that gave me the perspective I needed to really appreciate what Cage was trying to accomplish. If you are an average moviegoer, I very much doubt that you would catch the similarities between Cage’s performance in this film and Max Schreck’s performance in the 1927 vampire masterpiece “Nosferatu” (which, to this day, you could still make an argument that its the best cinematic version of Stoker’s Dracula). The way Cage holds his eyes open during the nightclub scene, the way he bows to the girl doing cocaine at the table, the way he holds his hand in front of himself, all pay homage to Schreck’s brilliance (there’s even a scene when “Nosferatu” is being played on a television). It doesn’t always work, but it is always interesting to see the results.
While I wont claim this to be a great film, I would venture to guess a fair amount of people would actually find this film to be very enjoyable, particularly now that Cage has garnered a decent cult following for his onscreen freak outs. If you’re a fan of seeing Cage loose his mind, this is one you have to see. If you’re looking for a great vampire movie with compelling characters and a tight script, maybe look somewhere else.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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