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Byzantium (DQ)


Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley, Caleb Landry Jones, Daniel Mays, Jonny Lee Miller, Kate Ashfield, Tom Hollander

Director: Neil Jordan

Irish director Jordan does like his bit of Gothic, and here's a twist on the old vampire legend that provides a few fresh ideas, though they're hardly less preposterous than the old ones. These vampires, a mother and daughter (Arterton, Ronan), posing as sisters, draw blood not with their fangs, but with a fingernail that grows long and pointy at the appropriate moment (ouch!).

The women think they're alone, but other vampires are, for reasons to be explained later, on their bloody trail.

Clara (Arterton), the flamboyant one, persuades Noel (Mays), owner of a defunct hotel, the Byzantium), to let them move in; remembering her past life, she has soon transformed it into a brothel.

Ella (Ronan) is the thoughtful one, who offers a 'peace be with you' to her elderly victims, and spends endless hours writing accounts of her 100-year-life which she throws away. She starts a relationship with Frank (Landry Jones), who's pallid enough to look relatively safe. And one learns how other men (Riley, Miller) have affected the women's present lives.

Although gorehounds will queue eagerly for a new transfusion, the film is harmed by another wretched performance from the spectacularly-built Arterton; difficult to conceive, too, how Ronan could be her daughter. Hollander, TV's Rev, is one of the many victims the girls put the finger on.

Ronan's a class act here, but unfortunately the only one in sight.

David Quinlan

Ireland/UK 2012. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour (unspecified).
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 31 May 2013