Made in Britain: Night Junkies
I’ve not reviewed anything for a bit, so I thought I’d return with a totally unheralded and probably not worth commenting on British horror movie. I’ve talked in great length about Vampire films and mythology in the past, but I’m doing this one in the interests of balance that it isn’t only America that turns out sub-par bloodsucking efforts. 2007 British effort Night Junkies isn’t a dreadful film, but it is a hackneyed one, the principle problem being that writer/ director Lawrence Pearce couldn’t resist abusing the obvious metaphor. Still, there is a fair bit to admire here, and he’s certainly not afraid of throwing the claret around and filling every square inch of the screen with boob, so it’s not an abject failure.
One of the perpetual problems that cinematic depictions of vampirism suffers from is that there are many metaphors that are ludicrously easy to apply to the genre. Firstly, there’s vampirism= sex. This has been hammered into the ground all over the place, and has almost become passé. Secondly, there is vampirism= paedophilia (step up Twilight and Let the Right One In, although one is a good film and the other is evil Mormon propaganda swill). The third obvious analogy is Vampirism= addiction. If you think about it for a second, one of the defining features of the vampire myth is that they are unable to control the craving for blood- their existence is a stretched thin junk nightmare looking for the next hit. Night Junkies, is all about this idea.
The problems start almost instantaneously. We’re treated to a pompous voiceover from Vincent (Giles Alderson), likening himself to just one of London’s millions of feral junky scum. The film isn’t confident enough to allow us to see this visually, so he has to tell us, and this is a mistake repeated frequently throughout the run-time. It’s not edgy, not necessary and generally annoying. In the background, (a truly disastrous piece of writing given what happens in the end) we’re informed of a serial killer on the rounds who is messily butchering London’s prostitutes.
Cut to a strip club (huzzah!) and we’re introduced to reluctant hooker Ruby (Katia Winter). She’s having problems with her bosses (a very sleazy Jonny Coyne and a frankly appallingly overacting René Zagger). Through a freak series of events she ends up hooking up with Vincent, and thus turned into a vampire. Events spiral out of control, leaving Ruby facing off against the serial killer (absolutely no prizes for guessing who) who is now a vampire himself. Except the film implies that he’s always been a vampire if you were paying attention to the news bulletin at the start.
I won’t spoil the actual finale, but really, we’ve seen it done hundreds of times before.
This is going to be a mostly negative review, but I feel a bit unfair doing it. The first half of the film is actually quite good, the cinematography is clever, and Pearce has worked hard conjuring up an atmosphere. What this section most feels like, actually is the One-Eyed Jacks sequences in Twin Peaks. There’s a sleazy and dreamlike atmosphere, and the film drifts along quite happily in a haze. Yes, I do get that this is meant to simulate the “high” sections of the film, but the soft focus works supremely well here.
The problem is that the film can’t maintain this atmosphere. At some point, reality is going to have to intrude on our characters, and there’s a supremely aggravating cold turkey scene between Ruby and Vincent that was so badly written, acted and directed that the film lost me completely. The scene in question is only about two-thirds of the way through the film, and it utterly fails to recover from it. This is a problem with the writing, and being shoddily written is the endemic failure of Night Junkies.
To start with, the characters are single-dimensional and often contradictory. Vincent, for example, seems to be struggling with his vampirism when we first meet him. However, later on he jumps right into it, and is then all about the blood-sucking and turning Ruby into a fully fledged monster like him. Where’s the man attempting to control his addiction gone? Then there’s the treatment of the serial killer. For a start, we know when he was infected, yet he’s been up to vampirish antics all the time beforehand? Get the fuck out of here with that. Secondly, he gets his arse absolutely handed to him by Ruby, and then him and a mate get beaten truly shitless by Vincent. Yet we’re supposed to believe that he’s some kind of evil badass at the end of the film that’s more than capable of taking down our two heroes? You’ve established that he isn’t a threat, you tit, so get the fuck out of here with that too.
The acting is OK (apart from Zagger). Anderson does his best Edward Cullen impersonation (i.e. he mopes around looking all brooding and whatnot) and Winter is perky on-screen (only loses her English accent a few times) and more than willing to share her Swedish pastries with the camera. So props there. However, the crap writing interferes again with the performances. When they first meet, we’re meant to believe that he draws her into his lair using a blueberry muffin. I’m sorry, but this whole scene is so stagey, and the dialogue so stilted that you automatically struggle to believe that she’d go with an obvious nut-stroking pervert such as him. It’s not the actors’ fault, it’s the shitty writing.
On a minor point of note before I sign off on this one, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vampire film where the undead lack enlarged Canines. I actually quite like this, as it renders the feeding sequences brutal and supremely unpleasant- they tear hunks out of people. There’s nothing elegant and sexy about it, which I suppose is appropriate for a film that is essentially a junk metaphor.
Overall, this is a nigh-on impossible film for me to rate. The first half of it (muffin scene aside) does earn it the time to get you to the end, and the surreal club scenes are supremely well done. There’s shit-loads of boob, some nasty sex and prostitution and I really, really want to like it. At the end of the day, however, the writing is too cosmically awful for me to give it a real recommendation. What’s aggravating is that there is a good film in here struggling to get out, but it’s a classic case of ambition outstripping ability and someone really needed to rein in Pearce’s worst excesses (and re-write the fucking script). I don’t really recommend it, because it isn’t worth it, but I don’t hate it either. I give it an utterly balanced 1 and a half cartoon strippers out of 4, and I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that I’m being generous with it.
Until next time,