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Film review: Byzantium - British vampire movie starring Gemma Arterton has a distinct lack of bite


Adapted from her play by Moira Buffini, this vampire flick takes its diet of hokum very seriously indeed.

Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and Clara (Gemma Arterton) are two young women mysteriously on the run who fetch up in a fading guest-house, Byzantium, on the south coast (Hastings, though never named). Here their past is brought to light – to wit, they are undead from 200 years previously, haunted by what befell them at the hands of a vicious naval officer (Jonny Lee Miller).

In the meantime Clara establishes a pop-up brothel (having killed the local whoremaster) in the guest-house and Eleanor enrols at a local college, where they teach creative writing to students while they lie on the floor. (None of this is portrayed as satire, by the way).

Her essay on her past life impresses her tutor (Tom Hollander), who, instead of saying, "Eleanor, enough with the Twilight ripoffs", breathlessly compares her to Edgar Allan Poe. Neil Jordan directs with energy if not much finesse; characters keep conveniently bumping into one another, and flashbacks to a forsaken island with blood-red waterfalls are awkwardly shoehorned into the narrative.

It ends, appropriately, with a car-crash, a beheading, and a possible answer to who burnt down Hastings Pier. Oh those pesky vampires!