Laurence Phelan: Byzantium - Atmospheric Brit vampire movie has bite


Eleanor and Clara Webb and are two eternally youthful vampires – or revenants, as this film calls them – who have been locked into a co-dependent relationship for 200 years but now follow different narrative paths.

Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan), the marginally younger of the two, is an introvert who wears duffel coats, plays Debussy, muses in flowery prose about memory and history, only drinks the blood of elderly people who are ready to die, and is tortured by the impossibility of an ordinary teenage romance.

Her story is clearly calculated to appeal to Twilight fans. Her saviour and protector Clara (Gemma Arterton), meanwhile, is neither so fearful of human contact nor so discriminate about whom she kills. She wears suspenders and basques and works in strip clubs and brothels. Her part of the story is clearly calculated to appeal to fans of Gemma Arterton in her underwear.

As a result, Byzantium has lots to offer but an uncomfortably split personality: equal parts emo teen drama and high-gloss horror. It also leaves its attempt to reposition itself as a feminist fable far too late.

Still, the cinematography by Sean Bobbitt, who shot The Place Beyond the Pines and Steve McQueen's films and Hunger and Shame, beautifully highlights both the neon buzz and the blue-grey drizzle of the south- coast seaside town where most of the action takes place: Hastings has never looked more glamorous or more depressing on film before.