Dead & Beautiful REVIEW – Lacks Bite

Dead & Beautiful is a sizzling modern take on the vampire genre.

Dead & Beautiful
Dead & Beautiful

Vampires are a cultural icon, an idea that encapsulates scary, sexy, and cool, all in one monstrous package. They can play the role of simple villain or complex protagonist, but the genre has been around for some time and could always use new insights. Dead & Beautiful is a film that offers that – it oozes modernity, completely aware of how far it can push the bounds of the genre. However, it will most likely disappoint many who go into it looking for a more traditional take on the mythos.

The premise is in the title, but not in the most outward way. A group of five friends is impossibly rich and incredibly bored, with their introductory profiles even stating their family name and general wealth. It’s hard to be entertained by life when anything can be obtained and there is little left to explore in the world. At some point, they begin doing big events, where one person in the group would set up some kind of party or adventure to amuse the others.

This is a hard set of characters to like, and that’s before the biting even starts. Their friendships also appear to be based purely on social climbing and the financial circles they travel in, brought together by their worth more than anything meaningful. At one point, the group even start a fight in the club without any fear of repercussions, as anyone can be given enough hush money or dealt with using the right contacts.

Before we get any further into the movie or even before the word ‘vampire’ is uttered, we’ve already touched upon the crux of the narrative: social commentary and classism. There is a tension between this circle of acquaintances, some background romantic issues, and each of them feel differently about their money – how it was obtained, and the ways in which it affects them.

Anastasia (Anna Marchenko) hires a shaman she discovered on Instagram to take the group into the woods where they participate in a blood ritual, but after blacking out, the friends wake up to find their escort dead and that they all now have fangs. After the fledgling vampires take shelter from the sun in an abandoned hotel, they research their condition and feel out their new lives. This includes drinking blood, trying to mind control clerks, and figuring out how to continue a social media influencer lifestyle as a member of the undead. Not everyone is taking the change well though, and where some can simply sing their problems out with karaoke, others are embracing their darker instincts.

A few of the film’s ‘gotcha’ moments are obvious, but there is a lot to unpack with the ending. It may be a bit confusing, might create several questions, and could potentially leave many viewers feeling as the characters did about their lives – amused but uncaring. It’s a fine story, but won’t be for everyone and it seems like director David Verbeek knew that, as he says that even he isn’t sure what the film is.

There are some particularly wonderful visuals, capturing a real and almost documentary-style turning point in their lives. Dead and Beautiful also has an energetic and haunting soundtrack that fits its characters’ lifestyles well.

The movie’s biggest flaw lies in its length. Some characters are gone for too long while we focus on others and some parts of the timing doesn’t add up, though it makes more sense once the ending is revealed. Some sections meander and the issue is that the more interesting aspects aren’t given much room to breathe — more decisive editing could have helped this. Dead and Beautiful is also a bilingual movie (taking place in Taiwan and featuring dialogue in Mandarin as well as English) that asks a lot of its diverse and international cast, as the acting is often solid, but there are some line reads that feel a bit off and less fluid.

Dead & Beautiful isn’t for everyone. It isn’t traditional, and may lose some of its meaning in an attempt to be anything other than another piece of vapid vampiric cinema. Nonetheless, it is a stirring experience, an insightful dive into the nightlife to see how the other side lives and feeds.

Review screener provided.

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Dead & Beautiful
Five members of the upper class face a non-traditional vampirism in a story that is thought-provoking but misses its bite marks just a bit.