Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Psycho Drive-in is joining in by sharing articles – some classic, some new – celebrating the greatest women in the genre! [Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published on October 23, 2013] I have a soft spot for Neil Jordan films. Maybe because we share a birthday, I don’t know. But I’m always interested when I hear that he’s got a new piece ready to share, despite only truly enjoying his second film, The Company of Wolves. I know, I know – what about The Crying Game or Interview with the Vampire? The Crying Game is good, of course, though I’ve never really gotten past the hype and “mystery” of its release. And I’d rather not discuss my feelings for Interview beyond saying, yuck. He’s not a consistent director, but with the right material, he can be a very impressive one. And with a script by English dramatist, director, and actor, Moira Buffini, based on her teleplay, Jordan has struck gold with Byzantium, a tale of two vampires — a mother and daughter — on the run from a stodgy Brotherhood of vampires who have deemed them blasphemies. Mother Clara is played with aggressive sexiness by Gemma Arterton and is simply amazing. Forced into a life of prostitution during the Napoleonic Wars by TV’s Sherlock (but he’ll always be Sick Boy to me), Jonny Lee Miller, she was victimized most of her short life. In secret, she gave up her daughter to an orphanage and then, nearly died of some terrible venereal disease, or consumption, or something. But when the opportunity to live forever arose, she took it. Literally. By stealing the secret from Miller’s character, Ruthven and choosing to spare his life almost as an afterthought. And then, when Clara’s daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) had reached sixteen years of age — and had been raped and infected with whatever diseases Ruthven (should have killed him) was carrying (probably all of them) — she passed on the secret of immortality to her. And yes, it involves lots of blood. Waterfalls of blood, even, in a beautiful moment that recurs throughout the film. There’s a lot of good stuff in this film, from the opening moments right down to the roll of the credits. Arterton is a force of nature and Ronan plays Eleanor with a quiet desperation that is a wonderful contrast. Where Clara feeds on those she deems worthy of killing, usually men who prey on the weak, Eleanor chooses her victims compassionately, only feeding on those who are elderly, sick, and/or ready to die. But what helps to make this film a little more than a simple vampire tale, is the subtext. There’s something tragic about Clara’s belief that even though she’s immortal, she still isn’t more than a whore trying to provide for her daughter. She’s trapped in that mindset and chooses to make money and find shelter in the easiest way possible — doling out blowjobs and handys under a boardwalk. The parallels between sexuality and vampirism in this are interesting and very different from what we saw yesterday with Kiss of the Damned and all of its exploitation eroticism and cold elitism. The Brotherhood hunting Clara and Eleanor has existed for centuries and somehow decided that women were icky and gross; totally undeserving of vampirism. In a vampire culture, where women are not worthy of the right to reproduce, turning Eleanor was the ultimate sin. So the question at the end of the film becomes one of whether or not Clara kept to the life of prostitution because it was easy or if it was all she was allowed to do and still stay off their radar and survive. I have to say, I found this film much better stylistically and intellectually than Kiss of the Damned, although some viewers might find it a bit slow as it jumps back and forth through the centuries and in the modern day, focuses on Eleanor’s romance of a local boy named Frank (played by Antibodies‘ Caleb Landry Jones) who just happens to be fighting leukemia. I tell you, if Jones ever puts on weight and gets a tan, he’s gonna lose a lot of acting gigs. The cinematography is beautiful, the violence is bloody, the sex is raunchy, and the emotional core of the film is solid. There’s not a lot here that doesn’t stick the landing. If you like vampire films and want something a little more mature without slipping over into irony, satire, or nostalgia, this might be the vampire film for you. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Susan Leighton It seems like Jordan got the vampire genre right with this film instead of the execrable Interview with the Vampire. I can see the tragic subtext in this almost Les Miserable if you will. Prostitution as a method of survival to save or reunite with one’s daughter. Saoirse Ronan is a brilliant actress with a wide open future ahead of her. I loved her in Lovely Bones and Brooklyn. Your review is terrific and I will make it a priority to see this film since I do like Jordan’s work.