Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Addiction

'The dark is their sunlight. What makes them different is what keeps them alive.'

I recently rewatched The Addiction, and it's still one of my favourite vampire films, despite a short legnth and a low budget it just does it so well. As I've mentioned before this film is a metaphor of drugs, HIV, religious conversion or all three, maybe even something different thrown in such symbolism of violence in the world, loss of purity or the evil within us. It never uses the word vampire, has an interesting rap soundtrack and uses philosophical quotes to cover many of its points.

When it gets right down to it though, for me it is a dark and gritty vampire movie, shown from the point of view of vampire fledgling Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor), a philosophy student attacked and turned, seemingly without reason, by Casanova (Annabella Sciorra). All Casanova cryptically tells her is to tell her to leave, for Kathleen to ask her to go away, but Kathleen can only whimper and beg. Casanova then adds, 'You want to know what’s going to happen? Wait and see.' Later Kathleen demands the same of her own victims, that they tell her to go away, not ask, and they all fail to show that authority by demanding that Kathleen leave. The only one who really resists her is a man holding out religious pamphlets (Michael Imperioli), she tries to entice him into a building where a massacre she has organised will soon take place, but he resists, in a gentle manner and gives her a leaflet, which leads to her having a meltdown later on.

As a vampire Kathleen shows the traits of disliking the light (this is remarked upon and she wears sunglasses), looking sick, having an obvious and violent desire for blood, displaying inhuman strength, having an ability to ensnare people with her words (clever wording more than vampire powers most likely), seeming to have a desire for dirt (she takes the dirt out of flowers her friend sends her and places it on her bed), a disliking of mirrors, having a subdued appetite and appearing dead and yet alive (she is rotting on the inside). Of course these vampires can survive in daylight and as Christopher Walken's character Peina informs Kathleen they can have jobs, defecate and eat human food and basically live normal lives, but the fix is always present, whilst he has controlled it and can deny it, it's never permanently and the last time he fed it was 'a dozen and a half in one night'. Until now when he feeds on Kathleen, we assume to teach her a lesson but it's possible he simply needs to feed.

This film isn't perfect, it borders on being pretentious, and though the lead character is a philosophy student quotes seem spouted just for the sake of it. The underlining theme seems to be guilt as Kathleen is writing a thesis on it and she openly discusses it with her friend Jean before being forced to contemplate it on a personal level, yet it goes beyond that and seems to lose its own message, tangling it up with others. It could have been longer, the characters could have been developed better and a lot more could have been explained (why did Casanova pick Kathleen to turn, how did she find her again, is everyone who is bitten turned, what exactly happened in the end). The ending is too ambiguous, Kathleen attempts suicide in hospital by asking a nurse to open the blinds, she is stopped by Casanova before seemingly attempting it again when a priest visits and offers her a confession. The final seen is her grave with Kathleen herself setting down a flower, is she still the undead, is she a ghost, is she human again? We just don't know. Personally I think the film should have ended with the blood feast.

That being said this film has a lot of potential, it's original and it has a great cast. For those seeking something different in the vampire genre this underrated flick is the way to go, pity it's not more widely available. For me, I can watch it again and again and see and think something new, it's full of questions, symbolism and metaphors and it offers up so many alternate theories about vampires and mankind. It's tries to be different and it succeeds but it also ensures that it's definitely not for everyone, not a bad thing, it plays it safe and goes for being an indie flick rather than mainstream.

I like the idea of vampirism being comparable to a drug addiction, most prominent when Kathleen takes a hobo's blood with a needle and shoots up later, then clearly does the same to her professor (we see his arm inked with 'IN' and 'OUT'), plus Peina referring to shooting up and it being a fix. Of course with Kathleen's resistance of the religious man, her anger at the cross pamphlet, and her desperate turning to the priest it can be seen as a film about religion, sin, evil and guilt. Casanova suggests, 'Now, R.C. Sproul said we're not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners. In more accessible terms, we're not evil because of the evil we do, but we do evil because we *are* evil. Yeah. Now what choices do such people have? It's not like we have any options.' Thus these vampires aren't evil because they're vampires they're simply evil and were so as humans because humans are sinners. So is it okay for them to slaughter and turn as they do?

Casanova and Peina offer two contrasting opinions, Peina seems to suggest that Kathleen's actions are wrong and foolish, risky even, naive and the signs of an overgrown ego, and considers himself beyond trivial matters of good and evil, 'Mankind has striven to exist beyond good and evil, from the beginning. And you know what they found? Me.' Casanova on the other hand seems to excuse Kathleen's casual turnings and feedings, saying it's nature and they can't help it, no more than humans can help being evil. The implication there is perhaps that it's not even wrong that Kathleen isn't very selective with her victims because everyone is evil so why should anyone be spared? She also joins in on the blood orgy towards the end thus showing that she is supportive of Kathleen's wanton desire to gorge. Of course Peina did mention he gorged himself so does he really disapprove of this? Maybe he simply didn't like Kathleen herself and her arrogance as she tried to feed on him, maybe he's a hypocrite or maybe he's so maddened by his own thirst that though he wants to believe it's possible to beat and that he has done so he's only fooling himself.
Kathleen seems to confirm her own thoughts on the matter by remarking, 'Our addiction is evil.' and suggesting that they are without choice, 'there's a difference between jumping and being pushed. You reach a point where you are forced to face your own needs' suggesting she considers that she has been forced into all this despite Casanova saying it was her fault and she herself telling her victims that it was their fault and that they did have a choice. Of course in the end she seems to change her mind, thus proving that one can choose whether to accept this evil or not, and she opts for redemption, unable to deal with what she has become. One has to wonder though if she really has been given or even deserves forgiveness after all the taint she has spread? She turned her professor, her friend, an innocent student, two men on the street (one a would be rescuer), and presumably countless others at a party she hosted, all of these people have been corrupted and damned because of her, so why should she escape damnation?

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