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Perfect Creature
cast: Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows, Leo Gregeory, Scott Wills, and Stuart Wilson

director: Glenn Standring

88 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Icon DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
Three hundred years ago "in a world not unlike our own" an alchemist identified the genetic mutation that led to the very first vampire. Now calling themselves the Brotherhood and claiming to have been sent by God "to serve and protect humans," vampires peacefully co-exist with them, and are as established and respected a part of society as Catholic priests. They also have a problem: for over 70 years no vampire has been born.

Scientist Brother Edgar (Leo Gregory) is working on the solution when his experiment with the virus that created vampires goes badly wrong. Now insane, he starts preying on humans. Fearful of upsetting the status quo, the Brothers keep this disastrous development quiet and set Edgar's younger brother Silus (Dougray Scott) on his trail. But the number of deaths is mounting by the day, and the news that there's a dangerous, aberrant vampire on the loose is bound to get out soon.

Silus joins the human task force led by police captain Lilly (Saffron Burrows). But his growing attraction to her makes her an obvious target for his increasingly deranged brother. Complications ensue, and soon Lilly has been kidnapped, Edgar is actively spreading plague amongst humans, and the Brotherhood, led by the uncompromising Augustus (Stuart Wilson), see no alternative but to obliterate the quarantined slum area of the city where Edgar is holding Lilly. If Silus is to save her in time, he must act fast.

Perfect Creature reunites Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible 2, Enigma, Ripley's Game) with Saffron Burrows (Troy, Enigma). More of a gory thriller than out-and-out horror, the first half unfolds steadily, setting the scene, introducing the characters, and gradually ratcheting up the tension, but the fraternal relationship between the two vampires does lead to a certain amount of predictability. By contrast, the second half's too skimpy exposition could leave some viewers baffled, and the ending left me scratching my head as it seems impossible given the timescale of events preceding it. I also found it hard to believe another of the film's underlying premises: that all of the vampires willingly lead such a curiously one-dimensional and arid existence.

As numerous Kiwi accents reveal, Perfect Creature was filmed in New Zealand and special effects successfully transform Dunedin and Auckland into a fantastical version of the place. The setting, though, is supposedly the 1960s, and it feels far earlier. The lumbering zeppelins, grungy workhouses, and disease-ridden slums sit uneasily next to influenza vaccines, antibiotics, taxis, TVs, guns, and genetic engineering.

Scott's performance starts off with such restraint and quietness, I wondered whether it was intentional or if he was having difficulty speaking around his fangs, but as the film progresses he injects more emotion into Silus. In look and mannerisms, Burrows feels a little modern for the steam-punk setting, but she manages the difficult trick of convincing us that Lilly is both a strong and competent police captain yet also in need of Silus' protection. The award for chewing the scenery must go to Gregory, whose sneering insanity is fun but whose manner is in such marked contrast to Scott's it undermines the notion that Silus and Edgar shared the same mother. Scott Wills, meanwhile, provides solid support as Lilly's loyal sidekick, and Stuart Wilson does the elegant, ageing, and hypocritical religious authority figure with ease.

DVD extras: there are cast and crew interviews and a 'making of' featurette.

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