Gingerly treading that fine line between "cult classic" and "complete shite", Abel Ferrara's The Addiction is a vampire movie that purports to be something a lot deeper. Those looking for blood-letting won't be disappointed, but, with a script that spouts quotes from Nietzche, and a sombre, documentary tone throughout, any screams emitted from the auditorium will probably be for the wrong reasons.
Shot in black and white, which emphasises the film's nightmarish quality, The Addiction's rather, er, anaemic plot concerns a New York philosophy student (Lily Taylor) who is attacked and bitten one evening by a mysterious woman (Annabella Sciorra). Discharged from hospital but still traumatised, the poor girl tries to continue her studies, but slowly realises she's acquired an unhealthy appetite for human blood. Soon she's imbibing the corpuscles of her University tutor and best friend; eventually she's scouring the streets at night for fresh victims who, once bitten, become creatures like herself.
Although this is a "vampire movie", neither Ferrara nor co-writer St John make any specific reference to the term, preferring instead to use the genre's themes as a metaphor for society's evil. The problem is, as soon as the characters start pondering the meaning of existence, you realise that The Addiction has ideas above its station: Ferrara's new "deep" spin on an old genre is handled in such a pretentious way that it very nearly stifles the film's qualities.
Nearly. Thankfully, a strong, sympathetic performance from Taylor gives the film a much-needed emotional core, and there's an amusing cameo from Christopher Walken as the fellow vampire who advises her to accept what she has become. Ferrara is no slouch at directing this type of movie - - there are one or two really creepy moments.
By turns bewildering and downright bizarre, The Addiction is definitely an acquired taste. But if you're willing to roll with it you may, like this surprised reviewer, find it a flawed but strangely compelling experience.