the addiction | abel ferrara | nicholas st. john | lili taylor | christopher walken | annabella sciorra | drama | vampires | united states | vampire | edie falco | paul calderon | fredro starr | kathryn erbe | michael imperioli | jamal simmons | robert w. castle
Film: The Addiction
Director: Abel Ferrara
Writer: Nicholas St. John
Starring: Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken and Annabella Sciorra
Now this is an interesting film for me. I never heard about it and it was listed in the horror encyclopedia that I’m working my way through. I’m not going to lie, this is one of the first arthouse horror films, that really set me down the path that I’m on with them. It is an interesting take on the vampire mythos for sure. The synopsis is a New York philosophy grad student turns into a vampire after getting bitten by one, and then tries to come to terms with her new lifestyle and frequent craving for human blood.
This film begins with narration of slides. They are images from the Vietnam War of mass graves. We see that there are two students who stand up when the lights come on; one of them is Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor) while the other is Jean (Edie Falco). They are both graduate students in philosophy at New York University. They have a moral discussion about how one man was punished for this where Kathleen questions how far do you go in punishing more people, like who sent him there and gave him a weapon.
The two of them talk about the subject above and it shows how close to their college is a more rough area. There’s a bunch of guys who hassle those that walk past them and the film is really showing us the dissection of society. We have these pretentious students and people who will never leave the area.
Later that night, Kathleen crosses a street and encounters Casanova (Annabella Sciorra). She grabs Kathleen’s arm and drags her down a flight of stairs into a dark alley. She demands that Kathleen tells her to stop like she means and for her to leave. She cannot do it and Casanova bites her neck. It turns out that she is a vampire. Taylor goes to the hospital. She is checked out and they inform her that she does not have AIDS, as it cannot manifest that quickly. They think that she might have acute anemia that is now presenting. She is cleared to go home with a big bandage on her neck. Kathleen gets home and begins to clean the blood from her neck. She is visible shaken and scared.
She then becomes sick. She goes to class the next day and has to get-up in the middle of her professor’s (Paul Calderon) lecture to go to the bathroom. She throws up blood and convulses on the ground. Taylor begins to wear sunglasses and has lost her appetite. She also has taken an even darker view on the world. Her first feeding is from taking blood from a homeless man with a syringe and injecting herself with it.
There is a weird scene where Kathleen and her professor go out. This is odd, because he comes home with her and they shoot up heroin. He has two blood spots on his arm with one saying ‘in’ and the other ‘out’. She uses his blood to feed her addiction.
She becomes bolder after this. She meets an anthropology student in the library who is played by Kathryn Erbe. Kathleen takes her home and bites her neck. Her victim is confused as to what happened and Kathleen is very cold and callous in her response. Another instance is when Black (Fredro Starr) hits on Kathleen while she walks past and she seems interested. We see the reason for that later on.
Taylor’s addiction grows worse and worse. As she is looking for victims, this brings her to Peina (Christopher Walken). He is like her and he takes her back to his place. She wants to know more about their condition, but he doesn’t have a lot of answers. He has been able to keep his cravings under control and lives a pretty normal life. He does feed on Kathleen and the pain is so great she wants to kill herself. He scoffs at her when she tries, knowing it has no effect. This encounter does re-invigorate her in school and leads her to her master plan.
I have to say that I didn’t know what to expect coming into this upon my first viewing, but I am glad that I watched this. As I said in my opening for this, it has an interesting take on the vampire mythos. From its title, you can get the idea that it is treated like a drug. Kathleen was just a normal student it seems like before Casanova turned her life upside down.
Now Kathleen being a philosophy student is quite intriguing. She has a pretty bleak outlook on life, but to be honest, I get it. The older I get, the more I realize how humans are pretty much garbage. I love using the backdrop of the war crimes from Vietnam as a way of looking at the vampirism here. Kathleen is upset with the treatment of the military officer, but she is doing the same thing that he is. I think the film is showing us that we shouldn’t necessarily judge people when we live in glass houses.
Her inability to control her addiction is something else here. Now in 1995 when this film came out, I was 8. I feel like the film is telling us about the epidemic of people using drugs. The film references AIDS, so that was a concern, but I’m also thinking there was an issue with college students back then. Kathleen literally shoots up with her professor and it doesn’t seem that big a deal. I feel the film is showing us that problem. Kathleen can’t control herself as a vampire and it takes Peina to call her out. It is interesting though, Casanova is the one that turns her and we really don’t see her all that much. I’m not sure how bad her addiction to blood is.
The film has a low running time, so that definitely keeps the film moving. I never find myself bored and I think it’s interesting to see Kathleen as she descends into the madness of her addiction. There is an interesting climax scene that is just great at what she plans. I really like what it is saying about higher education for sure. The ending is quite intriguing as well.
Something that really carries this film is the acting. Taylor is really good as the lead here. As I’ve already touched on, I really like that they made her a philosophy student. They are already head cases and questioning everything around them. I love that as she is sinking deeper into addiction, her outlook becomes even more bleak. Walken is solid in his small part as was Sciorra. She was also quite easy on the eyes. There are a lot of cameos by people who would go on to do bigger things and they definitely rounded out the film for what was needed. Shout outs to Falco, Starr, Erbe and Michael Imperioli.
I’ve been waiting to touch on this aspect, but the film is shot in black and white. This would have made me avoid this one growing up. When I did see it, I embraced this move. It just adds a later to it for me that I can’t really describe. What makes it interesting as well is that it makes the effects better. The blood is dark and you know what it is. I think that it makes the attack scenes more visceral as well. With that said, the film is also shot very well.
The last aspect to talk about would be the soundtrack. It doesn’t stand out overall, but I do like the use of rap music. We have a song by Cypress Hill, which I thought was great as it is talking about getting high, which is fitting for this movie. There is also a song by Onyx that I thought worked really well in the film. It never took me out of the film which is also good.
Now with that said, I really like this movie. I like that they decided to do something different with the vampire mythos. Setting it in New York City is interesting as well, because it isn’t as gritty as the 1980’s, there is still that aspect that this school of higher education is that close to a rough neighborhood. The pacing works really well and moves through everything at a good clip. Big fan of the climax and the ending is intriguing. The acting was good across the board. I like that it was filmed in black and white, as that adds a layer to it and helps to make the effects look that much better. The soundtrack fits for what the film is working for. Overall I’d say this is a good movie, but it is arthouse and I think many will find it pretentious. Keep that in mind before checking this out.
My Rating: 8 out of 10