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Night Junkies (2007)
23rd Jul 07
A seedy yet stylish tale of vampires and whores on the streets of London.
Review “You know what it is about vampire movies? They’re sexy as hell, I mean they’re all about sex…” - Vincent
First time writer & director Lawrence Pearce makes his intentions clear from this opening line of his debut feature – teasing the audience with the promise of a slick, sexually charged vampire ‘flick’ despite his limited resources and experience. And do you know what, with Night Junkies he just about delivers on that promise.
The streets of London provide centre stage for all of the action. Not the tourist version of the capital that Hollywood likes to portray, with its London buses and a policeman on every corner, this is a much seedier depiction; a nocturnal vision full of hookers, hoodlums and the disaffected. Terror reigns as a modern-day Jack The Ripper prowls the darkened alleys leaving a trail of thirteen bodies in his wake - Notting Hill this ain’t.
Ruby (Winter) is the lynchpin of the film, a modern day tart-with-a-heart who works in a lap dancing club. She’s the most beautiful and popular girl there and as a result is under increased pressure from the club’s owner Maxi (Coyne) to offer extra ‘services’ to her customers. Head goon Matt (Zagger) has also taken an unwelcome shine to our Ruby and feels he should be on the receiving end of some fringe benefits, much to her disgust.
Fleeing into a café to escape a couple of local thugs one evening our erstwhile narrator Vincent (Alderson) comes to her aid. With his rather peculiar chat up technique presenting itself as his theories about the vampire lifestyle you’d expect Ruby to be running straight for the nearest exit, yet Vincent is a born charmer and soon has her in his bed doing what Matt can only fantasize about. As for all the vampire talk, well that all becomes clear when Vincent leans in for a greedy bite of his victim’s neck.
What Night Junkies does well is put the well-worn vampire character into a thoroughly modern context. As Vincent explains, vampires are not ‘bad boys’, just normal people who’ve been dealt a bad hand. They’re not immortal creatures and none of the traditional myths apply (apart from sunlight, which is likened to a form of eczema) but the craving for fresh blood is only too real. As the title suggests, blood is their drug, their addiction and they’re always acutely aware of the need for their next fix.
Pearce’s script explores the central theme nicely as Ruby’s relationship with Vincent intensifies and she struggles to come to terms with what she’s become. Katia Winter makes for a strong, sexy lead and is able to portray a multi-faceted character that you genuinely care about. Although, it has to be said, for someone so well-spoken and intelligent you do have to question quite how she’s ended up turning tricks for such a slimeball like Maxi! Giles Alderson as Vincent certainly looks the part but his strange accent grates (is it European or American, you decide) and his acting is frequently upstaged by that of the furniture.
The supporting characters are less well-rounded, but Jonathan Coyne does a decent Bob Hoskins knock-off with some choice dialogue that amuses – “You are a fart and I want you out of my arse!” being perhaps the pick of the bunch. As our two protagonists prepare to head to Edinburgh in search of a potential cure, Pearce throws in a curveball which propels Matt onto their trail, making the latter part of the film essentially a three-hander. Despite Matt’s penchant for exposition as he goes about his business, the vicious machination of his character certainly serves to heighten the drama.
Aside from one extremely ugly scene in which Matt assaults a hooker, the violence and gore is largely kept in check, with Pearce opting for a more cerebral approach to the story, and indeed delivers a surprisingly tender finale. The real accomplishment here however is the assured direction which comes as a pleasant surprise; the cinematography, production design and moody lighting combine to make Night Junkies an extremely stylish picture which is visually engaging throughout.
Overlooking certain shortcomings with the screenplay and the variable performances from the cast, Night Junkies is still a significant achievement, boasting remarkably high production values for its reported £50K budget. With Pearce already working on a series of comic books and developing a more ambitious sequel, it seems that this is just the beginning for Vincent and his ilk.
Further Information Night Junkies is now available on Region 1 DVD from the usual sources. You can visit the film’s website at www.nightjunkies.com.
30th May 04 When the guests do arrive, they have an amusing habit of dying. This is obviously bad for business and so, with family honour in jeopardy they take quite quickly to hiding the bodies, usually accompanied by some big musical number.