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Perfect Creature (2006)
Director: Glenn Standring

review by Alasdair Stuart

It's difficult to find anything new under the Sun and even harder when it's under the Moon. Modern vampire fiction is arguably the ultimate fictional dead horse, with the last ten years seeing endless variations on the theme, many of them involving spandex, long coats and industrial music. All of which is fine and frequently actually pretty fun, but none of which is entirely groundbreaking. Perfect Creature tries something a little different and I'm delighted to report it actually works pretty well.

Here, vampires are a 300 year old race, the result of a genetic anomaly, and live side by side with humans in a society that, whilst not utopian, is certainly peaceful. The Brotherhood, as they're known, are exclusively male, live for 200 years, have massively enhanced senses, aren't bothered by sunlight and don't feed on humans. Until, one day, a small boy walking the streets of the Jamestown slum sees something impossible. With the situation spiralling out of control, the Brotherhood sends Silus (Dougray Scott) their presumptive new leader to work with detective Lily Hour (Saffron Burrows) to try and bring the rogue 'brother' Edgar in quietly. However, Edgar (Leo Gregory) has very different plans...

Two things set Perfect Creature apart from the crowd, and the first is the way in which vampirism is approached. The Brotherhood is, in essence, the church in this world and this idea of vampirism as an altruistic and very public force is one that bears closer examination. Whilst the twists of the second half bring Perfect Creature into more traditional territory it's still a fascinating way to approach the subject.

The film's second major asset is the setting. Where far too many films of this type try for a near future setting (Ultraviolet) or somewhere that, as Terry Gilliam once said, "is on the Belfast/ Berlin border," Perfect Creature is, in many ways, a period piece. The slums of Jamestown, some of the clothing and the general feel is a clear attempt to echo Victorian London, albeit with more airships and vampires but the end result is hugely impressive. For a film with very little budget, it positively drips atmosphere, the world of Lily Hour and her fellow officers clearly a very dangerous place to be.

The cast also deserve some attention here, both for the quality of work handed in and the quality of actors in, what is in this country at any rate, a direct to DVD release. Dougray Scott remains the great untapped-resource among Hollywood leading men, someone who has flirted with the spotlight (briefly cast as Wolverine, his name is also constantly linked with Bond) and somehow has still to break through. His work here is surprisingly nuanced, playing Silus as a very intelligent, very distant man who is all too aware not only of what he's got, but what he's given up. There's a moment where he's watching Lilly sleep which is both romantic and deeply, deeply unsettling and the scene's entire dramatic weight is in Scott's posture and eyes and how he reacts when someone catches him doing it. Scott is rapidly cornering the market in smart, broken leading men and this role is no exception.

The real surprise though is Saffron Burrows, a woman who on her last swing through genre TV turned in an intensely dull performance in Deep Blue Sea. Here, she's infinitely better, playing Lilly Hour as a bitter, fiercely competent and compassionate police officer first, and a woman very much second. She's Silus' equal but she's from the other side of society and the end result is a fascinating pairing.

Of the other cast, Gregory does good work as Edgar, but is hobbled slightly by the demands of the role and the need for the character to be little more than a blood soaked messiah. However, Wills, Hall, Magasiva and Jackson as Lilly's colleagues are fantastic, grounding the police elements of the film perfectly and lifting every scene they're in, especially Wills as the splendidly bitter Jones.

Stuart Wilson as Augustus, the current head of the Brotherhood, also provides able support. Wilson is an effortlessly good character actor and the scenes between him and Scott, especially the moment where Silus finds out the truth, are fascinating and deeply disturbing. The Brotherhood are not human and Wilson really drives that point home, giving his scenes a distant and distinctly alien intelligence.

Perfect Creature still has problems, not the least of which being a fairly clear sequel set-up in the closing minutes but it's head and shoulders above most other movies of it's type. Ignore the straight to DVD status and sink your fangs into something a little different.
Perfect Creature

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