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Film Review: The Addiction (1995)

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SYNOPSIS:

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.

REVIEW:

In 1995, Abel Ferrara, the man who unleashed the likes of Driller Killer, Bad Lieutenant and King of New York upon us, turned his neo-noir eye to vampirism, crafting a tale which strafes between bewitching and bewildering in equal measure, without ever finding a sweet spot.

Lili Taylor (I Shot Andy Warhol) plays a philosophy student, Kathleen, who is seduced/assaulted in a darkened alleyway by the mysterious Casanova (Annabella Sciorra). As Kathleen recovers from her assault, it becomes apparent that she is becoming something more than she ever was. She develops a taste for blood and a discomfort with sunlight. Quickly embracing her new lifestyle, she forces it upon others. “Why don’t you tell me to leave you alone?” she coos at her victims, asking the very same question that was asked of her by Casanova.

It’s a loaded question, one which takes the blame away from the assaulter and drops it firmly upon the shoulders of her victims. It’s something we see play out nowadays in the real world in the comments of any online article about sexual assault. “Why was she out late at night?”, “why did she go home with him?”, “why didn’t protect herself?” and so on. In The Addiction, it allows Kathleen to distance herself from her actions, even if it’s only by a few millimeters. You should have stepped out of her way. Why would you do that to yourself?

This also plays out in Kathleen’s new bloodlust. In a scene that’s about as subtle being hit by a feather taped to a breeze block, Kathleen uses a syringe to extract blood from a homeless man and inject into her arm. When she mildly berates her victims for letting her bite her, she’s the old drunk sat at the bar slurring that they haven’t got a problem. In fact, Kathleen could quit any time she wanted to if you’d just stop draping your neck across her teeth. Who is to really blame for Kathleen’s actions now?

These are the moments in The Addiction that get their hooks into the audience, that open up conversations in bars and taxis on the way home. The other two thirds of the film, however, consist of having to endure Kathleen hanging out with her friends as they fire philosophical quotes at each other faster than any first year uni student you could potentially meet. In these moments, Kathleen sheds her new nosferatu skin to reveal that for all of her bloodletting, she’s rather boring. Even a cameo from Christopher Walken and Ferrara’s stark visuals fail to liven things up.

Watching The Addiction brings to mind a film that would come out nearly 20 years later: Summer of Blood from Onur Turkel. There, Turkel plays a man bored of his lie until he, like Kathleen, is assaulted on the streets of New York. Gaining vampiric powers, Turkel uses them to get out of paying his rent and tricking girls into threesomes. Like The Addiction, Summer of Blood turns to thoughts of philosophy as Turkel ponders how to pray to a God he doesn’t believe in, who has allowed one of his children to become monster. Whilst both films are completely different genres, they both skew the idea of what it is to be a vampire. Whilst both maintain an idea of undead sex appeal, their actual overt sexuality is drowned out by a selfish attitude and poor dress sense.

No one is arguing for Ferrara to tackle comedy – even though you know we’d all queue up to watch that – but there is something about his usual schtick that doesn’t stick to the fangs in a way it should do. The Addiction, for all its stylized visuals, feels like it’s trying too hard to be taken seriously. Its metaphors are occasionally clunky – see the syringe full of blood – and before long you wish you could escape this quagmire of hipster chic. In fact, that perhaps sums it up best, The Addiction is cinematic equivalent of spending all morning your hair in an effort to make it look like you literally just got out of bed.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Abel Ferrara and director of photography Ken Kelsch
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
  • Restored 5.1 audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary by Abel Ferrara, moderated by critic and biographer Brad Stevens
  • Talking with the Vampires (2018) A new documentary about the film made by Ferrara especially for this release, featuring actors Christopher Walken and Lili Taylor, composer Joe Delia, Ken Kelsch, and Ferrara himself
  • New interview with Abel Ferrara
  • New interview with Brad Stevens
  • Abel Ferrara Edits The Addiction, an archival piece from the time of production
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by critic Michael Ewins

The Addiction is now available on bluray per Arrow Films

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