Anastasia (Anna Marchenko), Mason (Gijs Blom), Bin-Ray (Philip Juan), Lulu (Aviis Zhong), and Alex (Yen Tsao) are five incredibly rich, snobby friends who spend their nights take turns planning trashy, stupid events and causing trouble for each other. The group is easily bored, especially the girls, as they think the days are no fun thanks to the shallow, elitist life they lead. When it’s Ana’s turn to plan an outing, she pays a hefty price for a guide to take them deep into the forest. Once night falls, a strange man appears and performs a bizarre, bloody voodoo ritual. After regaining control of their senses, they discover that the man has been killed – bitten, in fact – and that a pair of fangs have grown inside their mouths.
Despite initial hesitations and feelings of guilt, they decide to test this newfound ‘gift’ and decide to roam the city to see if they truly have become creatures of the dark. Things begin to get out of hand when one of them feeds on a human for the first time in public at a party. Mistrust and disagreements about keeping their new selves hidden soon arise, and the five friends question each other like they haven’t before.
Filmed in Taiwan, David Verbeek’s Dead & Beautiful is neon-drenched, with a nightclub-like atmosphere that feels almost hazy, like viewers are trapped in some sort of neurotic dream alongside the characters.
Though they have fangs and seduction is rampant, some of the usual cliches surrounding vampires are altered. It’s a decision that had much potential, and would have resulted in an entirely different drama if such aspects were actually incorporated into the plotline.
The five leads are unlikable, and none of them experience any meaningful growth, so the piece feels rather flat and pointless in that regard. The chemistry and scene delivery given by the actors is stiff and each line spoken sounds drawn out like it was over-rehearsed. However, the diversity of the main characters is nice to see.
Verbeek’s film is marketed as a psychological thriller, but its pacing is too slow for any creepiness to suddenly settle in one’s bones. The idea is interesting, but it is handled poorly, which is a shame. Perhaps if Verbeek explored the consequences and mental turmoil associated with transforming into a dangerous version of the undead or the violence of being torn away from one’s previous life and thrown into a realm of lawlessness, the film could’ve been either more profound or horrifying.
Story aside, the piece overall can be described as a collection of expansive, multi-chromatic stills set to pulsing techno beats. It is certainly stylish, but pretty images do not make a good film. The excessive shadows tainting each scene do hint that something more mysterious is at work, something unnatural, but it is by no means enough to maintain engagement for the hour and forty minute runtime.
Dead and Beautiful is available to stream exclusively on Shudder now
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95