Vampir was released in the UK and US on May 16th.
Vampires have had a hold on cinema for over a hundred years; from Murnau’s original nightmare to the modern mishap of Morbius, the bloodsucking fiends have brought a beautiful balance of seductive class and animal savagery to the silver screen. However, for every great picture, there are at least thirty terrible ones. That’s the initial worry going into Branko Tomovic’s Vampir, a film that oddly comes close to sharing its title with Dreyer’s seminal Vampyr, and that’s about the kindest comparison that can be made.
This feels like a student production with flat lighting and terrible expository dialogue in spades. Within the first ten minutes, a viewer could probably imagine what’s to come from a lifetime of exposure to vampire mythology; there’s no subversion or commentary to be found here. Its Serbian setting promises a different perspective yet delivers nothing new. Meanwhile, cheap sideshow attempts at spookiness replace detail as flickering lights and doors slamming seem to cause more annoyance to our hero than unrest. There’s an evident creative clash between wanting to make a Conjuring-style ghost story versus engaging with vampires in any meaningful way, and the result is a half-baked haunting.
Vampir misunderstands the inherent tragedy of the vampire; after all, though they take a human form, they are the eternal outsider from society, trapped in the veil of night where others walk in the sun. Even the most esteemed such as Dracula, may dress to the nines and hold high society in high regard, but they can never become part of it.
Vampir features a man arriving in a small Serbian town from London. He is there to discover his Serbian roots, yet there’s never any meaningful exploration of his position as a newcomer, only vague awkwardness as he walks from building to building in the village. There’s a sense that Vampir wanted to be Hereditary, as a strange cult manipulates the lead with some supernatural chicanery, but alas, there’s no tension to be found. Even when the plot does start to ratchet up, the film soon returns to its meandering and aimless pace.
Director and star Branco Tomovic brings a vulnerability to the central role that makes his wandering slightly less torturous. However, his strengths only make the amateur talents of his co-stars even more apparent in dialogue-heavy scenes. Here the dialogue is so stilted that it borders on parody. Vampir is an unfortunate wasted opportunity, a chance to show a lesser-represented culture’s take on iconic folklore. It’s clear Tomovic has talent, but this feature directorial debut is disappointingly toothless.
Vampir is an unfortunate wasted opportunity, a chance to show a lesser represented culture’s take on iconic folklore. Its clear Tomović has talent, but this feature directorial debut is disappointingly toothless.