“Dead & Beautiful” – Movie Review

Vampires have always been the most glamorized of horror movie monsters.  Going back to the seductive nature of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, to the teen heartthrobs in films like The Lost Boys, Twilight, as well as Vampire Diaries TV show, vampires have an elegance and desirable quality to them.

They’re the only “monster” that can pull off being perceived as sexy and cool, and Shudder’s latest original film Dead & Beautiful taps into that very idea, and the drawbacks that come with it.

Despite featuring facemasks, this movie was shot and acquired by Shudder before the worldwide pandemic. It just goes to show that they were normalized in parts of Asia pre-COVID.

The Circle
A group of five very rich, very snobby friends get together for a night of partying on the town.  But after dabbling into some strange ancient ritual, they wake up with hangovers, as well as vampire fangs.  The group of very self-centered young professionals wade their way through their newfound transformation.

For some, preying on innocent people for blood is just a necessity, while for others it’s completely unacceptable.  In a strange way, the vampirism just amplifies the traits that were already in them so selfishness and narcissism just gets worse.

Yen Tsao as Alexander - Dead & Beautiful - Photo Credit: Shudder
They’re definitely the annoying rich type who think they’re better than everyone!

Intentionally Unlikable
One of the benchmarks from which many critique films is whether or not the characters are likable.  And this group of friends, while diverse in background, are pretty universally terrible people from the start.  As an audience member, it’s easy to become repulsed or irritated by them, but that very much seems to be the point.

Anna Marchenko as Anastasia - Dead & Beautiful - Photo Credit: Shudder
Sometimes it’s not about characters being relatable, it’s about watching them get what’s coming…

We’re not so much meant to root for them to have character arcs and see them become better people.  Rather, we’re meant to see them spiral downward in a way fitting to how shallow and self-centered they were in the beginning.

One could even make the argument that the vampirism is a metaphor for the way these entitled trust fund babies were always bloodsuckers, in a harsh capitalistic manner.  Although if that’s the case, it’s not entirely clear if the movie knows it’s making this point or if it’s accidental.

Worlds Colliding
In addition to being gorgeously shot on location in Taiwan, this movie marks an interesting blend in that it was a co-production between Taiwan and The Netherlands, with a mixture of English and Mandarin being spoken throughout.

Despite most of the movie being dialogue-heavy conversation scenes, it still makes things visually interesting.

It serves to globalize the vampire themes and remind us that the legend and myths surrounding them have become pretty universal across continents and cultures.  It’s a movie that really knows how to use production and art design to its advantage, it just doesn’t really know what to do with its ideas and just sort of ends abruptly because it’s not sure what else to do.

As far as young, longing vampires go, it’s not the best in that subgenre, but it’s a decent entry that’s probably worth watching at least once.

What are some of your favorite vampire movies?  Let us know in the comments!

Dead & Beautiful is streaming exclusively on Shudder

Also, if you’re a fan of 80’s horror, see how you can be a part of the upcoming In Search of Darkness Part III documentary by following this link!

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