The Addiction (October Films, 1995)

On her way home from a philosophy course, Ph.D. candidate Kathy Conklin (Lili Taylor) is accosted by a female vampire (Annabella Sciorra). At first traumatized by the event, Kathy slowly discovers that she is becoming one of the undead, which leads to her extraction of blood from a homeless man and its injection into her own arm. A druglike euphoria follows and Kathy stands up to be greeted by no reflection in her bathroom mirror. This allegory is the main theme of The Addiction -- that vampirism mainly consists of looking for your next "fix."

Kathy's outlook on life changes instantly. She exhibits signs of increased confidence and a wardrobe composed almost entirely of black. Over time, she gains other typical symptoms of great strength and photosensitivity and her victims increase in number -- ranging from her philosophy professor to her best friend (Edie Falco). Then along comes Peina (Christopher Walken), who says he knows how to control it.

Kathy is still able to complete her coursework and receives her doctorate in philosophy. Her ensuing graduation party -- with several faculty members as guests -- culminates in a feeding frenzy with all her past victims as partakers.

The Addiction takes the conventions of the vampire film genre and gives them a Mobius twist, coming up with a new and modern telling. Unfortunately, director Abel Ferrara and screenwriter Nicholas St. John diminish what could have been a stunning film by filling it with philosophy-laced voice-overs and attempting to connect Kathy's own inner struggles with past war atrocities.

Taylor, however, carries the film with her brave performance; and the urban soundtrack (R&B/rap mogul Russell Simmons is an executive producer) cements the process of giving an updated feel to a very old story. The black and white cinematography goes a long way towards making this a very stylish picture as well as lessening the shock value of the vast amounts of blood spilt (no doubt along with allowing the filmmakers to find a cheaper, non-red, plasma substitute).

The Addiction is a modern vampire film with an agenda and director Ferrara has made it a fun and engrossing film if not a perfect one. The actors seem to be enjoying themselves -- since their overacting fits in with the dramatic vampire personality -- and, at under an hour and a half, the film does not overstay its welcome. And if you fast-forward through all the pretentious bits, it even becomes the film it should have been.

[Craig Clarke]