Just over a decade ago, Hollywood revitalized the classic vampire through the gaze of beautiful teenagers with media like Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries. Dead & Beautiful builds upon these established tropes to deliver a film that truly upends the vampire feature as we know it.
Director David Verbeek’s latest feature revolves around five disassociated, rich teenagers, struggling to find meaning in a world where everything has been handed to them on a silver platter. After a ritualistic encounter in the woods, the group discovers their vampiric tendencies. What follows is a winding tale of passion and betrayal.
What’s fascinating about Dead & Beautiful is how its characters uncover purpose throughout the narrative. When we first meet Lulu (Aviis Zhong) and her gang of silver spooners, their billionaire family fortunes do little to placate their ennui. Ironically, it’s only when the teens become residents of the undead that their vigor for life roars back to life.
This realization does take some time to come to fruition. Verbeek gently eases us into this world of bloody obsession, providing an even more grounded take on vampires than many of its contemporaries. There are moments that feel like they are aimless needlessly drag on. However, Dead & Beautiful is not a film designed to hit you like an emotional sledgehammer. Instead, every development and twist in the film sneaks up on you slowly, like a vampire stalking its prey. It’s only when the film fades to black that the full scope of Dead & Beautiful descends upon you, leaving only shock and awe at what Verbeek and his team achieved.
The Silver Lining
Elsje de Bruin’s production design work immerses the viewer into the narrative world of Dead & Beautiful. The sets in the first half of the feature are extravagantly gorgeous and lavish, reflecting the teenagers’ own excesses. Once the group’s bloodlust becomes more ravenous though, the production design shifts to a grittier, neon cityscape. Just like the main characters, Bruin’s efforts make the viewer feel as though they venturing from the corporate elite into the land of the commoner.
Dead & Beautiful releases on Shudder tomorrow, November 4th.