Geoff Cox’s DVDs: Byzantium, Dead Man Down, Black Rock, Fire With Fire

Feeding time in Byzantium
Feeding time in Byzantium

Unique horror thriller BYZANTIUM (15: Studio Canal) sees Interview With The Vampire director Neil Jordan return to the bloodsucking genre. His tale of two female vampires spending centuries on the run from a secret society, who object to women becoming undead, is light years away from the juvenile Twilight and its ilk.

Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan are terrific as the damaged mother and daughter hiding in a seaside town and running a bordello in a seedy guesthouse.

One uses the brothel as a means to find men to feed on, while the other forms a bond with a terminally ill boy. But their past soon catches up with them.

This film offers a whole new perspective on traditional vampire imagery. No fangs here, just sharp thumbnails extending for feeding time.

A finely tuned balance of arthouse gothic and Hammer Horror, the time-shifting flashbacks and upfront depiction of sexuality add to a haunting and touching reinvention of undead mythology.

> Two-pronged revenge thriller DEAD MAN DOWN (15: Momentum) stars Colin Farrell as a man who infiltrates the inner circle of the gang responsible for the deaths of his wife and daughter.

He plots grisly justice for the crime kingpin (Terrence Howard) and his henchmen, but when his neighbour (Noomi Rapace) witnesses him murder one of the bad guys, she threatens to go to the cops unless he also kills the drunk driver who disfigured her in an accident.

Niels Arden Oplev, the Dane who directed Rapace in the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, adds a few European flourishes, but the constant need for dialogue to fill in a complicated backstory tends to interrupt the pace of the movie. While Farrell is charismatic as the determined avenger, the roles of Howard and Rapace are frustratingly one-dimensional.

> BLACK ROCK (15: Metrodome) is a female twist on Deliverance, yet fails to deliver on the promise of that premise.

Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and Katie Aselton play childhood friends who have drifted apart, but who reunite for a girlie weekend on a remote island off the coast of Maine.

Three local hunters, all army vets, have pretty much the same idea and when a cosy campfire get-together leads to attempted rape and murder, the girls are forced to turn feral to survive.

Although the early character-based scenes hold your attention, it soon turns into just another ‘girls chased by crazies’ film with the usual dumb dialogue.

> If ever a film had ‘straight to DVD’ stamped all over it, it’s FIRE WITH FIRE (15: Warner). This damp squib stars Josh ‘Transformers’ Duhamel as reluctant vigilante Jeremy Coleman, a fireman placed in the witness protection programme after getting caught up in a gangland execution carried out by an evil white supremacist (Vincent D’Onofrio).

But when Coleman and his US marshal protector (Rosario Dawson), who are also romantically involved, are tracked down by a hired assassin, he realises they will never be safe unless he takes the law into his own hands.

Vinnie Jones and rapper 50 Cent have small roles, and Bruce Willis is cast as a sympathetic detective, but there’s little spark in either plot or direction.