Vampires used to be a subject of sheer mystery and fascination ever since Bram Stoker released his masterpiece, ‘Dracula’. The Gothic horror classic appealed to a large audience, thereafter making his object of study, the bloodthirsty creatures of the night, a very exploitable subject, one that many other writers, filmmakers and game developers tried more or less successfully to tap into. Films such as ‘Van Helsing’, the ‘Blade’ series or the more recent ‘Dracula Untold’ all attempt various formulas and settings, however, a clear downwards-sloping trend can be traced regarding the quality of such films. The very bottom was reached in 2008, when Stephanie Meyer’s first ‘Twilight’ book got adapted into an embarrassing glittery romance, thus killing the last remaining bit of charm still existent within the vampire genre. This year, however, award-winning director and cinematographer Grant McPhee delves into the vampire world with an indie production entitled ‘Night Kaleidoscope’.
This gritty, almost psychedelic project does indeed showcase a unique allure, a mix of elements within the genre that sets it apart from most of the other contemporary productions falling under the same category. ‘Night Kaleidoscope’ stays true to its name: most of its scenes are shot under the cover of darkness, and they also feel like a gaze through a kaleidoscope, into another world, as an overwhelming majority of the visual images are the result of drug-induced visions and hallucinations. The visceral, almost trance-like scenes, dominated by a subtle surrealism, are complemented by masterful direction and cinematography. The colour palette utilised, combined with the fresh style sends the memory back to the 70s and 80s, while retaining the indie factor which ultimately defines the film. Considering the low budget and limited shooting time, the technical achievements of ‘Night Kaleidoscope’ are all the more impressive.
The story revolves around Fian, an Irish criminal investigator operating in Scotland, who has a unique ability running through his family throughout the generations. Under the influence of powerful drugs, he makes use of his self-induced trances in order to visualise crime scenes and track down the ones responsible. Following a string of gruesome killings, Fian finds himself hunting otherworldly creatures that rip open their victims and suck their blood. He is later joined by Isobel, the girlfriend of one of the victims, as they try to stop the pair of vampires terrorising the city. While all of the typical features relating to vampirism are found in Grant McPhee’s project, such as a reliance on blood and sensitivity to sunlight, he does create a distinct allure bordering sexual tension about the creatures, which pleasantly binds with the psychedelic images and music into crafting a style which certainly stands out.
Ultimately, however, the simplistic plot doesn’t offer anything ground-breaking, and none of its plot twists feels impactful enough. Its very nature is a triumph, but also makes the action hard to follow at times, and the roughly 1h20min run-time could easily be compressed to around 45 minutes without sacrificing any of its meanings and metaphors. This is, in fact, the biggest issue of ‘Night Kaleidoscope’: the content doesn’t even come close to matching the beauty and proficiency of its delivery method, a harmonious interlocking of elements that last year’s low budget masterpiece ‘The Witch’ achieves, for instances. While it ultimately does not do enough, it does revitalise the concept of vampires, and offers newfound hope for the genre.