The vampire movie has been a constant within cinema since it began. Over the years it has come in and out of fashion, with the last few years belonging more to the zombie film, but it seems that 2020 might be the year that the bloodsuckers return. Earlier this year, during the genre festival runs, we’ve seen There’s No Such Thing as Vampires, Rose: A Love Story, and Origin Unknown, all tackle the immortal creatures, and now we get yet another addition, Blood from Stone.
Blood From Stone follows in the same pattern of the other aforementioned films by attempting to do something a little different to the expected vampire movie. In Blood From Stone, writer and director Geoff Ryan has created a story that is more of a drama about vices and toxic masculinity and relationships rather than simply just vampires. There’s an Anne Rice quality to the vampires on display in that they are driven by human feelings and emotions, but unlike Rice, the vampirism takes the backseat here. An oddly human tale, Blood From Stone is essentially a domestic drama in which the lead characters just happen to be vampires. The vampirism obviously plays a part in the story, but it is the characters themselves that are the draw.
The film first joins Jure (Vanja Kapetanovic) , an ancient relic of a vampire whose head is firmly in the past. Now living under the alias of Joe, he spends his time lamenting the ‘good old days’ – when he could drain a whole village with little to no reaction – whilst also fixated on his ex-girlfriend Darya (Gabriella Toth), now living under the alias of Nico. Her rejection sends him into a dark tailspin and as the bodies mount up, their secret risks being exposed. On the flipside, Nico herself has all but renounced her vampiric nature. She gets her blood from the local hospital and spends her nights working in a hotel bar as she tries to experience as human a life as possible. We learn early on that she’s been running from Jure for years and his intrusion is just the latest in a long pattern of behaviour. As Jure spirals, Nico meets a new potential suitor, but their relationship comes under threat as Nico battles to keep him from discovering what she really is.
Both Nico and Jure are incredibly complex and intricately written characters that are brought to life beautifully by Kapetanovic and Toth. An alcoholic vampire is a new one to me, but Kapetanovic plays it as though it is the most normal thing in the world. He’s a visually imposing guy, and Kapetanovic has to work hard to ensure that his physicality doesn’t overpower the role. Visually, he looks as described in the film – somewhere between a cowboy John Wayne and Rob Zombie. There’s also an element of Jason Momoa to his visage, which is such to please a large contingent of the audience. Jure plys his victims with vodka from the homeland in order to get himself drunk. Having alcohol only work on vampires when in the bloodstream is something that has been touched upon in other vampire texts, but the alcoholism slant feels fresh. The drinking feeds his nostalgia for his past and apathy towards the present. After centuries of life, he has become despondent and depressed, and is on a path of self-destruction. It’s a lot of feelings to balance: entitlement, anger, melancholy and jealousy, but Kapetanovic manages to convincingly play each one of them.
As Nico, Toth is the type of vampire that we’re more familiar with. She’s the vampire who resents being a vampire. The one who is in a constant battle with her urges in an attempt to remain human. Once her origins are unearthed, her yearning makes sense and it’s heartbreaking to see her mourn the life that she cannot have. She’s not all doom and gloom however, and fully embraces her half-life as a human; to her, it’s all she can get. She is incredibly lonely and her need for connection is what drives her. Toth might not have to juggle the same amount of internal conflicts, but she does have to show a lot of vulnerability and her performance is genuinely quite moving.
It’s important to note that Blood From Stone really isn’t your traditional vampire film. There’s no fancy effects, they don’t fly, transform or sparkle, they are instead presented simply as an apex predator. The only difference between them and those around them is their fangs, which only extend ahead of a kill. It works as a means to demonstrate how easily it is for them to hide in plain sight. Often, vampires in films look so otherworldly that you wonder how they’ve evaded discovery for centuries; here it makes sense.
Set in and around Vegas and the Nevada desert locales, there’s a distinct Western feel to Blood From Stone. Over the years there have been a few Western vampire films and it’s always surprising how well the two stories pair together. Ryan replicates that dark and unsettling atmosphere that made Near Dark so special, and whilst the vampire agenda isn’t pushed as hard, there are still components that could see the two marry up nicely in a double feature. The score plays heavily towards the Western style whereas the nighttime visuals play more to the horror elements.
Reflecting the rather mundanity of vampire life, Ryan keeps the colour palette rather muted and neutrally toned. There’s lots of blacks, browns and greys, the only real pop of colour being the red of Nico’s hair and the blood that gets spilled. As hard as Ryan tries, occasionally the production values slip and the modest budget shows through. Not enough to detract or spoil the experience, but enough that we notice.
If Anne Rice and Kathryn Bigelow were to sit down and create a vampire tale it likely would look very much like Blood From Stone. An oddly human story of vampires that, whilst stripping them of all the embellishments we’ve seen over the years, manages to display a new emotional depth.
Blood From Stone is available on Digital HD from 31st October 2020.
Blood From Stone
A rather different approach to the vampire story, Blood From Stone offers an interesting and distinct take that is sure to be a hit with fans of Near Dark and Interview with the Vampire.