An Intellectual Vampire Film
Abel Ferrara’s “The Addiction” is a dramatically surprising stylishly made in black-and-white story of the undead. It is quite intellectual and likely to attract critical support from some quarters. I find it hard to imagine a sizable public exhibiting a taste for this film’s esoteric vampire story.
Director Abel Ferrara and star Christopher Walken give us a distinctly personal take on creatures of the night. Philosophy student Kathleen (Lili Taylor) is dragged into an alleyway on her way home from class by Casanova (Annabella Sciorra) and bitten on the neck. She quickly falls ill but realizes this isn’t any ordinary disease when she develops an aversion to daylight and a thirst for human blood.
Shot on the streets of New York this is a raw, shocking, intense, intelligent, masterful film. If vampires really did exist this is as close to what that reality probably would be like. It is not glamorous, not romantic but looks at an existence of being aware that one is dead and rotting without peace or soul progression. “The Addiction” is a very interesting modern take on an ancient legend. It is macabre and provocative, yet wonderfully restrained.
At a semi-conscious level, we see the characters as victims of their own free will, fascinated with evil and violence. Kathleen Conklin suffers a horrible transition from New York philosophy student to vampire but it is a fact of life like morning sickness or drug addiction.
Conklin, an academically rigorous student, seems oddly willing to enter the world of the undead— just a “please,” as if she were fated to this. She deserts her school life to pursue her primary interest, starting squeamishly, extracting blood from a homeless man with a syringe, which she then injects into her own vein. But the blood lust drives her to a far less tentative approach. Soon, she’s not only methodical about her habit, she’s philosophical as well.
“The Addiction” is only superficially about vampires. We get the Holocaust, the My Lai massacre, and the philosophy of Heidegger and Nietzsche as some of the themes and ideas. The film ends humorously and rather beautifully, with a punch line of a finale that brings Conklin’s PhD studies, her addiction and a lot of old friends ironically together.
The film’s straightforwardness sucks all hysteria out of the comedy. You don’t laugh, so much as smirk, as you enjoy the presence of Taylor, whose intense, serene performance really makes its mark. She’s all grace, throughout her addiction. Here we see transformation as an ideological process rather than a physical one. Kathleen’s transition from bohemian waif to ruthlessly efficient vampire takes up most of the film’s first hour. Her entire vision of the world changes during these sequences as Ferrara plays with cinematic space in fascinating ways. She’s no longer afraid of the drug dealers on the streets or tired of her arrogant professor’s critical statements. Instead, Kathleen confronts them by manipulating their weaknesses, making each a permanent addition to her new way of life.
Only her obsessions are injurious. Kathleen’s initial desire for blood is soon replaced by a dependency on the power she wields over her victims. Awful images of Nazi concentration camps, piles of bodies, and Hitler’s voice invade her dreams that become full-fledged nightmares. Kathleen is often consumed during these intense moments of self-doubt.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Abel Ferrara and director of photography Ken Kelsch
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Restored 5.1 audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by Abel Ferrara, moderated by critic and biographer Brad Stevens
“Talking with the Vampires” (2018) A new documentary about the film made by Ferrara especially for this release, featuring actors Christopher Walken and Lili Taylor, composer Joe Delia, Ken Kelsch, and Ferrara himself
New interview with Abel Ferrara
New interview with Brad Stevens
Abel Ferrara Edits The Addiction, an archival piece from the time of production
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet containing new writing on the film by critic Michael Ewins