Meet the Vampires of the Instagram generation. Shudder film Dead & Beautiful spotlights the lengths an inherited billionaire class of silver spoon rich kids will go to feel alive. Part Tokyo Ghoul, part Blade, all selfish.
This film review of Shudder’s Dead & Beautiful contains spoilers.
In Dead & Beautiful, the thrill seeking bloodlines of obscene wealth inheritance don’t have to battle garlic, crosses, or sunlight… But rather a bottomless pit of youthful boredom.
Director David Verbeek’s Dead & Beautiful is visually impressive. The neon-lit lights of eternal night combined with subtle use of sunlight is expert level. The costumes top notch. It feels like you’ve stolen entry into an elite secret society.
Wildly trendy and attractive. Fashion model Anna Marchenko & (Iron Ladies) Taiwanese actress Aviis Zhong certainly live up to the beautiful moniker as Anastasia & Lulu.
The film’s spotlight on the superficial however, leads to characters you don’t necessarily connect to. You feel more as a voyeur watching a world of elite access not available to 99% of people and its obscene excess. But you don’t really cheer for any particular character to win.
The Rich and the Restless
A limitless supply of money, sky-high social status, and belief in demi-God like superiority leads the group on an existential crisis.
They’ve seen it all and they’ve done it all. Thus, leading them to a Shaman from Instagram and a bamboo filled with smoke. They all pass out after breathing the smoke in… Only to wake up with vampire fangs and find the Shaman dead from bite marks on his neck.
While feigning concern for the downed Shaman, Dead & Beautiful’s young and spoiled rich kids turned vampires delve back inward. Can they still live stream their lives on Instagram as vampires? Though this might read comedically, it’s actually a profound nihilistic statement on society in 2021.
After seeing fellow billionaire descendent Alex (Yen Tsao) bite a woman on a public dance floor, Anastasia (Anna Marchenko) is more invested on not being able to live stream her karaoke session. Bin-Ray (Philip Juan) convinces her that she is special and others need to see that, so it’s okay to blow the cover on their new identities online.
In fact, earlier Bin-Ray himself live streams a ‘vampire diaries’ session where he believes he was able to use mind control on a store clerk. But there was no mind control.
In fact, it’s revealed that billionaire descendent Lulu Wong hatched the whole scheme to make them believe they’re all vampires to alleviate her boredom. But the plan/prank goes horribly wrong when Alex seems to succumb to the belief.
It’s a twist, that everyone except self proclaimed buddhist scholar Mason, played by Dutch actor Gijs Blom, bought into. Mason by the way, punches out a night lounge group of diners for making minor noise in their presence.
Alex kidnaps a late working employee, he bites a woman during a dance party, and eventually he leaps off a building seemingly to his death. You’d think on-and-off again girlfriend Lulu would be devastated the rest of way for what she put into motion… But no, after momentary tears and supposed guilt she goes to sleep with Alex’s rival Mason on the beach.
When Lulu awakens she discovers no one had actually died in Dead & Beautiful. Rather, she’d been bested by Mason who cites being competitive as the reason for turning her plan upside down. Alex is disappointed Lulu had actually fallen for Mason… While Lulu is bewildered and in shock at being emotionally & physically used.
Lulu asks Mason if their beach rendezvous meant anything to him, which he responds that it was ‘something he always wanted to explore’. Lulu tells him he ‘can’t call himself a buddhist’ anymore. Touché. The film concludes with Lulu walking behind Mason and unleashing fangs right as credits begin to roll.
Even Mason who initially is presented as an above-it-all, reformed, rich kid hero of sorts, eventually regresses with Dead & Beautiful’s last revelation. Mason’s no better than the rest, treating others as commodities no different than Alex or Anastasia.
Karaoke queen Anastasia wanted the peasantry of society to follow her from a distance upon a pedestal. Her concern all film was not potentially being a vampire but giving up a seat upon Instagram’s throne. Anastasia’s greatest fear was loss of her virtual fame via online shaming.
If you’re a horror fan looking for a stylish vampire film with an intriguing premise and a group of young, fresh talents… Dead & Beautiful is an easy watch. Its subtle soundtrack and general ambiance worth the price of admission on AMC’s Shudder streaming service. Dead & Beautiful releases on November 4, 2021 on Shudder.
Just don’t expect a deeper connection to the characters, mirroring the superficialities of 2021 digital-addicted society. Dead & Beautiful’s surreal nuanced attention to visual detail & lighting is the lead attraction.
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