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Perfect Creature

Fox // R // July 17, 2007
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted July 23, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Perfect Creature, a horror-based thriller from writer / director Glenn Standring, is a depressing misfire. Since I find more enjoyment in the action-packed horror flicks than some, the prospect of a modified social flick about vampires, religion, and science intrigued me to quite some extent. What I was left with after seeing this film, however, is a very dissatisfied yet aesthetically enchanted taste in my mouth. Perfect Creature's poise suggests a possible robust zest from the start, but ends up bland - not bitter, mind you, just bland.

The Film:

Darkened Nuovo Zelandia fumes with wispy darkness in a distinguishable post-war '60s aura. Many things are different than what you might expect of a world laced with vampires, otherwise known as Brothers. Instead of the bloodthirsty, menacing hunters of lore, these strong individuals stand atop humanity with a spiritual, intelligent poise within their own church. As controllers of science and knowledge, these individuals stand as creepy, epitomic purists. Among these dark, political entities lies Silas (Dougray Scott), an upcoming man of their "faith" poised for leadership capabilities.

Amidst this caste-esque system lies a more typical, weathered humanity equipped with a police force that haughtily dances around the meddling of said vampiric influences. One of these strong police officers, Lilly (Saffron Burrows), gets caught up in an investigation revolving around a murderous turncoat Brother, Edgar. In an effort to extinguish the fire brimming underneath the volatile and ravenous monster akin to our perceived notions of a vampire, the Brotherhood sends Silas to investigate and, ultimately, silence one of his own kind. Once he starts to peel away the layers of Edgar's motives, however, a much more sinister purpose starts to arise from his bloody antics.

Perfect Creature is a handsome instance of the differences between strong premise and strong storytelling. From the starting gate, you're fully soaked into a rich, intriguing atmosphere packed with a discombobulated reality. Vampires can be both allies and villains, both menacing and fully empathetic within this world. Technology is thrown askew for the time period with a bizarre marriage between state-of-the-art devices like advanced dart guns to strangely old-school televisions with circular screens. It's a sci-fi fantasy tale with dystopian roots that, on paper and aesthetically at first glance, nails down promising potential.

Within the subsequent story, however, lays Perfect Creature's many weaknesses. It tries to be a mysterious, horror based thrillride, but ends up light on the horror, lighter on the mystery, and practically vapid in the thrills department. The science fiction elements are good. Really good, even. Sadly, most of it gets glossed over from an unbearably grating and stumbling narrative. In turn, all these concentrated efforts start to appear like wasted assets.

Dougray Scott and Saffron Burrows, two vastly understated character actors, are sadly lassoed into this cluster. Both actors seem to play Silas and Lilly respectfully to a stinted, shelved capacity harshly clashing with their talents. Instead of infusing their brisk presence into their characters, they seem to only squeeze in very minor bursts here and there. I was persistently urging both of them as a hopeful film watcher to ramp up the intensity, and every once in a while they'd listen. As a whole, however, they blend much too well into their surroundings instead of providing beacons to peer upon.

Each and every direction you turn reveals something alluring in this usurping atmosphere and the Brotherhood's human entanglements. However, once it comes to surface through the dialogue and the performances, these strengths dissipate into the smoky atmosphere. Some of the same problematic difficulties arise with me and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Both are beautifully rendered with ample promise; yet, in the end, they left me wanting more exhilaration within their dense surroundings.

At just over 80-minutes long, Perfect Creature's meandering story feels a whole lot longer than its short time span. If you were to take Underworld and Equilibrium, strip them bare of the edgy action that deems them worthwhile popcorn entertainment, and then toss those leftover entrails into a mortar primed for mixing, the product would be something resembling this fizzled curiosity. There's potency rumbling underneath Standring's rendered world, and it's left me curious. Here's where an odd perception surfaces in my eyes: the film might benefit from being longer. If about 20-30 extra minutes of character showcase and focused, ramped tension were packed inside its sparse high-octane moments, Perfect Creature could've flared a franchise akin to the films it mirrors. Instead, chalk this one up as an hour and a half of stringently crafted monotony.

The DVD:

Perfect Creature comes to us from Fox in a screener presentation.

The Video:

Dancing around these screener copies can be such a difficult task. They're always anamorphic with the proper aspect ratio and all, but they often fluctuate with quality and never reflect the final product. Perfect Creature appears quite grainy and muddy, but didn't look nearly as bad as other screener presentations have appeared. Black levels were exceedingly weak, glowing with more of a red tone than anything else. Hopefully some of these presentational inconsistencies will be cleaned up for the end product.

The Audio:

Perfect Creature, however, boasts excellent quality in the sound department. Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, you'll find a lot of solid points streaked all the way through. Vocal strength is quite pleasing, as is a wide array of high and mid-range sound effects. There's a very minute distortion at some of the higher-pitched portions, but it's very slight. Where Perfect Creature provides a nice treat, however, is in the LFE levels. Though it doesn't have a lot of booming low range material, I was impressed with the velvety higher-point bass levels with some of the sound effects such as the pounding of glass and sweeping motion of the Brothers.

The Extras:

Though in two separate featurettes that feel connected, Perfect Creature's disc provides an interesting congenial insight into the assembly of the film.

- The Making of Perfect Creature -
Concentrating on the performances and direction, this featurette illustrates a lot of the potential that obviously glistens within the director's eyes. Words from the producers and the other filmmakers lend a heightened air of promise within the film. There's a lot of passion and enveloping belief from all parties that make me wish the film was more enjoyable. Insight from Scott, Burroughs, and director Standring cover this piece, but the most compelling words are from the rest of the production team.

- Designing the Perfect Creature -
Where the first portion dissects the acting and direction, this second piece refers to the assembly and concentration of this beautiful art design and brooding aesthetic demeanor within Perfect Creature. Discussions about the mild CG-work that was overseen by the Lord of the Rings' supervisory computer crew was quite interesting, especially when they showed how they captured specific architecture and manipulated it to their own world. Topped off with grand discussion about costume design and more, this is an equally compelling companion to the first featurette.

- Previews -
Prepare yourself for some glistening looks into Night Watch and Wrong Turn 2.


Final Thoughts:

Perfect Creature builds a fantastic environment molded around a thoroughly strong lineage, and then fails to follow through when it phones in a weakly plotting narrative. Though the building blocks for a grand, invocative genre flick are prepped and ready to be slapped together, the construction leaves a bit to be desired. Plus, it just needs to ensnare either a more enjoyable keel or something more thrilling. Leave it to a Rental to make certain it'll hold up your interest to other, similar films.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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