Vampire Movie 'Perfect Creature' Came To Glenn Standring In A Daydream

Scott Kara

The idea for vampire movie Perfect Creature came to Glenn Standring in a daydream. Or a daymare, if there is such a thing.

He imagined there was a good vampire chasing a bad vampire in an alternate world where humans happily share their blood with these superior beings.

"I was like, 'What the hell does that mean? It looks cool, so I'll investigate it'. So from there, off I went," says the director from his home in Dunedin.

Perfect Creature is set in 1969, in the Pacific Colony of Nuovo Zelandia - "we could have set it in America but we decided to set it in a colonial world that was kind of New Zealand" - where humans and vampires co-exist.

The vampires, known as the Brothers, were a new race created 300 years before by an Italian alchemist who discovered babies that suckled on blood rather than milk.

"In these beautiful creatures he believed he saw God's hand in the world," says Standring.

Fast-forward a century or three and the Brothers are now the protectors of humanity who guard us from the effects of disease and viral mutations. All they ask in return is for humans to share their blood.

It sounds macabre, but in Standring's alternate world things seem harmonious - the Brothers even go to stylish drinking establishments, a cross between a cathedral and a swanky pub, where they sip blood from vial-like glasses.

But a problem arises: One of the Brothers, the evil Edgar, has begun to hunt humans, preying upon residents in the slums of Jamestown where the movie is set. The Brothers try to deal with it in secret and assign Silus, Edgar's twin brother, to catch him.

When Silus fails he hooks up with policewoman Lily Hour to hunt Edgar and from then on the film becomes a type of vampire-action-suspense thriller, with silver bullet-dodging and blood-sucking galore.

"It's not your standard vampire movie," says Standring. "It's part of the vampire genre, and that canon of movies, but all the ones that I really liked were the ones that twisted it sideways and did something different with it like Interview with the Vampire. So yes, it is a vampire movie, but I classify it as a science fiction thriller with horror elements."

The $14.5 million film stars Scottish actor Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible 2, Enigma) as Silus, Saffron Burrows (Troy, Enigma, Frida) as Lily Hour, and local actors Scott Wells and Robbie Magasiva as cops.

Standring has always loved horror films and his debut feature film, The Irrefutable Truth About Demons, from 2001, revealed his fascination with demons and vampires. He grew up watching the Sunday horrors on TV and was intrigued by movies such as Dracula and The Raven.

"I totally dug the aesthetic, the dark quality, and visually, even though I didn't know it at the time, they were incredibly artistic, like The Tomb of Ligeia. They had these creepy, [Edgar Allan] Poe stories that really got into the subconscious and the fantastical element. Those fantastical, netherworld ideas really attract me. The edge of reality. Where reality breaks down, that's where I find myself being attracted to those sort of subjects and stories."

For Perfect Creature he developed his daydream by going back into history to a time when science and religion were still one.

"That was the time of the alchemists," he explains. "That was the last time science and religion were together and from then on you have them as two cultural strands. That was the central theme for [Perfect Creature's] world, which was that these people all believe in God, completely, which means modernism never happened and the Victorian industrial revolution just kept on going."

Despite Perfect Creature's strong Christian and specifically Catholic allusions, Standring is not religious. "But I am a Christian. I may not believe in God but all my values are [Christian values]," he explains.

He says all his projects tend to "play around with Christian mythology" and because he trained as an archaeologist he admits the attraction of film-making is "to go back in history and have a play around".

"In terms of setting up Perfect Creature there was a lot of archaeology and anthropology, and looking at the history of alchemy and how people might have handled these strange babies who were born 300 years ago. Would they have seen them, as I see them, like a sign from God that these are perfect things? It's all archaeology, really. It's all layers."

There's many layers to the steam-powered sprawl of Jamestown - a cross between a colonial city and something out of Bladerunner. On the streets there are Polynesian faces, moko, and Maori cloaks alongside vintage American style cops, old school cars, and muddy streets.

"We always said this is a period film but it's a period that has never existed before. It's a bit like a mash-up in music. You push the elements a little and it's risky but it's fun to do."

The film was shot in Dunedin, Auckland and the small North Otago town of Oamaru, which has one street entirely of Victorian buildings, making it perfect for Standring's set.

"It could be a street in Victorian times, barring a few wires. That was the beautiful thing we found there, and we dirtied it up, added steam, and tonnes of rain."

Considering he finished shooting the film at the end of 2004, its release has been a long time coming. But he's not complaining because the delay was due to 20th Century Fox buying the movie.

"It's great for the film but it also means you become part of the corporate American system and they're the big boys. It's been a bit frustrating, but now we're bringing out to New Zealanders and I'm hoping they dig it."

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