Dead & Beautiful review – slick vampire drama gets its fangs into the super-rich

Black Mirror meets Succession in this arthouse-y psychological vampire drama, the story of five super-rich millennials – the bored, entitled offspring of global billionaires – who become vampires. The satirical dig here, of course, is that they’re already soulless, uncaring bloodsuckers, even before waking up with actual fangs. But director David Verbeek’s script doesn’t quite wield the scalpel with enough sadistic glee. Instead, this film feels ever-so-slightly sluggish and dour in places.

What Verbeek does brilliantly is to create an eerie parallel world of sterile luxury: glass-walled, penthouse restaurants and gleaming, first-class lounges. The film was shot in the Taiwanese capital Taipei, where the five old friends have jetted in. Money can buy whatever they want; but what this lot craves is new experiences. So they have formed an elite club, staging elaborate events and pranks for each other. For his turn Bin-Ray (Philip Juan) fakes his own death.

Next up is vacuous Instagram influencer Anastasia (Anna Marchenko). She arranges a spiritual cleansing trip for the group in the mountains that goes spectacularly wrong: the five pass out after a tribal shaman rubs blood into their foreheads. Flying back to the city on a chopper, they discover that they’ve suddenly grown vampire fangs – there’s a terrific scene of them fiddling with their choppers like six-year-olds with wobbly teeth. Back in Taipei they try to work out whether they are vampires for real: daylight isn’t harmful, but drinking blood (procured from a male stripper) pumps up Alex (Yen Tsao).

The film trundles on middlingly until a few late twists: mildly satisfying, they feel a bit muddled and create some serious plot inconsistencies. And the whole thing hinges on a fantasy that, deep down, the fabulously wealthy – some of them, at least – despise their money and status. I’m not sure I’m buying it.

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