15th Oct2013

31 Days of Horror: ‘We Are the Night’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Karoline Herfurth, Nina Hoss, Jennifer Ulrich, Anna Fischer, Max Riemelt | Written by Dennis Gansel, Jan Berger | Directed by Dennis Gansel

We-Are-the-Night

Filmed in 2010 and often billed as female version of The Lost Boys, We Are The Night is a German take on the vampire legend that follows Lena, a small time crook who, on the run from the cops, attracts the attention of Louise, a nightclub owner and leader of a trio of sexy female vampires that also includes a party girl, DJ Nora and former 1920s silent film star Charlotte.

When she unknowingly picks the pocket of a man one night on the streets of Berlin, small-time crook Lena attracts the unwanted attention of Inspector Tom Serner, a young police detective involved in ongoing investigations into Lena’s victim, a known Russian mobster. Although she manages to escape Tom’s clutches, Lena’s personal situation becomes even more complicated when she later visits an underground nightclub and meets Louise, who immediately falls in love with Lena and decides to transform her, introducing her to a glamorous existence of non-stop partying, fast cars, limitless night-time shopping sprees and eternal life. But it all comes at a price. As Lena struggles to come to terms with the endless killings and attempts to fend off Louise’s sapphic advances, the bloodthirsty quartet’s murderous activities draw Tom and his police colleagues ever closer.

It’s easy to see why We Are The Night is compared to Joel Schumacher’s classic vampire flick – both share a very similar story trait – that of the outsider turned against their will by an enigmatic vampire who struggles against what she has become, it also shares the rock and roll attitude, with fast cars replacing The Lost Boys‘ motorbikes. However We Are The Night also has many other influences. The films lead, Lena, has a lot in common with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo‘s Lisbeth Salander – before being turned she is the same hard-as-nails, tattooed and pierced, street-savvy type of character as Lisbeth; and her transition into vampire is a joy to watch, slowly losing her hard-edge looks, but still retaining a sense of out-of-control danger about her, a danger even to the vampire clan to which she now belongs, a danger brought about by her connection to humanity and her desire for normality (even in her pre-vampire life). However, and this may surprise some, the real influence on We Are the Night is Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic gothic novella Carmilla. With this films Louisa taking the place of Carmilla and Lena being Carmilla’s love interest Laura…

Despite wearing it’s [filmic] influences on it’s sleeve We Are The Night still feels very fresh and is a much-needed shot in the arm, or the neck, for the vampire film, especially given how derided vampires have become in the horror genre thanks to Twilight. Director Dennis Gansel has a fantastic eye and there are some gorgeously shot scenes – especially the ethereal-like scene of the four vampiric ladies standing on their balconies as the sun rises, slowly burning the girls flesh, which he later follows up with a “day at the beach” scene set in an atrium lit by a fake sun and a superb sequence in which the police storm the hotel the girls live in, forcing them outside into the sunlight – which is one of the best I’ve seen in a vampire movie since THAT classic scene in Near Dark. (I could go one and one about Gansel’s fantastic stylistic choices but to do so would a) take another couple of paragraphs, and b) spoil the “wow” factor of them – they really need to be seen to be enjoyed fully).

Gansel also has a great eye for casting. The four leads are tremendously enigmatic and imminently watchable, each bringing their own qualities and personalities to their roles – Jennifer Ulrich as Charlotte is a particular joy to watch as the former film star turned vampire who’s now weary of the lifestyle and yearns to return to her family life (no spoilers, but her “key” scenes are a real emotional journey and one that’s little seen in any vampire film). However the film really belongs to Karoline Herfurth. The actress, who most recently appeared in Eron Sheean’s body-horror flick Errors of the Human Body, is thoroughly captivating in her role as the newly-turned Lena; she brings a fantastic sense of fragility to her role, both physically and psychologically, as her character struggles with her new “life” as a vampire…

Forget all the references to The Lost Boys, We Are The Night is actually a true successor to Near Dark – filled with the same mix of mythology, action and pathos – and as such is definitely not to be be missed.

***** 5/5

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