Fantastic Fest Film 2021 Review: DEAD & BEAUTIFUL

Rating: B –

When someone mentions a vampire film, some horror fans will jump right in and be ready to watch, while others may think it is a tired theme. Dead & Beautiful is written and directed by David Verbeek (R U There, How to Describe a Cloud, Full Contact) and his story shows the audience what a group of friends who have unlimited financial and other resources will do when they don’t have enough things to do. They appear to be wealthy because of the families they come from, not from any type of work or creation of their own genius that yields income. The five actors that portray the young adult members of this group that calls themselves the “Circle” excel in a full display of arrogance and behavior of spoiled teenagers. It did not take long for me to dislike the characters showing off their privilege at full throttle and absolute little regard for anyone else. Their performance is very effective because when something negative happens to them, it is hard to feel an ounce of sympathy for them.

The young and the restless (opps, I mean bored) are Mason (Gijs Blom), Lulu (Aviis Zhong), Alexander (Yen Tsao), Bin-Ray (Philip Juan) and Anastasia (Anechka Marchenko). They’re either all from billionaire households, or maybe undisclosed levels of wealth, with apparently no need to report to an office or family home. They search excitement and always try new things. Each takes a turn to discover or create the next best experience for one another, of course, competitively trying to outdo each other.

Although the film starts off with the group, there are several flashbacks to Lulu’s childhood, directing the audience’s attention to her and her viewpoint. Lulu’s experience is highlighted and not so for the others. Her journey includes a broader range of emotions not attributed to the others, especially grief, aside from devotion, glee, and a wrath we come to see as well. The transformation into vampires is different for each character and those changes don’t take long to surface or to set well with the other members.  

The cinematography is excellent with some great scenes, especially when they take their night out into the woods or jungle. There are many great scenes that display the opulence these characters are used to, where every thing is new and shiny.  

While I was entertained by the film’s look and the actor’s performances, it is not one that I am prepared to watch over and over. I did not feel the horror from the vampires, as much as the characters themselves. I look forward to viewing other future films by David Verbeek.

The film made its World Premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and made its North American debut at Fantastic Fest (September 2021). Dead & Beautiful will be available for streaming on Shudder on November 4, 2021, in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Source: Fantastic Fest, Shudder

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