Dead & Beautiful Stretches Vampire Metaphors to the Breaking Point

Dead & BeautifulYou can find it here. Available Thursday, November 4, on Shudder.

Somebody call Robert Stack. AMC’s horror-gen streaming service Shudder was unable to stop the debut of Chinese vampire stories because of some marketing inexplicable. Dead & Beautiful until the week After Halloween? Can we expect This is a Wonderful Lifestyle at Easter and Caligula on Valentine’s Day?

It’s not so Dead & Beautiful is exactly epic in the annals of fang-banger flicks. Obsessively pursuing its central and overworked metaphor, that vampirism is a species of class warfare, D&B inadvertently turns dismayingly literal, a lush but ultimately lifeless spectacle. It has some biting humor, yes that is a joke. There are also some decolletage. It’s better to host a Halloween party late than you forget.

This joint Dutch-Taiwanese production is getting its first screening on Shudder. D&B is a tale of five obscenely wealthy Taipei twenty-somethings (all played by young Asian and European actors with little if any American exposure) besotted with the exquisite ennui of the rich and beautiful. Their lives are beautiful but empty, and they wander the deserted landscapes of Lamborghini or Gucci. They beat and abuse anybody they encounter—including themselves—just because they can.

Inevitably, one of their increasingly desperate attempts to relieve boredom—a nighttime hike through a rugged jungle once inhabited by ancient headhunters—goes badly. After a drugged night, they wake up with their teeth transformed into fangs and the elderly guide with bloody bite marks. The conclusion, that they’ve become literal and not just figurative vampires, seems obvious—and, once they get over the surprise (“I’m calling my helicopter!” One shouts and they are astonished at the sight of the sun rising. Even blogging about it.

The experiments soon led to chewing gum, store security mirrors, and transfused blood being sipped from brandy sniffers. Soon, they are out in the dark, with COVID masks covering their fangs, looking for prey and escaping boredom by the light of the moon. The double-dog dare is not far away in the nosferatu realm. Enjoy me

If Dead & BeautifulWhile it is not a good idea to dwell on the soullessness and incompetence of the protagonists, this can still be amusing. Acts of awesome cultural appropriation (the kids maintain Bram Stoker stole Dracula not from Romanian history as European ethnocentrists would have it, but from oral histories of those Taiwanese headhunters) are followed by panicky millennial identity crises. One of the boys complains that being a Chinese vampire is strange. We usually see black vampires like Wesley Snipes. How must it feel to be young and forgettable? The Legend Of The 7 Golden VampiresIs this you? One other report reports that a viper mental gymnast succeeded: He managed to cloud the minds of a 7-11 counter employee.

But, like many heavily metaphored TV shows, D&B is more about style than action or characters, and it eventually collapses from the strain of its own weighty symbolism. A conclusion that is too tacked on does not help. Allegorical fangs must penetrate skin, even if they are merely symbolic. The fearless vampire killers when confronted by raging peasant brandishing a crucifix: “Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire.”