1986, NR Directed by Amy Goldstein, Bruna Fionda, Polly Gladwin, Isiling Mack-Nataf.
REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., July 22, 1994
The independent shorts in this twofer attempt to shine a new light (or darkness) on those famous monsters of filmland, vampires, by giving strong women the oversized incisors and playing the creature of the night as an “other,” misunderstood and persecuted by society because it's different. It's horror as sociology and filmmaking by thesis, and in one case it works and in the other it don't. With The Mark of Lilith, it's fangs but no fangs. Filmmakers Fionda, Gladwin, and Mack-Nataf go for an undiluted academic approach, giving over much of their screen time to an actress addressing the camera like a doctoral candidate defending her dissertation. She drily dissects the metaphoric roles of women as victims/demons in horror films and world mythology, pausing only occasionally to answer an attentive waitress' questions. (?!) Whatever points this portion of the film has to make are blunted by the static, preachy delivery, and though Lilith attempts to weave these academic remarks into a traditional narrative (wherein a conscientious female vampire breaks from her insensitive male partner and hooks up with our ever-informative lecturer), it persists in an overly intellectual approach that, well, sucks all the life out of vampire mythology and makes these fascinating figures of legend about as compelling as clams. Amy Goldstein's Because the Dawn is much more attuned to the dark appeal of the undead -- the sharing of blood, the promise of immortality, the power, the sex -- and explores it and a lot of the sociological implications of a powerful woman vampire and a lesbian affair in an savvy, tongue-in-cheek narrative. From the opening scene of a fashion photo shoot in a cemetery (for a new perfume called “Starvation”!) to its scene of the vampire Marie's wistful wish to be photographed to its original songs of desire and longing, this modern take on vampirism breezes along. Its leads are appealing and their chemistry has more mist and magic than anything Oldman and Ryder cooked up in Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's a three-star romance with bite, but getting to it means sitting through the one-and-a-half star Lilith. How badly do you want that bite?