As a filmmaker, Abel Ferrara has always stepped outside of the mold to deliver highly provocative works of humanity going completely awry. Whether it's insanity (The Driller Killer), female revenge (Ms. 45), hip-hop culture (King of New York), or police corruption (Bad Lieutenant), you can always count on him to piss off critics and audiences everywhere. He is a director of amazing extremity and unapologetic cruelty, and his very underrated 1995 cerebral horror classic, The Addiction, represents both at its most low-key and uncomfortable stride.
Shot in crisp black and white, the film stars the always amazing Lili Taylor as Kathleen Conklin, a graduate philosophy student at New York University. One night while walking home, she is dragged into an alleyway and bitten by an aggressive female vampire (a devilish Annabella Sciorra) on the neck. She immediately falls ill, develops an aversion to sunlight, and a particularly potent thirst for human blood. This leads her to a nightmarish journey of "addiction" and existential angst, where she attacks her ostentatious friends and classmates (including her professor) and extracts their blood like heroin. She also becomes a victim to a male vampire (a creepy Christopher Walken), who gives her the bleak analysis of the life of a vampire, while also feasting on her. Things come to an extremely disturbing head after she is awarded her doctorate and invites everyone to her apartment for a small get-together to celebrate, which ends in bloody mayhem in the film's most horrifying sequence, where she and her new "family" murder unsuspecting guests and drain them. However, the film ends with Kathleen's redemption as she asks God for forgiveness for her sins. She visits her own grave and promptly walks away.
What struck me was the idiosyncratic way Ferrara filmed the story in his native New York, where the dark and tough side comes out in beautiful dread and harsh light. He doesn't give a damn what you think his films should look like; he adds his own sensibility and personality to whatever he does. This is one of the many reasons why he is one of my favorite directors. He doesn't conform, he creates. This also refers to how he directs his actors, in which he lets them go and do their own thing. Their personalities, especially those of Taylor and Walken, really shine. They do some of the best work they've ever done in their careers. And let's not forget Sciorra, who in her brief screen time creates a character that is really impossible to shake. I think it's safe to say that with this film, Ferrara becomes one of the finest actor-directors working in the film industry.
As usual, the folks of Arrow Video pull out the stops to bring this film to new audiences, especially with the new 4K restoration, approved by Ferrara himself. It may not be a stacked disc, but the special features are more than enough to 'sink your teeth' in:
- Audio commentary by Ferrara, moderated by critic and biographer Brad Stevens
- Talking with the Vampires, a new documentary about the film made by Ferrara exclusively for this release, featuring actors Taylor and Walken, composer Joe Dailo, Ken Kelsch, and Ferrara himself
- New interview with Ferrara
- New appreciation with Stevens
- Abel Ferrara Edits The Addiction, an archival piece from the time of production
- Still Gallery
Rounding out the release is new artwork by Peter Strain, and two great essays: a new piece by Michael Ewins entitled This is My Blood: Ferrara's Addictions; and a vintage 1995 piece by Paul Duane.
I definitely have to recommend this shocking and masterful film from one of cinema's most controversial but unique filmmakers. It may be a product of the '90s, but even that doesn't ruin its very modern appeal.
The Addiction will be released by Arrow Video on June 26, 2018.