I’m not quite sure what to say about this film. For every label it seems to give itself, it certainly breaks the genre expectations, from at least the expectations that have been set up by Hollywood and other Western media.
The film calls itself a vampire Western, which immediately makes me think of cowboys and Texan rangers riding off into the night to protect their families in a weird mash-up of Cowboys vs Aliens (2011) and The Last Man on Earth (1964), with some famous Western actor shooting wooden stakes out of specially made guns, which honestly sounds like a summer blockbuster that could be coming out in a few years, though for all I know, that exact concept has already been done. Within the first couple of minutes of this film, we immediately see that this film is not the film I just described.
It very obviously is a vampire film, a genre that ranges from classical horror to psychological thriller to badly written romances. The mythology of the vampire isn’t important to this story, but rather the fear that the character represents. The Girl and her entire back story are unknown to us, but she watches over every other character, acting as an Angel of Death, sometimes a guardian spirit and sometimes the judge, jury, and executioner of life where she deems fit. In fact, the film is so slow and drawn out, a fictional representation of the black and white color scheme of the film, she appears a single point of brightness among the mundane. When she appears and when she hunts, I was never really scared of her, just shocked out of the state of stasis the film had put me into. Even at her scariest, when she’s threatening the young boy, she’s more of a character of mystery than one of horror.
So, it’s not a horror film, but it definitely is a vampire film. Different than most vampire films, but definitely not the strangest I’ve ever seen. However, is the film a Western? We talked in class about how important iconography can be to genres, especially the Western genre, which is centered around certain times and locations, particularly the post-Civil War South, but can be transported to any setting by keeping the similar icons of guns, cowboys, and horses, or the common themes of chivalry, honor, frontier life, and rescuing the damsel in distress.
What does this film have from among those? Almost none of them. Sure, there’s guns and blood and the continuous shots of oil fields that keep reminding me of Texas. We get small glimpses of Western-style clothing in random scenes that seem to add nothing to the film, and the film takes place in an isolated town that might as well be in the deserts of North America. We even have The Girl saving Atti, in a small play on the Damsel in Distress. But the film doesn’t feel like a Western to me. There’s no action and the strong emotions that are often evoked in Westerns are placed far apart. It follows a plot structure far more similar to those of art films that we discussed in class, and the overall mood, tone, and setting of the film makes me want to classify it as a modern day gangster film, focusing on the mundanity of reality in a world of pain, with a vampire lurking just out of sight in a characterization of fiction that doesn’t belong in that world.