Thanks in no small part to the vampire film resurgence of the early 1990s, with titles like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992), INNOCENT BLOOD (1992), BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992) and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994), 1995 saw the American release of no less than six movies with bloodsuckers front and center. Those six films wouldn’t all be confined to the horror genre and they would target surprisingly specific demographics from each other, the films are: DRACULA DEAD AND LOVING IT, EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE, BLOOD & DONUTS, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, NADJA and THE ADDICTION. Strangely enough, you could split them in half between either falling into a comedy or horror approach and you could also halve them based on one other trait: the latter three all take place in New York City.
Upon splitting them up, you’ll also noticed that 2/3 of the NYC set features are to be taken seriously – NADJA and THE ADDICTION – with only one offering up a comedic representation of the subject – VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN – and that’s likely no accident. Abel Ferrara’s THE ADDICTION is the filmmaker’s first attempt at traditional horror (unless you count the sleazefest of THE DRILLER KILLER or his attempt at BODY SNATCHERS, but I wouldn’t) and it plays more as a horror film about the city it takes place in, as well as its inhabitants, than it does necessarily about vampires.
What is immediately noticeable about Ferrara’s film is how it juxtaposes real life historical material with the “disease” of vampirism. We see Holocaust images and references to AIDS alongside the genre staple sequences of bloodsucking and transformation. And vampirism is very much treated as a disease, so much so that the central character played by Lili Taylor is hospitalized for her symptoms – and the doctor assures her it isn’t AIDS – and makes excuses for her behavior due to illness. But the disease on screen isn’t only present in her; it’s present in the city at large.
Ferrara has always portrayed NYC in both an affectionate and truthful way, and that’s no different here. This time in stark 35mm black and white, the city is rendered in different shades of gray and almost always at night. The streets – mostly of downtown neighborhoods – are littered and busy and our lead is consistently taunted by passersby (almost always men) while the soundtrack jarringly veers from music by the likes of Vivaldi to Cypress Hill. The whole experience is othering in a way that most 90s vampire films never attempted to be and feels distant in a way that the European vampire films from filmmakers like Jess Franco and Jean Rollin tend to.
The other two NYC set films from 1995 take decidedly different approaches. Wes Craven’s VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, the only comedic entry, happens to be the most graphically gory while the David Lynch presented NAJDA (featuring Peter Fonda as Van Helsing!) is the most traditional horror picture, and even that’s a stretch. What the three NYC films share as opposed to the other three films from 1995 don’t, is an entity far more intimidating than any of the vampires on screen: the city itself. Neither of these three features portray the city as a welcoming place for any walking creature, mortal or immortal. When Lili Taylor’s character from THE ADDICTION speaks of the tomblike qualities of her school’s library, one can almost hear her speaking of the city: “This is a graveyard. Rows of crumbling tombstones. Vicious libelous epitaphs. And we’re all drawn here like flies.” And flies do, after all, suck blood.