She Lives by Night (2001)

This (cheap) DVD sat on my shelf for years before I finally found time to watch it. About a decade, actually.

She Lives by Night has an intriguing premise: since all of this happens in the first seven minutes it is not really a spoiler to tell you that this premise is that of a vampire girl suffering from amnesia. It is interesting to see her struggling with certain day-to-day issues, trying to adapt to a human world, and her struggles and conflicts as she slowly gets her memory back. Yet all of this happens incredibly early in the film (first 30-40 minutes) and then as an audience you are basically merely waiting for an hour for a showdown you know is inevitably going to happen.

It is incredibly difficult to describe the quality of this film adequately. It is not a terrible film, not something gone horribly wrong like 2006’s The Thirst. Yet it is not by any means a good film either, and not something that I would recommend people to watch.

This is a first-time-writer/first-time-director/first-time-producer project, and you can feel that throughout. It also seems to have been a “direct-to-DVD” affair.

Cinematography is basic and low budget. The score fits the scenes perfectly, yet is very much done by-the-book and sort of generic. With all the major and minor characters the acting is good, except for Melissa Timms; and male lead John Woodhouse seems to be limited in his acting when it comes to displaying emotions non-verbally.
Everything seems genuine enough – when any two characters appear in a scene together you really feel that you could genuinely be watching two real-life people interacting. That, however, cannot be said for the dialogue which seems raw and unpolished at times, undermining the acting in those scenes.

The dialogue also contains some funny lines, which I usually enjoy, but in this film they stick out like a sore thumb as this is not a film that takes a light-hearted look at itself or its genre at any point.

Another major low-point of the script are Angela’s dream sequences, which are cheesy and smack of day-time TV drama.

 

My feeling is that this film has a lot of wasted potential. Maybe if the main plot had not been told strictly chronologically……, maybe if the audience would not learn that Angela is a vampire a mere 3 minutes into the film……, maybe if there were more twists and turns through the story instead of this entirely straightforward narrative……, then maybe there would have been a better film somewhere in there.

 

The one thing that kills this film plotwise, however, is the mere fact that the plot has only the one strand. There are no sub-plots, no other stories intertwined. Which is why the story such as it is would have made for a highly interesting 30-35 minute short film, but cannot fill the whopping 106 minutes running time. As I said, the early part of the film is the interesting bit, well acted by Liliana Cabal as Angela, and that part is exactly the one that could have been used for a short film. The rest of the film is just too little too long, to misquote a common phrase.

 

Bottom Line:

As it is, I cannot recommend watching this to anyone, especially if you would have to buy the DVD. Maybe if you come across this film on TV by coincidence you might want to check out the first 45-50 minutes or so, out of curiosity.

Still, I am willing to give this film 3.5 or even 4.0 out of 10, mainly because it made an honest effort and because of Liliana Cabal’s partially great acting. These are also the only reasons that would help explain imdb’s current rating of 4.6, which I regard as too high.

 

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