Not Like Others (AKA Vampyrer) (2008)
Distributor (UK): Chelsea Films
R2 DVD Release Date: 25th October 2010
Directed by: Peter Pontikis
Starring: Jenny Lampa, Ruth Vega Fernandez
Review by: Ben Bussey

At a glance, twentysomething sisters Vera (Lampa) and Vanja (Fernandez) look like any other young women hanging out in a club on a relatively quiet night. But when a predatory biker tries to force himself on Vera, things don’t turn out quite the way he expects; within minutes he’s lying dead in a toilet, drained of blood. Yes, though they might look like normal women, Vera and Vanja just so happen to be vampires. Casually exiting the scene of the crime, they head out into the empty city streets in search of ways to pass the dead hours before sunrise; but the remainder of the biker gang is hot on their trail.

As it’s another Swedish vampire film, it may at first seem a little contrived that Not Like Others is being promoted as a sort of spiritual cousin to Let The Right One In, but to be fair the similarities don’t begin and end with the nationality of the filmmakers. Much like Tomas Alfredson’s modern classic, this debut from writer-director Peter Pontikis is interested more in the relationship between the central protagonists than the gory details of their bloodsucking shenanigans. Comparisons with Romero’s Martin are even more appropriate, as the film is shot and performed in a starkly realistic fashion, with the supernatural never coming to the forefront. Indeed, as with Martin we may well question whether Vera and Vanja are in truth vampires at all, or simply conditioned to believe themselves to be; like the title character of Romero’s film, they draw blood with blades rather than fangs.

Set over the course of a single night, Not Like Others is a very intimate, character-based piece in which the vampire is not an object of fear or revulsion but the embodiment of  the outsider, as should be apparent from the title alone. Loosely structured with little in the way of plot, the centre of attention is the interplay between Jenny Lampa and Ruth Vega Fernandez, both of whom give captivating performances. As we follow the sisters numbly finding ways to fill their time, we get the impression this is the way things are for them every night; but whilst Vera at least claims to be content with their way of life, Vanja is clearly exhausted with it. Hints of existential angst and long-standing sisterly tensions bubble under the surface throughout, and this pessimistic mood is only enhanced by the few brief encounters with others; it’s not giving too much away to reveal that the biker isn’t the only would-be rapist to cross paths with Vera. The sensitive can rest easy, though, for while Not Like Others may well be raw and open on an emotional level, the physical horrific details are largely left to suggestion. 

Indeed, Not Like Others is so sombre and restrained – both in terms of performance and aesthetic, with little music and simple yet beautiful cinematography – that for the most part we might not regard it a horror film at all; the presence of (possibly) supernatural beings does not necessarily warrant instant genre status. That said, Not Like Others does feature a monstrous threat, not in the vampire sisters but the ominous biker gang hunting them down. Faceless, voiceless shapes in leathers and black crash helmets, with an unnerving tendency to predict where Vera and Vanja will show up next, the bikers are an evil presence of the sort John Carpenter specialises in. This, of course, leaves us in no doubt that the film’s sympathies lie with the vampire sisters themselves.

In these days of True Blood and Twilight, we are well accustomed to stories which cast vampires as social outcasts attempting to integrate, or at least achieve a certain harmony with ‘mainstream’ society. Not Like Others approaches this idea in a far more understated manner than most, and is all the stronger for it. Any ravenous fangbangers seeking ample blood, sweat and guyliner would be better looking elsewhere, but those open to something more subtle and sensitive could certainly do worse than Not Like Others. It’s an involving, thought-provoking and surprisingly tender take on vampirism, well worth checking out.

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