Release Date(s)1995 (June 26, 2018)
Studio(s)Fast Films/Guild/October Films (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A
An experimental film that hearkens back to Abel Ferrara’s early career with similarities to films like Ms. 45 and The Driller Killer, The Addiction is a totally cerebral and eccentric vision of an urban world inhabited by both sinners and the innocent, and how they intermingle with each other. It stars Lili Taylor as Kathleen, a young college student studying philosophy who is bitten by a vampire (Annabella Sciorra), which consequently gives her an uncontrollable thirst for the crimson. Traipsing her way from victim to victim on the streets of New York, she muses on life, death, and the meaning of it all as she viciously and hungrily feeds her gruesome habit.
What could have been a setup for a high class Frank Henenlotter movie turns out to be an unusual, but no less effective, take on the vampire mythos. Abel Ferrara and his screenwriter Nicolas St. John aren’t particularly concerned with telling a traditional horror narrative. It’s actually never fully conclusive if she or anybody else is even really a vampire or not. It’s more of a theology exercise in disguise with constant references to Nietzsche and Sproul, among many others. For Kathleen, drinking blood is more of a metaphor for drug addiction, that is if you choose to interpret it that way. I certainly do.
The drive of The Addiction is Lily Taylor’s singularly fearless and hypnotic performance. She’s absolutely dynamite as someone who becomes consumed with her newfound dependency, chasing the allegorical dragon with seemingly and tragically no end in sight. Her path leads her to another vampire waiting in the wings in the form of Christopher Walken, who more or less cameos in the film for a couple of scenes, but totally and utterly steals them in the process. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what’s wrong with Kathleen. Ferrara is far more interested in seeing her overcome this evil, rather than anchoring her to something more translucent or customary. In that respect, it’s not a film for everybody, especially genre fans who want nothing more than surface-level results. The Addiction isn’t that, at all.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release comes armed with a new 4K restoration of the film from the original 35mm camera negative with final approval from Abel Ferrara and cinematographer Ken Kelsch. It’s a gorgeous and definitive presentation leaving absolutely no room for complaint. It’s a rich, thick black and white transfer with solid grain and high levels of fine detail. Grayscale is perfect with solid whites, deep blacks, and perfect brightness and contrast levels. It’s also thoroughly clean and stable throughout with no encoding issues or digital enhancements. The audio comes in two options: English 2.0 LPCM and English 5.1 DTS-HD, with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 5.1 presentation has a bit more ambient activity in the rear speakers, but not a lot to offer when it comes to panning. The stereo track is no slouch, and is probably more appropriate for long-time viewers of the film. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout while the score and song selection is definitely enhanced by the additional clarity.
Included in this package is a terrific set of extras, some of which have been newly-created by Abel Ferrara himself. They include an audio commentary by Ferrara; Talking with the Vampires, a new 31-minute documentary directed by Ferrara, which features new interviews with Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, composer Joe Delia, and cinematographer Ken Kelsh; a new 16-minute interview with Ferrara; a new 9-minute appreciation of the film by critic Brad Stevens; 9 minutes of rare footage of Ferrara editing the film; a still gallery containing 17 behind the scenes photos; a (what I surmise to be) VHS trailer for the film; and a 32-page insert booklet containing the film essays “This is My Blood: Ferrara’s Addictions” by Michael Ewins and “Vampire Chronicles” by Paul Duane, as well as restoration details. All of this material is entertaining, well-made, and well-worth your time.
Although the film was no great box office success, it was well-received by critics and fans of independent cinema. It’s not an easy film to gauge right away as it’s one of those films that takes a bit of time to not only acclimate to, but also to come to grips with. Following Kathleen along on her journey of theological and philosophical reflections and deliberations, there’s ultimately more to the story than what can be seen at first glance. All in all, Arrow Video’s release of The Addiction features a top of the line presentation with an extremely satisfying supplemental package. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons