'We Are the Night'

Three upscale femme vampires and their newest recruit, a thieving streetwise gamine, run amok in German helmer Dennis Gansel's "We Are the Night."

Three upscale femme vampires and their newest recruit, a thieving streetwise gamine, run amok in German helmer Dennis Gansel’s “We Are the Night.” Pic is a far cry from the director’s well-received 2008 “The Wave,” a somber study of fascism, with which it was double-billed in brief theatrical release. “Night” trades politics for acrobatics, the film’s kinetically edited action sequences filling the void left by sketchy character development. A dubbed VOD version figures to do more biz than the subtitled theatrical incarnation. Based on Gansel’s teen-penned script, the pic also retains enough horny adolescent fantasizing to carve a cable niche.

Gansel happily follows the rules of the vampire playbook, tweaking conventions slightly for relevance or style. The women startlingly disappear from mirrors, effortlessly toss any opposition across the room, and defy gravity as they walk up walls or adhere to ceilings. They steam lightly in weak daylight, flirting with near-immolation.

And, of course, vampiric bloodlust reigns supreme. The trio — blond, autocratic leader Louise (Nina Hoss), several centuries old but not looking a day over 39; ditzy, fun-loving Nora (Anna Fischer); and the elegant, tragic Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich, the voice of reason in Gansel’s “The Wave”), a silent film star grieving for her human family — are first discovered on an airplane full of bloody corpses, pilot included. Louise makes a farewell snack of the stewardess before Charlotte flings the door open and the three leap into the night, their Paris-bought designer goody bags in tow.

Meanwhile, on Berlin’s mean streets, pickpocket Lena (Karoline Herfurth, star of Gansel’s 2001 “Girls on Top,” excellent here) exhibits her own brand of derring-do. When pursued by an attractive cop (Gansel regular Max Riemelt), the breathless stunt-filled pursuit over barbed wire fences, through crowded supermarkets and atop moving buses creates a mutual athletic respect and acts as a form of foreplay, her final kick to his balls cementing their S&M-tinged version of a “meet cute.”

Once bitten, Lena unwillingly joins the vampire community via amped-up action scenes featuring hand-to-hand combat with machine gun-toting Russian pimps. Despite the temptations of shopping sprees, supernatural makeovers and endless disco party nights with supportive new girlfriends Nora and Charlotte, Lena, like her male counterpart in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark,” proves a poor fit for these distinctly lesbian bloodsuckers (the male of the species having been eliminated decades earlier), what with her moral scruples and heterosexual leanings.

Unlike the decadent, centuries-spanning opulence of costume vampire pics like “The Hunger” and “Interview With the Vampire,” and the contempo-set “Twilight,” with its breathless romanticism and divided group loyalties, “Night,” stylishly reinvents juvenile pulp with flashy pyrotechnics. With its fearsome, male-hating bitchy vampire leader, extended catfights and ultimate macho triumph over lesbian leanings, “Night” stylishly reprises the kind of teenage fantasies that spawned such 1950s camp classics as “Queen of Outer Space.”

We Are the Night

Germany

Production

An IFC release of a Constantin Film, Christian Becker presentation of a Rat Pack production in association with Celluloid Dreams. (International sales, Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Christian Becker. Directed by Dennis Gansel. Screenplay, Jan Berger, based on the screenplay "The Dawn" by Gansel.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Torsten Breuer; editor, Ueli Christen; music, Heiko Maile, music supervisors, Klaus Frer, Thomas Binar; production designer, Matthias Musse; costume designer, Anke Lemke; sound (Dolby digital), Roman Schwartz; supervising sound editor/sound designer, Alex Saal; re-recording mixers, Christian Bischoff, Tschangis Chahrokh; special effects supervisor, Alex Lemke; line producers, Oliver Nommsen, Bernhard Thur; casting Uta Seibicke. Reviewed on DVD, New York, April 22, 2011. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Karoline Herfurth, Nina Hoss, Jennifer Ulrich, Anna Fischer, Max Riemelt.

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