At least nobody’s going to say that Chimères isn’t an interesting take on vampirism. Less focused on being a vampire than the impact it has on a relationship, this is a horror movie crossed with a love story, but not in the same way that you could technically say that Twilight is the same. In fact, if there is an anti-Twilight, it very well might be Chimères. If Twilight dolled up the romantic aspect of vampires, Chimères knocks down those walls and shows the affliction to be as ugly and troubling as it is. Or, would be. Vampires aren’t real, silly.

The film begins in Romania, where Livia (Jasna Kohoutova) and Alex (Yannick Rosset) are on vacation. After a lovely dinner, Alex thinks he forgets his camera — he’s a professional photographer — in the restauraunt and goes back to get it. He’s hit by a car. Days later, and we’re back in France. Alex is still in pain, but he’s feeling a little better. And then worse. And then a lot worse. Something is wrong. He knows this, but Livia thinks he looks fine. He’s convinced, if nothing else, that his canine teeth are growing.

Alex’s condition continues to degenerate into something more resembling a classic vampire. He begins to hate the sunlight. He has a thirst for blood — desires that we see whenever he looks into a mirror and sees his “true” form. He can’t eat normal food without puking. And he can’t sleep at night. Livia starts to take notice. Eventually, she asks him, flat-out, if he’s a vampire. He nods, and she slices open her arm and gives him a glass of blood. As a test. He drinks it. Now they both know. Now what?

Chimères is less about the way that vampirism affects Alex and more how it impacts Livia, and the relationship between the two people. Sure, we see how it ruins Alex, for a time, before Livia even knows, but this film is more interested in how it tests their relationship, and how far one will go for the other. It’s genuinely sweet. Oh, and it ends with a wonderful hand-to-hand combat scene, which is just all sorts of fun, if unexpected.

Where does the film struggle? Well, outside of the whole “vampire” thing, there isn’t a whole lot to it. It has a love story that involves a vampire, and that’s about all that there is to it. Granted, that probably would dominate their lives, but there’s literally nothing else to the film. It doesn’t have a whole lot of substance, so if it fails to hook you with its central premise, there’s not going to be a lot to keep you interested. Its opening is also very slow and over-edited, as if the filmmakers thought they needed more of a hook and turned to style to try to get you to pay attention. Thankfully, this tactic is abandoned soon enough.

Chimères also isn’t going to be scaring a whole lot of people. It has some disturbing moments, and a couple of strong scares, but it plays better to a minimalist atmosphere with a few scenes containing haunting imagery. And then a couple of jump scares, just because. Hey, the makeup is really good, though, and if there’s another film you need as a testament to practical effects, you can use this one.

The love story would all apart if the two leading actors didn’t have strong, believable chemistry, and luckily for us and the film, they do. Yannick Rosset and Jasna Kohoutova seem as much like a real couple as anyone, and turn in two very strong performances given the film’s modest budget and the fact that it’s technically a horror movie, so nobody’s going to expect it. But because of the premise, they needed to be on-point, and they are. You’ll believe in them.

What Chimères lacks in substance it makes up for in its story, which involves finding out just how much a relationship can be tested (by vampirism) before it breaks. It’s doing something different with the genre, and you have to applaud it for that. Its love story feels real thanks to its leading actors, and all of the vampire makeup and practical effects helps make the film feel real. It’s not often successful at scaring its audience, and if you aren’t hooked by the premise there’s little to keep you watching, but it’s interesting enough for me to recommend giving it a look.

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