Vampires are one of the most enduring monsters of horror. Even from their earliest iterations, they always symbolised our fears. With each generation, we see a new take that reflects its society.
So a 1990s vampire film set in 1984 (?) is most certainly a take on the dangerous city New York was at the time, as well as the AIDS epidemic.
Jake is a vampire on the hunt for victims, most often found in nightclubs. But he chooses the wrong victim when he kills Zohra, the sister of a young man named Angel. With his sister missing, Angel begins his search for her. But it isn’t a search that will have a happy ending.
Despite his best attempts, Jake cannot stop himself from feeding. Even when he meets and falls for a young poet, he soon feeds on her as well.
When Angel eventually catches up with Jake, the fight ends very quickly. But Jake needs to run before he can finish the job – continuing the circle of death and infection.
Night Owl is very light on the plot. The vampire at the centre of the story feels almost secondary to the world around him. The House music of the era is something to behold! Nightlife icons of the era (Holly Woodlawn, Screamin’ Rachael) bring the ambience to life. Though this makes things even more confusing when we hear of Indira Gandhi on the radio – placing the story in 1984, not the 90s as we had assumed.
While actors John Leguizamo and James Raftery do a good job with what material they are given, there isn’t any character development (or many character traits to begin with). So it is very difficult to care about what is happening in the story. Rather, it’s the city itself in all its filth, tragedy and vibrancy that steals all the attention.
This is a gorgeous film, and I think it’s worth watching for that alone. It was shot on grainy 16 mm film, bringing feelings of the earliest vampire films like Nosferatu and Vampyr. It even predates other 90s vampire black-and-white films like The Addiction and Nadja (which, incidentally, I think are also set in NYC).
Clearly the epidemic occurring at the time was a catalyst for these stories. Making the vampire film all that more harrowing and bleak.
*By the way, I had no idea that Beyonce would be bringing House music back this week with her new single. Maybe she was inspired by me watching this movie? I can only assume.