(director/writer: Philip Ridley; cinematographer: Dick Pope; editor: Scott Thomas; music: Nick Bicat; cast: Viggo Mortensen (Cameron Dove), Lindsay Duncan (Dolphin Blue), Jeremy Cooper (Seth Dove), Sheila Moore (Ruth Dove), Duncan Fraser (Luke Dove), David Longworth (Joshua), Robert Koons (Sheriff Ticker.), Evan Hall (Kim), Codie Lucas Wilbee (Eben); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Dominic Anciano/Ray Burdis; Miramax; 1990-UK)

The director shows off his technical skills and a sick humor.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of British screenwriter Philip Ridley(“Heartless”/”The Passion of Darkly Noon”) has all the characters as perverse and the pessimistic situations straining for any normalcy. The director shows off his technical skills and a sick humor. The children’s book writer previously wrote the script for The Krays. The film was shot in Canada. This vampire movie has designs for something bigger. Critics often compared this film to David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, as both filmmakers are viewed as making weird films.

It is set in the 1950s and centers around a confused eight-year-old child, Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper), living in an Idaho farming community. The kid has fantasies on a reclusive British widow, Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan), whose rube hubby hung himself after a week of marriage. Dolphin is having a relationship with Seth’s military hero- brother Cameron Dove (Viggo Mortensen), who is currently serving at an atomic-testing mission site in the Pacific. Cameron is on leave for his father’s funeral. The kid has an urgent need to play sadistic practical jokes on Dolphin, believing she’s a vampire who is after his brother’s blood. He never stops persecuting her until she dies. The kid got the vampire angle from glancing at the pulp fiction books his dad leaves around the house.

The kid’s unbalanced mom Ruth Dove (Sheila Moore) obsesses over odors, while his service station attendant dad, Luke Dove (Duncan Fraser), has a history as a pedophile. Dad commits suicide when suspect in the sodomy and drowning of Seth’s friend Eben (Codie Lucas Wilbee).

It might be pretentious drama to some (the Freudian symbolism was a bore) and some of the minor characters are too absurdly drawn to have relevance, but I found the ‘life as a nightmare’ drama compellingly twisted and sharply observed.