Five hundred year old vampire Ran (played by Jung Yeon-joo) is mostly incompetent. While your typical modern vampire is a wealthy genius heading up a conspiracy...Ran is a bit of an idiot. Her only useful talent is makeup, which doesn't pay much on a low profile. But hey, it does let her look pretty sparkly and beautiful. And really, who needs power when you can confidently strut out of your small apartment every day, confident you won't be burned by the sun?
"Beautiful Vampire" is oddly relatable in this way. Because sure, the vampire fantasy is to assume that you'd get to run around biting whoever you want with no fear of repercussions. In reality, there's nothing stopping us normal humans from just, like, stabbing people, except the whole getting hunted down by society problem. Ran would just as soon avoid doing that, so she tries to fit in with moderate success. As far as people can tell Ran is just eccentric, not actually dangerous.
There's no real drama to speak of here, unless you count the occasional flashback to a very dark period in Ran's life. Instead we get surreal alternating scenes where one minute Ran is trying to deal with the ways vampirism inconveniences her admittedly infinite lifespan, then the next she's trying to deal with the rent, and then she's trying to restrain herself from biting pretty boy So-nyeon (played by Song Kang) whose blood smells so good it inspires magical sparkles. But why?
...We don't actually know because "Beautiful Vampire" doesn't ever get around to solving that mystery. We do, admittedly, get some decent sequences where Ran attempts to investigate what makes So-nyeon so special. Unfortunately Ran's plan stalls in phase two because she can't explain why she wants the blood. How phase three was even going to work, I have no idea. "Beautiful Vampire" uses transparent goofiness like this to keep the story moving.
The plot is serviceable yet weak. The jokes, while funny, are nonetheless silly. So how did this Oksusu web-drama secure an invite to the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival this year? Well, it helps that Ran is gorgeous. Ran's makeup is both stylish and practical- we also get to see her apply it. But Ran's fashion choices also show off a magnificent Gothic vibe that is oddly understated. The fancy glasses, hat, and pale skin would normally make Ran seem like a movie star- yet Jung Yeon-joo is just barely awkward and goofy enough to feel plausibly beneath notice.
Then there's the art direction. I loved how all the scenes were shot in these cramped, tiny little rooms. There's an excellent sense of space- we know exactly how big the rooms are, and how this unintentionally forces intimacy. This design aspect is well matched by how the characters often talk like loud idiots- especially So-nyeon, who's so stupid and incompetent he loops right back around into being adorable. That kind of cuteness encapsulates "Beautiful Vampire" at its best- just don't expect much more than that.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Beautiful Vampire""
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