Saturday, March 21, 2009

Canadian Front: The Death of Alice Blue

Vampires and corporate suits are all the same—they are both just bloodsuckers. Or so a new Canadian indy vampire film would have us believe. The office is quite a dangerous place in Park Bench’s The Death of Alice Blue (trailer here), which screens this weekend as an unusual selection of the MoMA’s annual Canadian Front series of new cinema from our northern neighbors.

To all outward appearances, Alice Blue is a mousy young woman hired for a soul-deadening entry-level job at the Raven Advertising Agency. However, it quickly becomes apparent something nefarious is going on behind the scenes at Raven, and Ms. Blue is a little off herself. At work she is belittled by the popular cliques, while at home she must endure a mother who seems to be doing a permanent Catherine O’Hara impression. Yet, the creative director she pines for seems to take encouraging notice, as does Peter Green, the annoying mail-boy and self-styled leader of the so-called “resistance,” played by the director.

The best thing about Blue is Mark Gabriel’s grungy art direction, which effectively creates a sense of austere menace. The morning office roll call of layoffs is also a nice blackly humorous touch. However, the laughs are few and far between in the deliberately quirky Blue and there no real chills to be found. The corporate vampire motif has been done to undeath by now, often with better results, like the Wolfram & Hart law firm in the Angel television series. In comparison, there is really nothing in Blue to distinguish it from the pack.

Blue has creepy look, but the action on-screen is often hard to follow. With a dearth of likable characters, audiences are unlikely to develop an emotional investment in Alice Blue’s story. It might satisfy a certain goth niche, but for the rest of us, Blue has nothing like the crossover appeal of Let the Right One In. It screens again this Sunday (3/22) at the MoMA and next Saturday (3/28) in Connecticut at the Kent Film Festival.