NIGHT KALEIDOSCOPE: A Visually Astute Mess
Indie low-budget vampire horror Night Kaleidoscopee has solid visuals but this is not enough to cover up its paper thin characters and story.
There’s almost nothing filmmakers can’t do with the vampire genre. Whether it’s setting it in an old abandoned castle or in a high school filled with the walk-offs from The O.C., it’s a genre that has virtually endless opportunities in terms of story, characters and setting. Enter Night Kaleidoscope, a Scottish neo-noir vampire detective story, that’s sadly not anywhere near as interesting as that description would imply.
Bright lights, dark city
Night Kaleidoscope tells the story of Fian (Patrick O’Brien), a broken down detective who has been tasked with hunting down a pair of vampire lovers who have been slaying the occupants of a small Edinburgh town. During his investigation, Fian becomes acquainted with Emma (Kitty Colquhoun), a woman who has lost her boyfriend to the couples blood-thirst, the two become close and it’s up to them to end the bloodshed of the elusive vampire couple.
What becomes clear almost instantly when watching Night Kaleidoscope is that the real star is Scottish director Grant McPhee’s excellent visual style. The night-time sequences are all incredibly well shot, with a neo-noir colour pallet that is highly reminiscent of Blade Runner and the fast cutting of a Tony Scott feature; it all has a great sense of rhythm and flow.
The daytime sections, while not as visually impressive, do feature some great framing; with some excellent establishing shots that set the mood and tone perfectly. The soundtrack is also excellent, with thudding synths and electric beats that evoke the feeling of being watched from a distance. The visuals and the music complement each other perfectly. What’s even more impressive is that Night Kaleidoscope was filmed with virtually no budget and never feels like such.
Sadly, what also becomes clear when watching Night Kaleidoscope is that it feels like two entirely separate films. One portion of the film is a dull, by-the-numbers detective story, while the other is an artsy music-video mood piece with the frenetic editing of a Michael Bay feature. The two don’t mesh well together and feel like they’re at constant opposition with one and other, competing for who gets the most screen time.
Night Kaleidoscope becomes increasingly frustrating as you’re attempting to get invested in its characters and then it cuts away to a music-video like vignette of the vampire couple slaying their victims. Despite these sections being visually impressive, they seem to be entirely redundant, having no real impact on the plot whatsoever.
Between the style
Those pacing and structural hiccups are sadly not Night Kaleidoscope’s only issues, the film also suffers from poor characterization and a weak script. Our main hero seems to have no other attributes other than he’s gruff and he likes his alone time, spending most of the film shouting at people and looking confused. We do get hints at his backstory via flash backs but it’s not enough to make us care, or even be interested in his story.
The love interest, Emma, is as equally uninteresting, having no discernible character other than her love for her past partner and the revenge that drives her. With this lack of characterization, it’s surprising that the performances are not entirely bad, Kitty Colquhoun gives a pretty solid performance as Emma and Patrick O’Brien does the best with what he’s given as the gruff Fian. The two both share a touching moment when they decide to spend the night together, it’s all done via a single continues shot and the performances are given room to shine, and shine they do.
All out of ideas
The films initial visual splendour eventually becomes tiring as dirctor Grant McPhee struggles to do anything new or interesting as the third act of the feature approaches. The night-time sequences, filled to the brim with their frenetic editing and pulsating visuals, become headache inducing as the plot refuses to move along. When we finally do reach the finale, it ends up being as uninteresting as the rest of the plot.
Whilst watching Night Kaleidoscope I was constantly reminded of Ana Lily Amirpour’s staggeringly beautiful debut feature A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. The two have a lot in common, from their excellent cinematography and great visual style to their fantastically realized soundtracks, both films have a great sense of style and kineticism. I just wish that Night Kaleidoscope had the character and thematic depth of Amirpour’s feature.
Night Kaleidoscope also fails to take advantage of the vampire genre like Amirpour’s film did, using the vampires as just mere antagonists, giving them no depth or substance. It begs the question as to why Night Kaleidoscope even has vampires as its villains? The vampire couple could have easily just been serial killers who had a penchant for eating flesh and the film would have played out exactly the same.
Grant McPhee’s Night Kaleidoscope has solid visuals and frequent bursts of great cinematography, sadly this is not enough to cover up its paper thin characters and story. Too often the film feels like it’s fighting with itself; undecided about what it wants to be, whether that be a by-the-numbers detective story or a psychedelic trip, it’s never sure. Despite these glaring flaws, the solid cinematography warrants Night Kaleidoscope at least one watch, just skip over all the fatuous dialogue.
Perhaps if it was shortened to a fifteen minute mood-piece it would be far more tolerable, but as it stands, Night Kaleidoscope is all style and no substance.
So, what’s your favorite independent vampire film? Let us know in the comment section bellow!
Night Kaleidoscope is available on streaming services.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.