Vampires were supposed to be the new zombies, but apart from some flaky mainstream success the hype never really grounded itself amongst genre fans. This alone goes a long to explain why Sodium Babies has such a hard time to find the recognition is deserves, so set aside all your prejudices concerning the whole vampire hype thing and let yourself be dazzled by the raging talent the Decaillon brothers put so generously on display here.
What if ... what if Adam Wingard (Pop Skull), Frank Miller (The Spirit), Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Micmacs) formed an unholy foursome, decided to adopt a child and taught that child everything they knew about cinema. Well, you'd get something that might look a little like Sodium Babies. It's the perfect debut effort, lacking the subtleties of a film made by a seasoned director but making up for those shortcomings with an unlimited amount of style and enthusiasm.
Sodium Babies will remind you in nothing of what you'd come to expect from vampire films. There's no room for oldskool romance and mysticism, no need for bloody fangs and barren mansions and not a hint of traditionalism. Sodium Babies is a modern adaptation of the vampire myth, transported to the marginal reaches of the criminal world and executed with so much flair and power that you'll be spinning around in your chair while trying to take in everything happening on-screen.
The film follows Dead Dog, a lowly ranked vampire henchman who provides blood for the top vampires and cleans up his own mess afterwards. His life consists of killing humans, sucking them dry and disposing them in various, untraceable ways. That is, until he gets caught up in a feud between his master and Gael, a recluse vampire who sees in Dead Dog the perfect tool to get back at the people who exiled him from the vampire clan. What follows is a mind-bending vision of Dead Dog's struggle to escape his doomed fate.
The film was developed over a period of five years, with the brothers doing most of the visual effects themselves. It just goes to show that with the right amount of talent on board a film doesn't need to cost a lot in order to look visually dazzling. Sure they go a little overboard from time to time and not every shot or effect is spot on, but watching Sodium Babies is a continuous feast of crazy editing, mad filters and creative camera work. It's a true visual assault that serves as the perfect illustration of their talent as well as providing some awesome eye-candy for the audience.
The soundtrack is just as eclectic and travels all over the place. It's far from perfect, but the way the Decaillon brothers handle the music still deserves some credit. In some scenes the score feels quite out of place, but even those moments contribute to the overall atmosphere of the film. In other scenes the score (and sound editing) fits like a charm. There's definitely potential here, the brother just need a little more control from time to time.
Dead Dog is played by Benoit Decaillon himself, making the dedication of the brothers even more remarkable. Benoit does a pretty good job in front of the camera too, though it's clear from this film that he didn't have much prior acting experience. I think the same could be said about the rest of the cast, but they still do a pretty commendable job in bringing their characters to life. Definitely not an A-grade cast, but they don't let the film down either.
The Decaillon brothers describe the experience of watching this film as being inside a washing machine. That's actually a pretty good summary of what you can expect from Sodium Babies. The film doesn't commit to just one style or one type of atmosphere. It bounces all over the place and tries to make the most of whatever situation in finds itself in. This makes the first 20 or so minutes a challenge, but once you accept the film for what it is it will reveal itself as a surprising source of wonder and joy that surpasses many other films out there.
If you want to whine and bitch there are no doubt an unlimited amount of things that you can bring up to trash this film. Sodium Babies is far from perfect, but all these imperfections are adequately countered by the brother's never-ending enthusiasm. It's exactly why I love these type of films, while not perfect they pack enough interesting bits and ideas to fill three of four "regular" films, leaving you with a sense that your invested time was well spent.
Sodium Babies feels like a film made by a duo who feared this was their single, one-time shot at becoming professional directors. The film is packed to the brim with great ideas and memorable scenes, it's a true testament of their talent, but at the same time it's also quite chaotic and a little bumpy. Whether this is going to be a problem depends on your own cinematic wishes and demands, but if you appreciate the vigor and effort the brother put into their work I am absolutely certain you're going to love this film to bits. Let's hope Sodium Babies film will find its audience on DVD, guaranteeing the brothers a chance at a second attempt. Definitely recommended.