Vampire sisters Vera (Jenny Lampa) and Vanja (Ruth Vega Fernandez) live secret lives, skulking the suburbs of Stockholm but make the mistake of feeding on the leader of a skinhead biker gang. Pursued by his vengeful cronies, they flee into the night where Vanja confesses she is sick of being an outsider and plans to abandon Vera for a normal life with her human lover. Terrified at the thought of living in complete solitude, Vera will do anything to keep Vanja by her side.
Likely destined to be known as the other Swedish vampire movie, Not Like Others had the misfortune to surface after the genre-redefining Let the Right One In (2008), but offers another intriguing example of the “vampire film as character study” in the manner of George A. Romero’s Martin (1977). As in that cult classic, these vampires rely on switchblades rather than fangs to draw blood and inhabit a believably mundane world of snowy suburbs, boring corner shops and seedy nightclubs. Debuting writer-director Peter Pontikis opts for a grainy visual texture with muted violence and a low-key tone lending credence to his subtle allegory. The women could easily be gypsies rather than vampires or any outsiders surviving on the fringes of society. A point underlined by the menacing presence of the skinhead gang, whose relentless persecution of them carries racist undertones.
At times the sisters co-dependency recalls Vampyres (1974), but the film refreshingly forgoes morbid erotic clichés with its unglamorous heroines who visibly recoil from sex. However, both remain somewhat ill defined. Though at one point Vanja refers to Vera as “a psychopath”, Pontikis never clarifies whether the latter enjoys her violent lifestyle or kills reluctantly. Especially given her hesitance in despatching a chatty cabdriver (David Dencik) who turns sleazy. Vanja meanwhile seems hopelessly dissolute for someone in the first flush of love, underlined by Ruth Vega Fernandez’s inaccessibly pokerfaced performance.
Pontikis displays a familiarity with vampire cinema and recycles key scenes from past classics in intriguingly realistic ways: the opening murder is a less flashy take on that of The Hunger (1983), while Vajna’s attempt to eat normal food only to vomit it up evokes memories of Udo Kier in Blood for Dracula (1973). The sisters even dangle from a bridge for fun while a train passes by, just like in The Lost Boys (1987). Whereas the earlier films used such scenes for simple posturing, Pontikis wrings them for some much needed emotion. And yet unlike Let the Right One In the film is too studied and sterile to completely engage. Too often its existentialist musings sap suspense from its killer premise and leave the narrative directionless. Running a mere seventy five minutes it has the feel of a short film expanded to feature length.