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I have seen the inside of a few squats, had one or two drug-induced visions and been on my fair share of shady night-time adventures. While all these experiences had their specific charms, none of them had quite the visual artistry of Grant McPhee's micro-budget horror-noir outing Night Kaleidoscope. The shining moments in my personal history also didn't include literal vampires, at least as far as I remember--not that my recollection can be trusted.
Fion (Patrick O'Brien), a disgruntled medium, works under the table with local law enforcement by utilizing his gift to track murderous blood addicts. With the help of the smallest joints ever, Fion can see a victim’s final moments when in the proximity of the body. While hunting a particularly vicious pair of vamps, he meets Isobel (Mariel McAllan), who asks for his help. The two begin a steamy relationship built upon their trauma, distaste for the nosferatu, and Fion's stash of magic weed. Unfortunately, this means the supernatural P.I. now has something to lose.
The contemporary vampire tale is a stylized journey through a fictional underworld lined with crime, addiction and the occult. It blends drug lifestyle, detective tropes, and the supernatural with the haze of a skillfully crafted music video. The story doesn't always explain itself but instead offers up just a taste of what seems to be a detailed version of the world, cut with depressing magic and street-level villains enhanced by dark forces. More subtle than cryptic, I could see it serving as the arthouse pilot for a gritty supernatural series that puts remixed horror elements into down to earth crime drama, uncovering more with each monster of the week. For as little as we get from each character, they feel largely filled out, and most of the major players come with unique history just below the surface. While keeping a surreal quality, the mood is mostly that of a grumpy detective story, with heavy stock in emotion over exposition. 
Like any good psychic detective, our hero rocks a frown and a damaged stare (often aimed into space, sometimes with candles). He also sports a trusty (super clean) wool-lined coat that he wears everywhere and enjoys enhancing his abilities with a special blend of intoxicating herbs purveyed by his supplier/inside man Harry (Robert Williamson). Along with being a pretty niche dealer, Harry also hooks the psychic sleuth up with weaponized mystic materials to further aid his one-person war, an exemplary detail that should give you an idea about how the film balances its genre-bending. The vampires themselves are relatively grounded when it comes to extracting the human juice, namely taking chunks out of their victim's neck versus the usual well placed puncture. I can only assume they have some hypnotizing effect on their drugged-out cattle, as the unlucky meals stand mostly motionless while being sliced or bitten. In the power duo, we become acquainted with Lewis (Jason Harvey), who embodies the European ecstasy dealer in an action movie, and the junkie-queen Carrie (Kitty Colquhoun). Where Lewis could have walked out of either a horror or crime drama with little change, the letter opener-wielding Carrie embodies a fusion of the styles. Both hold stable for the runtime, but as the movie progressed, I became more interested in the latter's off-kilter motivations and vicious antagonisms.
Without question, the film's greatest strength is its visual style, to the point that it falls into the realm of art cinema. Each of the movie's shots seems to have a purpose and gives the viewer more story than the plot. From its experimental angles to the classic use of light, the camera and effects employ a dreamlike atmosphere. Several digital effects and different formats are used to provide grimy psychedelics. They are prevalent, but the fake glitches never overstay their welcome and only assist the practical work. One of my favorite bits sees the victim's image projected on Lewis as she cuts into her, creating a fancy picture in picture for the murder. The soundtrack by Alec Cheer stands out early in, contributing retro synth vibes while carving out a persona of its own and not playing completely into the overdone 80s beats. This film is one of three micro-budget projects that the director, Grant McPhee, participated in between 2013 and 2014. Each of the three movies took under six days to shoot with a budget of under $6,000. Night Kaleidoscope itself was completed with less than £4,000 in an astounding five days. I don't want to take away from the merits of the finished product on its own, but the quality is surprising, knowing the timeline and cash behind it. It's evident on the screen that the production was small, however, the overall craftsmanship is far beyond its resources. 
Night Kaleidoscope is a crossfaded journey to Scotland's vampire underground stocked with intoxicated counterculture, hard-boiled cornball crime drama, and dreamlike, dark fantasy. If a 90s Danny Boyle had an acid bender in an abandoned house watching only Martin (1977), The Addiction (1995), and The Hunger (1983), he might make something similar afterward. It is fantastic to look at, while only giving hints about a larger universe of monsters, lingerie, and drugs. There is a lack of explanation that might turn some off, but sometimes you just have to ride out the trip, enjoy the pretty colors, and hope no one bites you.
1h 23min | 2017
Director: Grant McPhee
Writers: Megan Gretchen and Chris Purnell

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