Vampires are one of the most famous and influential monsters in fiction. From Bran Stoker’s Dracula, to the work of Anne Rice. Vampires have filled the pages of countless novels and short stories. The concept of a night creature that can be both beautiful and terrifying at the same time brings that extra element of danger that we all like to experience in our lives every once in a while. And what could be more dangerous than falling in love with one of these creatures?
Victoria Schwab, the creator of this new Netflix series titled “First Kill” is just one of the many authors that in recent times have tackled vampires in their narratives. This time, Schwab is ready to level up from novels, where she has been incredibly successful, and jump into the audiovisual medium. She does it by bringing all the clichés of the vampire genre and mixing them up with the new wave of stories that deals with sexual identity as their primary focus. The result is a show that while harmless can also be quite entertaining.
First Kill is created by Victoria Schwab for Netflix, and it is based on one of her short stories that go by the same name. The series stars Sarah Catherine Hook, Imani Lewis, and Jonas Dylan Allen, as the main trio of young characters. The series tells the story of Juliette, a high schooler who is having a hard time experiencing her sexuality. As a lesbian, she is having a hard time getting to know other girls, until she meets Calliope and falls completely for her. There is a problem though, Juliette is a vampire and Calliope is a vampire hunter.
The series follows the structure of the classic tale of Romeo & Juliet, and yes, our main character is called Juliette, as they get trapped in this forbidden love. Having been raised in two very different ways, the two must find a way to avoid their families’ pressures in order to be together. Of course, the question that arises first is, can they really be together when one of them was basically raised to kill the other? It makes for good drama, and it is fascinating to watch each episode and see what really is going to happen to them.
While the concept is quite interesting, and it creates tons of possibilities, the series has a huge issue. Presentation. The show looks and feels cheap from every angle, and on top of that, both the cinematography, the acting, and even the music have this weird late-night erotica that we see on channels like Cinemax after midnight. It isn’t the most pleasant look for a TV show, but this is the look that Schwab and her team decided on.
When it comes to our main characters, Juliette is quite intriguing, as the youngest in a family of vampires. Some parts of the world-building can remind you of a very shallow take on Vampire: The Masquerade, and everything that has to do with that franchise. The characters and look of the show can also remind at times of True Blood, which, of course, is the biggest vampire show of the recent era.
Hook, and Lewis make for a compelling couple when they are together, but even when the story is trying to sell them as this couple bound by fate, the two of them never really clicked throughout the season. It goes in the opposite way when each of them has to share the screen with the rest of their families. Learning how Juliette’s family manages to survive and keep their secret in this modern times is quite interesting. The same goes for Calliope and her training and life as a vampire hunter.
However, none of these appealing aspects goes a long way. Instead, the show thinks that watching the actors kiss each other in very long sessions of passionate sexual exchange is enough to keep the audience watching. Sadly, for some people, this will certainly be enough to keep watching episode after episode. Two pretty girls kissing each other seems to be a powerful incentive for some people.
Visually, the show is as generic as it can possibly be. The cinematography is washed out and has no sense of composition or poetry in it. It seems the show is content enough to point the camera at the actors and roll with it. The lighting, which is one of the most important elements when it comes to having powerful visuals, is an afterthought in this series. Everything seems to be perfectly lit all the time. It makes you able to watch everything, sure, but it also makes everything look fake.
For a show that is all about vampires and creatures of the night, the visual style of the show is really afraid of the dark. Playing with shadows and making the show have its own visual identity would have helped to make a pass when it comes to the storytelling. But as both of these elements seem to be just lazy attempts at it, the show leaves a lot to be desired.
First Kill is a cheap show, both in its use of visuals and in the way it tells its story. The show tries to compensate for these falters by adding a lot of sexual flairs, but the weird music and shooting style makes these scenes look not excellent at all. The show just doesn’t have the budget to translate its world from the page to the screen in a successful way. It would have been better if this idea had stayed in the shadows.