The Things We Cannot Change
Dir. Joshua Nelson (2022)
A group of vampires are desperately trying to kick the habit.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Things We Cannot Change is not the first movie to treat vampirism as an addiction and it likely won’t be the last. It is, however, a unique little indie film that takes aim at a subject that is usually handled with a much bigger budget and a huge studio behind it. It’s a brave choice, one that could easily come with many pitfalls and logical leaps, but writer/director Joshua Nelson handles the subject deftly and manages to make a pretty cool movie with a lot more heart and emotion than most indie films of the same caliber. Interestingly enough, he also chooses to handle the subject in a somewhat humorous manner as well, satirizing the vampire genre itself as well as the self-help mumbo jumbo used by everyone from Alcoholics Anonymous to Synanon.
The humor comes unexpectedly, with clever vignettes amongst the vampiric characters told as if they were discussing other everyday issues faced by those who don’t drink the blood of the innocent. The gore and effects are handled pretty well, and the still-human-looking vampires in this film look just as good as they do in major Hollywood productions. There’s a lot to love about the film, with some fantastic performances by the actors involved, most notably by Richard Rampolla as the leader of the self-help group. The stories of the vampirically-afflicted are interesting, with different rationales for their behavior being presented as a way to empathize with a condition that doesn’t actually exist. While not all of their beliefs make them sympathetic, there are some justifications that actually make sense; after all, what’s the difference between a vampire (assuming they actually exist) and an carnivore who kills to live? These questions are interesting, providing food for thought to anyone who wonders what life would be like in the real world in an unreal situation.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have some shortcomings as well. Some of the actors are a bit wooden, the sound design could use a little work in a couple of places, sounding echoey and mismatched with those during previous shots, and the plot tends to drag a little at times. A lot of the body parts are clearly store-bought props, and the blood isn’t always all that convincing. All in all, however, it’s a competently made indie film with a fantastic portrayal of the self-help process as it would theoretically relate to bloodsuckers. Nelson creates a film that is well-written and interesting, a compelling watch that almost becomes an anthology tale due to the way he handles the individual stories of those in the group. It also teases the possibilities of other mythical creatures in this world, with a reference to werewolves that makes me want to see a lycanthrope medical drama from the same universe. Joshua Nelson is pretty prolific as a writer and director, so who knows, maybe we’ll see that movie from him someday.
The movie presents an interesting take on vampires that isn’t often dealt with in other vampire movies. Assuming that the soul of the person is not replaced by some demonic entity, those who have changed into bloodsuckers would still have to deal with the moral dilemma of eating people. It’s not cannibalism, which often presents itself in situations where there are other options for food. It’s not murder, at least not in the way we would usually consider the crime, because the motivations are more like self-defense than a desire to kill for another reason. Is killing someone for food, knowing that you would die otherwise, inherently immoral? This is the question that The Things We Cannot Change seeks to answer. While I can’t say that it completely delivers an all-encompassing solution, it definitely provides a unique thought experiment that will make you debate your preconceived beliefs if you’re willing to consider the reasoning.
One interesting thing about the film is that it attempts to discuss sociopolitical issues at times through the lens of this vampire self-help group. One dude is “coming out” to his mother, quickly realizing that she won’t accept him for who he is and eventually turning on her in his vampiric rage. Another experiences sexual harassment by her boss at work, turning the tables in a way that the #MeToo movement would kill for. Through it all, we find that this film isn’t actually relating vampirism to drug abuse but the other way around. It’s quite a brilliant twist, even though your mind was primed for it all along.
Who this movie is for: Vampire movie fans, Indie horror lovers,
Bottom line: Clean, unique, and proficiently told, The Things We Cannot Change does an excellent job of putting vampires into the real world. Director Joshua Nelson crafts a competently told indie film with what had to have been a miniscule budget, avoiding some of the problems inherent with low-budget filmmaking and delivering a clever concept with adequate special effects. While this one won’t blow your doors off, if you’re a fan of indie films and want to see a savvy take on a tired genre of horror, give this one a shot.