Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride
Other cast: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Robbie Gee, Wentworth Miller, Kevin Grevioux, Zita Görög
Release date: 19 September 2003 (US/UK)
Genre: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride
Running time: 121 min
In the Underworld, Vampires are a secret clan of modern aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly. No one knows the origin of their bitter blood feud, but the balance of power between them turns even bloodier when a beautiful young Vampire warrior and a newly-turned Lycan with a mysterious past fall in love. Kate Beckinsale and Scoot Speedman star in this modern-day, action-packed tale of ruthless intrigue and forbidden passion – all set against the dazzling backdrop of a timeless, Gothic metropolis.
For generations, a secret war has raged between vampires and Lycans, an ancient species of werewolf. Two vampires specialized in assassinating Lycans, Selene and Rigel, known as Death Dealers, track a pair of Lycans who are in their human form. Selene’s motivation goes beyond duty; she also wants revenge because, about 600 years ago, a pack of Lycans slaughtered her family when she was a child. The vampires believe they defeated the werewolves many centuries ago and killed their leader, Lucian, and that they must kill off the survivors. As the vampires follow the Lycans into a subway station, the werewolves open fire with submachine guns and Rigel is killed. After the Lycans retreat from Selene’s return fire and the arrival of a third Death Dealer, Nathaniel, she tracks them to their den. Nathaniel is slain by a Lycan named Raze after being ambushed. Upon reaching the Lycan den, Selene hears loud howling and learns that the Lycans have developed a new high-tech bullet to kill the vampires.
When Selene arrives at the vampire coven’s mansion, she recounts the evening’s events and urges an attack on the Lycans, but the vampire regent, Kraven, tells her to drop the matter. Selene determines that the Lycans may have been following a human, Michael Corvin, and continues her investigation. In an underground Lycan lair, a scientist named Singe tests blood from kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family, trying to find a pure source of the ancient and powerful Corvinus bloodline. Soon after Selene finds Michael, the pair is attacked by six Lycans, including Lucian. After Lucian bites Michael, Selene helps Michael escape and the two become attracted to each other.
Selene discovers that when Lucian was supposedly killed, Kraven was the only witness. Sensing a conspiracy, she wakes a powerful elder vampire, Viktor, who has been hibernating. Viktor is angered by his early awakening, as it was Markus’ turn to rule, not his. Viktor believes Kraven and orders Selene to acquiesce to the vampire hierarchy. Kraven has secretly planned to kill the vampire elder, Amelia, and her companions, with Lucian’s help.
Selene tells Michael about the feud and her past. She then handcuffs him to a chair, fearing that he will kill innocent people after he changes at the full moon. Selene captures Singe while Michael is captured by two Lycans. Selene returns to the mansion with Singe, who admits to Viktor that the Lycans are trying to combine the bloodlines of the two species with the Corvinus Strain to create a powerful hybrid. After Kraven flees the mansion because Singe has revealed that Kraven and Lucian are working together, news arrives that Amelia, who was coming to awaken Markus, has been killed by Lycans. Viktor kills Singe in rage and gives Selene the chance to redeem herself by killing Michael.
While Michael is being held captive, he learns that Viktor’s daughter, Sonja, and Lucian became lovers. When Viktor learned that his daughter had been impregnated by a Lycan, he killed her to prevent any crossing of the species, which led to the war. Selene arrives with a group of Death Dealers to bring an end to the Lycans and kill Kraven for his treachery. Lucian prepares to fight, but Kraven shoots him with a newly designed bullet intended to kill by poisoning a Lycan’s bloodstream. Selene rescues Michael as her allies battle the Lycans, but he is shot by Kraven. Kraven tells Selene it was Viktor who killed her family, and that he would have killed her if she had not reminded him of Sonja. When Selene still refuses to join Kraven, he points his gun at Michael to finish him off. Lucian emerges, injuring Kraven and telling Selene to bite Michael to transmit the vampire virus into his bloodstream. Selene complies and Kraven flees after killing Lucian. Viktor arrives and throws Selene against a wall and then throws Michael through a wall and into a pond below. Viktor admits that Kraven told the truth, but tells Selene that he gave her more than her human family ever could have: immortality. He also reveals the truth of his love for Sonja and that his choice to have her killed was to protect the vampires also stating that he would not have killed Michael if he could have avoided it, but that he must do it to protect his people. Viktor and the hybrid Michael fight, but Viktor gets the upper hand and attempts to strangle Michael. Selene grabs Viktor’s sword and kills him with it. Selene takes Sonja’s pendant and keeps it to symbolize her and Michael’s love as it did for Sonja and Lucian.
Selene and Michael leave the Lycan lair, now enemies of both species. At the mansion, Singe’s blood seeps into the sarcophagus of the remaining Elder, Markus, a carrier of the original Corvinus Strain. When his eyes open, they are vampire blue but then turn pitch black, the eyes of a hybrid.
Erika is a vampire seductress, a social-climbing courtier in Viktor’s mansion, obsessed with rising through the ranks of the vampire aristocracy. Her position within the aristocracy is unclear, but she most recently began seeking the attentions of Kraven.
Premiered at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival
The film was the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by White Wolf, Inc. and Nancy A. Collins claiming the setting was too similar to the Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse games, both set in the World of Darkness setting, and the Sonja Blue vampire novels
Quotes from Reviews
Among the supporting cast, at least Sophia Myles, playing Selene’s pouting rival Erika, has ‘conniving’ down to a science. Combine that with her arresting looks, and she can claim a memorable supporting turn.
The Daily Orange
Among the supporting cast, Sophia Myles (‘From Hell’) deserves notice for the spunk she brings to the role of vampire vixen Erika. The buxom blonde, a constant foil for Selene, serves as a fun reminder to the audience that all the film’s characters, whether hero or villain, are doers of evil.
… and Jealous Blonde Vampire Erika (Sophia ‘New Kate Winslet TM’ Myles) …Terrific Supporting Roles… but Myles is good, though her character mysteriously disappears towards the end of the film.
The SF Site
Sophia Myles, as Selene’s rival Erika, provides a catty distraction that’s kept strictly as a plot device, but watch for the mildly fun scene where she jumps to the ceiling.
The only time that you see one of the vampires fly up and stick to a ceiling is when Erika (Sophia Myles) gets fairly startled to find out that Michael (Scott Speedman) was bitten and is thus a werewolf.
Quotes from Sophia
Underworld was really good fun. I play a vampire called Erika. She’s basically the personal assistant to the head vampire in the house, Kraven, und she’s a feisty little minx. She’s a tomboy, she has no loyalty to anyone, and she’s on a mission to take over the whole house. I really enjoyed playing her. It was great fun and a really nice team of people to work with. The film really gave me the chance to do something totally different and be a bit more rock ‘n’ roll than anything I’d done in the past. I thought it would be quite cool to do an action film, because I’d never done anything like that before. I’m just up for trying different things all the time.
Oh, it was great. I loved working with her [Kate Beckinsale]. It was also great to have another British girl on the set. It was a fabulous experience. And obviously she’s a good actress and very beautiful.
I like playing the bad guy. I loved playing the bad vampire when I did Underworld.