"Moonlight" begins with a laid-back vampire PI being interviewed in his mind, defining what about vampires is legend and what is real. "I don't hunt innocents. But there's predators out there that need to be dealt with."
It's a quirky reversal of Anne Rice tradition, and it sets the tone for a very unique blend of vampire tale and urban mystery -- and sadly it ended too soon. Especially since Alex O'Loughlin is an absolutely inspired vampire detective, and the quick direction, good CGI and snappy writing save this from being another cheesy vampire story.
Mick St. John (O'Laughlin) is a vampire detective in L.A. -- where there has recently been a vampiresque murder of a college student. But though the student was obsessed with vampires, Mick soon realizes that she wasn't murdered by one. And with the assistance of Beth Turner (Sophia Myles) -- who insists he looks familiar -- Mick uncovers a weird little vampire-obsessed cabal at Hearst college, and a professor whose infatuation with undeath goes beyond mere fanaticism.
And there are plenty of other nasty cases -- an ex-con gunning for the vampire detective, a forced stay in the desert, "Black Crystal," a feral newbie vampire, a hooker-killing teenage vampire, a supposedly-dead cult killer, a killer gang going after Beth's boyfriend, a Hollywood starlet, an attempt to kill Mick's mentor, and a vampire who threatens to "out" every single vampire in L.A.
But no vampire story is complete without the nasty pasts and romantic tension -- Beth discovers Mick's true nature, and finds herself drawn to him until she's hit by a terrible personal tragedy. And Mick is confronted by a woman who looks suspiciously like Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon) -- his dead ex-wife, and the woman who made him a vampire.
Most vampire stories, whether on TV or in movies, are so abysmally cheesy that you could slice them up and serve them with wine and crackers. Fortunately "Moonlight" succeeds in being quite a bit better -- not a lot of vampiric superpowers (beyond enhanced senses and healing), fangs and glowing eyes. The writers even poke fun at some of the old cliches ("Garlic... is good on pizza").
The weakest part of "Moonlight" is the crimes themselves -- most are fairly ordinary murder mysteries. But the series does succeed in balancing out the vampire stuff with the private eye plots, and as the series winds on and becomes far more complex, the vampiric element becomes more essential to every story. Quick swooping camerawork, fast-moving plots, some nice nasty action.
And these vampires are done with tongue in cheek, whether it's their un-cliche living conditions (sleek minimalist apartments and mansions) or their easy use of modern technology ("If I hadn't become a vampire I would have missed out on the Internet, TIVO, World of Warcraft and GPS").
That slightly offbeat style is helped by the dialogue ("Can you fly?" "Just like Superman." " Really?" "No.... it would be pretty cool, wouldn't it?"). For the record, the best lines are all from Josef ("Well, the blood lust can be pretty heavy when you're first turned. And you could really lose it. I know I did. Damn, those were good times!").
Alex O'Loughlin is excellent as a vampire PI haunted by his past and his vampiric nature ("monsters don't get happily ever after"), but handling it with a wry sense of humor, brains, and enhanced senses. He even goes through some ups-and-downs that most fictional vampires don't, such as temporarily becoming sort-of-human, but fortunately O'Laughlin keeps him from becoming emo.
Myles is pretty decent as the pretty reporter who begins to wonder if a human and a vampire can find love, and Sossamon is brilliant as the mysterious Coraline. And Jason Dohring absolutely steals the show as the witty, happily amoral Josef ("She's delicious. '82 was a good year"), who nevertheless has his own sad past.
"Moonlight" manages to avoid the cheeze factor, and this all-too-brief series succeeds in being a unique blend of vampire love story and murder mystery. Definitely worth seeing.