Sometimes the word “strange” gets stretched so far it no longer seems to fit.
Which is clearly the case here.
Some people have compared Violet City to Sin City, but that really doesn’t convey quite the right idea. Yes, both use strong black and white imagery with bursts of color, and heavily stylized backgrounds that aren’t really meant to be quite real. But a closer analogy would be Guy Maddin’s oddball, silent-movie inspired stylistics.
We even get title cards and silent sequences throughout, even if the director, John Maxwell, also uses plenty of dialogue as well.
The settings seem an odd nightmarish amalgam of styles and places (supposedly colaged from cities all over the world), and the world it portrays is clearly nightmarish as well: its decadent rulers live for pleasure and political scheming thanks to the devil’s bargain they’ve made with the sinister Empusa. There are gardens full of carnivorous plants, unpleasant ways to dispatch your enemies, a sinister, nihilistic cult, and violent street gangs. Lots and lots of violence.
They called it a “steampunk gothic fantasy” which does seem to cover most of the bases. We have primitive lighter-than-air ships, talk of curses and “demons” (who in fact turn out to be something far different than we imagined).
It’s all tied together (somewhat loosely) with a decidedly Lovecraftian notion of an invasion from another dimension and genetic engineering.
By now you know whether you want to see this one or not. It’s well made, and has a lot of depth to its story, so it is mostly a question of your personal tolerance for the strange and disturbing. It’s that sort of film.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.