Tuesday, August 3, 2021

#2,594. Daughters of Darkness (1971)


At first glance, director Harry Kumel’s Daughters of Darkness looks like a run-of-the-mill exploitation film (the movie opens with a sex scene, set on a train). But with its multi-layered characters and stylized approach to the material, it quickly becomes apparent this vampire flick has more in common with an arthouse production than it does your typical bit of Eurosleaze. 

The recently married Stefan (John Karlen) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet) are honeymooning in the seaside town of Ostend, Belgium. Because it’s the off-season, only one other guest has checked into the spacious hotel: the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig), who is sharing a room with her assistant Ilona (Andrea Rau). 

The hotel’s concierge (Paul Esser) claims he remembers the last time the Countess stayed there, and even though it was 40 years ago, she doesn’t look as if she’s aged a day! 

 Is the Countess a vampire, and if so, why is she so determined to befriend Stefan and Valerie? 

Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Eduard van der Enden, Daughters of Darkness is as much a character study as it is a horror film. Seyrig brings a likability to the Countess, even though we realize early on there’s something sinister about her (she’s immediately smitten with Valerie, and goes out of her way to impress the young bride), and Karlen shines as Stefan, whose secretive nature may be masking a dark side that his new wife knows nothing about (he refuses to tell his mother that he’s married, and a day trip to Bruges reveals that he’s fascinated by death). 

While it does move slower than your average ‘70s horror film, Daughters of Darkness nonetheless offers viewers more than a few cheap thrills, and those with patience will find it a rewarding experience. 
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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