Tuesday, August 12, 2008
DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971, directed by Harry Kumel) is the oft-told tale of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, the famous Hungarian countess who is allegedly the most prolific serial killer in recorded history and is known as the "Blood Countess". After her husband's death, she was accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and young women, with one witness attributing to them over 600 victims, though she was only convicted on 80 counts. She was also accused of witchcraft and pagan practices. She died in 1614. Creepy.
Our cinematic journey begins aboard a train where we see a attractive young couple having sex in beautiful blue light. They finish and then declare their "un-love" for each other. Next they arrive at a majestic hotel, where they appear to be the only guests. We learn that they are on their honeymoon, and she's insisting that he tells his mother about her. Somewhere around here we learn their names are Stefan and Valerie. I do hope mother approves!Two women soon arrive at the hotel, a beautiful young woman named Ilona and an older blonde mystery woman. "Madam" checks in and asks for "the royal suite" and signs in as "Countess Elizabeth Báthory." Turns out that the newlyweds already have booked her favorite room so she settles for the adjoining suite. She comments that the couple are "perfect" and Ilona's already visibly jealous. We notice that Ilona has a slight red bruise on her neck. Meanwhile, Stefan cuts his neck while shaving - and gets miffed at Valerie when she tries to look at the wound. What's up with that, Stef? In bed, Valerie struggles to read the newspaper, but manages to find out about three young girls murdered in Bruges. Bone-chilling!
The next day, the couple having a romantic ride in a canal in Bruges, when they suddenly come upon a crime scene. It's the fourth young woman murdered in a week. A stranger tells Stefan that the girl was found with neck wound - but not a trace of blood! Stefan's interest in the crime scene causes him to violently push Valerie out of the way. On the way back to the hotel, she tells him that she's frightened by his behavior - then she snuggles up to him. We notice that the stranger from the crime scene is on the bus with them. Spooky.
Back at the hotel, it's raining, and Elizabeth is killing time by knitting. Ilona's bored already and wants to leave. Stefan and Val return and Elizabeth greets them and invites them for a drink. She has what appears to be a McDonald's Shamrock Shake, while they have regular drinks. Pierre the concierge tells them that the Countess once stayed that the hotel over 40 years ago -and hasn't aged a bit! The late edition of the local newspaper features a cover photo of Stefan and Val at the crime scene. Alarming.
The guy from the crowd shows up at the hotel, he tells Elizabeth that he's "just passing by" - turns out he's a retired cop - and he rambles on about ghosts, vampires, etc.. Elizabeth declares that he's distasteful and dismisses him as Ilona dumps Elizabeth's green drink so Stefan will freshen it up for her. Eerie.
While Stefan searches for the bar, Elizabeth tells Valerie the story of her ancestor, the original Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who drank the blood of hundreds of virgins to stay young, then Stefan returns (drinkless?) and Elizabeth caresses him as they recount the historical horror story together. Val freaks out and storms out of the room, Ilona spies on her causing her to scream when she sees someone out on the balcony. Blood-curdling.
Next, Ilona is naked leaning over a bidet and Val is hysterical. Elizabeth offers her drugs to help her sleep - but Val just says no, she just wants to be alone with her husband. When Stef and Val start going at it we see red marks and we also see that Elizabeth and Ilona are watching them! Disturbing.
Next, Stefan finally calls his "mother" - who turns out to be an effeminate older man wearing make-up. "Mother" tells Stefan that it's "unrealistic' that he married a woman - Huh? Then Stef starts beating Valerie as a full-blown thunderstorm strikes the hotel. What a creep! They then wake up naked with him holding a belt, while she has strap marks on her back. Valerie wakes up and sneaks out - to the train station. But Elizabeth follows her to convince her to stay at the hotel and with Stefan. Weird.
Meanwhile, Ilona visits Stefan in his room - and then performs oral sex on him. Back at the train station, Elizabeth gives Valerie a palm reading that includes a kiss. At the hotel, Stefan tries to get Ilona to shower with him, but she doesn't like getting wet, causing her to freak out. While lashing about, she accidentally cuts her hand on his razor - and then falls on it, stabbing herself to death! Hair-raising.Elizabeth and Valerie walk in on Stefan naked on top of a bloody, naked Ilona. The Countess immediately takes charge and orders Valerie and Stefan around. They roll Ilona's dead body down a hill to the beach where Stefan digs a grave with his hands. Elizabeth, wearing a smart black cape, kick's the corpse into the grave, on top of Stefan! Thud!Driving back to the hotel, Elizabeth knocks the cop off his bicycle. Oops!Once back, Stefan sleeps alone while the gals get into some blonde-on-blonde action in Liz's suite. Val is now completely under her control. Oh My.
So, now it's Stefan who's packing his bags and leaving. He demands that Val come with him. Elizabeth shows up in her fabulous glitterball gown and insists that they join her for dinner in her room. Stefan then wigs out again and starts beating Valerie. Elizabeth tries to suffocate him with a punch bowl, which splits in two - cutting his wrists - and then they feed on his blood! Terrifying.
SPOLIER ALERT! After throwing Stefan's body from the hotel roof and into a swamp, they drive away in Elizabeth's vintage car. By dawn's early light, Val begins to lose control of the car, which crashes. Elizabeth's body is flung from the car and impaled on a tree branch, and then engulfed in flames. Uncanny.
A few months later, Valerie is shown hand-in-hand with a young newlywed couple...she's become Elizabeth. Menacing.
A great flick. Wonderful cinematography, gorgeous sets and a fantastic score help you overlook the plot holes (like who's "mother"?) and the sometimes wooden international acting. I'll give it a 10 outta 10 and highly recommend it to fans of horror, lesbians and old hotels.