Sunday, September 8, 2013

DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Harry Kumel, 1971, Belgium)

A deserted Hotel becomes a sepulcher, echoing dark secrets and mysterious desires. Director Harry Kümel eschews prosaic supernatural conventions for the psychological, creating a seducing character study of libidinous pathology and murderous intent.
Stefan and Valerie are newlyweds caught in a circuitous travelogue, their destination obscured by Stefan’s secretive family tree. It soon becomes evident that the couple married quickly and don’t really know each other which adds to the mounting dread, as Stefan’s behavior becomes erratic and Valerie’s erotic. After checking into a storybook hotel, which beckons like some grand totem of the dead and buried, haunted by memories of long lost souls, they are consumed by two beautiful women who wear their hearts firmly beneath their breasts.
The gorgeous Delphine Seyrig once again assumes an ethereal spirit, evoking the haunting trauma of Alain Resnais’ masterful LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, a shadow dance of confounding immortal narrative. Seyrig portrays Lady Báthory, descendant or deceit, her ageless beauty a vampiric delight, clotting the senses of the two young lovers penetrated by her sexual charm. Kümel corrupts Bram Stoker’s Victorian morality by allowing the women to enjoy their incorporeal seductions, reveling in the pleasures of sex, a matriarchal domination in which men commit willingly. A subplot involving a Detective and a few unsolved murders peaks momentary interest but fails to generate suspense and is concluded rather haphazardly.
Sex and gore are kept to the imagination though the film drips with carnality and blood-lust, where two women become enslaved to their physical desires, embraced by the cold arms of undeath. For Lady Báthory, Evil always races faster than the speed of night.

Final Cut: (B)