Daughters of Darkness

(Originally posted to LiveJournal April 2016)

I finally got around to watching Daughters of Darkness, a cult movie from 1971, and what a strange film it is. A newlywed couple, Stefan and Valerie, make a stop in Ostend, Belgium at a deserted resort hotel. They’re the only guests, until the Countess Bathory and her nubile assistant, Ilona, arrive. There’s something a little off in the honeymooning pair’s relationship, made evident when the two make a day trip to Bruges and pass by a murder scene. Back at the hotel, the countess sets her sights on the couple, Stefan eyes Ilona, and a retired detective takes an interest in the countess – who hasn’t aged since the last time she visited the hotel, forty years ago.

The movie, at times, is slow-moving, yet it keeps you engaged. There’s a pleasant, dreamy, soporific quality to it. The locations are intriguing, especially the hotel, and the use of colors, specifically red and white, can lead to a lot of subtext searching. The actors are all good, but it’s Delphine Seyrig’s show. Her face, voice and movements are beguiling; she’s perfect in the role of the countess. Though the movie is often categorized into the lesbian vampire sub-genre, it’s so much more than that. One of the commentaries referred to perversity and that fits, but the movie never feels cheap, sordid or vulgar. The actors are attractive; Valerie, blonde and nordic, Ilona with a Louise Brooks bob and bee-stung lips, the divine countess, the good looking Stefan. As an early seventies art-house horror film, there’s nudity, both male and female, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous, as sexuality is part of the theme. The cinematography, for the most part, is done well and at times, I couldn’t help but think of Blood for Dracula; in fact, Udo Kier’s count and Seyrig’s countess would make a striking couple.

The DVD is from Blue Underground and includes a number of extras; two commentary tracks (I listened to one, with actor John Karlen and journalist David Del Valle, very enjoyable), and a couple of featurettes. The two-disc set includes a bonus movie, The Blood Spattered Bride, also in the lesbian vampire sub-genre, which I have yet to watch. If one’s a fan of early seventies art-house horror, I recommend Daughters of Darkness.

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