DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Directed by: Harry Kumel

Written by: Harry Kumel, J.J. Amiel & Pierre Drouot

Starring: Danielle Ouimet, John Karlen, Delphine Seyrig & Andrea Rau

In the realm of vampire movies, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS is acclaimed by certain crowds, but remains forgotten and overlooked by an equal amount of people. Those who have seen the film mostly sing its praises, but a lot of people haven’t even heard of this artistic Belgium take on the undead bloodsuckers. I never even knew this film existed until I listened to a group of critics discussing it on the Halloween episode of a certain movie podcast. Their conversation peaked my interest enough to the point where I decided to give this flick a look for this year’s horror-centric season and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Besides featuring a sound bite that I instantly recognized from Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl” (something that I thought was pretty cool), DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS is a beautifully filmed and well-constructed view of vampires that offers something out of the ordinary.

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Valerie and Stefan are two newly weds with their honeymoon officially underway. After they wind up stranded in the middle of Belgium, the couple decide to spend the night at an elegant, but deserted hotel. They decide to stay a little longer when two more guests make their presence known. The mysterious new arrivals are Countess Elizabeth Bathory (yes, that Elizabeth Bathory) and her reluctant assistant, Ilona. It becomes quickly apparent that Stefan is mistreating Valerie and Countess Bathory takes an interest in their relationship. Soon, the vacationing couple find themselves under the spell of the blood-sucking Bathory and sexual Ilona.

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DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS is exquisitely shot and each frame exudes a strong gothic atmosphere. The location of the deserted Belgium hotel (mostly filmed at an actual hotel as opposed to sound stages) is a great setting for this story and the sparse rooms (seeing as there are only a handful guests staying at the hotel) make it that much creepier. You get the sense that even if the characters made a commotion and needed immediate help, it wouldn’t be coming for a while. This makes certain plot developments in the second half much more believable as well. DAUGHTERS gets off to a slow deliberate pace in the beginning and then really begins to pick up once we see what Bathory and Ilona are capable of. The benefit of having this story take place among a cast of four in one main location almost makes it feel like you’re watching a play adapted onto the screen.

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Besides having an almost German Expressionist quality to the visuals and atmosphere, DAUGHTERS also utilizes a score that perfectly captures the almost magical tone of the film. The smart script carves out four unique characters and doesn’t force feed you everything that you need to know about them immediately. We know that Bathory and Ilona are trouble right from the start, but the full extent of their relationship doesn’t reveal itself until later through off-hand comments they make to one another. Stefan and Valerie seem like they were made for each other, as they say in the opening scene of the film, but their relationship begins to reveal cracks as it moves forward. DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS has a great screenplay that, though falling prey to a couple of lesbian vampire exploitation moments, tells you just enough about the story and then lets the viewer fill in the rest of the cracks by themselves.

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DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS is one of the most beautifully constructed vampire movies out there and a slice of old-school gothic horror that oozes atmosphere from every scene. The performances from the cast are convincing and the characters are well written. The visuals are stunning and every scene looks like it could be framed as a beautiful portrait. The film isn’t a straight-up bloodbath as one might expect from a typical vampire film. Instead, it’s a rather classy affair, which is especially surprising when you consider that it technically falls into the whole cheesy lesbian vampire movement that was happening in the midst of 70’s horror filmmaking. I wouldn’t be surprised if DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS launched that whole movement forward to begin with. Overall, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS is a beautifully made vampire flick that’s ripe for rediscovery and one of the more underrated horror flicks to come out of the 1970’s!

Grade: A-

Comments

  1. Negative. This film sucks, in a bad way. Crap story, acting, editing, etc. Worst acting since Suspiria.

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