More Than She Seems – Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Most people when they think of horror think of brutality and the worst that immediately and easily comes to mind. Things like monsters and serial killers, blood and guts and the like. Pure, blunt horror. This film is the exact opposite of that. Daughters of Darkness is subtle, stylish and seductive. It entrances you and sucks you in, curling around the corners of your mind as it seeps further and further in until you are unsure of what is happening, much like the characters in the film. The only difference is that for the viewer, it is a good thing while for the characters in this little soiree, it is something else entirely.

daughters-of-darknessThat creeping, subtle horror manifests itself in the form of an older, yet beautiful woman in the form of actress Delphine Seyrig. She is dazzling, both in wit and beauty and she uses both to get what she wants in the film. Playing Elizabeth Báthory, she spies a young couple from afar as they are staying the same hotel as she is and there is nothing she wants more, though for the most nefarious of purposes. Seyrig essentially carries the film and for the most part, she is what keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Danielle Ouimet and John Karlen are good and at first you think they are going to be the focus of the film and in a way they are, just not in the way you immediately imagined. As Seyrig starts to inject herself into the lives of the young couple, so she does into your consciousness and being the Countess Báthory, you know what it is that she wants and watching her go about it is nefarious to say the least.

daughters-of-darknessFor the bulk of director Harry Kümel’s movie, the setting is an old hotel in Belgium. The quality of the production is fantastic with some good set design present, the hotel specifically, and some exquisite costumery making Seyrig almost seem ethereal at times amidst all the drab, or so it seems when compared to her. And while the movie looked good and featured quality acting, it was slowly paced which might turn some people off. The writing by J.J. Amiel, Pierre Drouot and Kümel was strong and whether it was through action or dialogue, the film never failed to entrance. Being a film about a vampire, and falling into that sub-genre involving lesbian vampires, one might compare it to the Karnstein trilogy put out by Hammer or Vampyros Lesbos by Jess Franco. The difference between them all is that in this film, Seyrig herself is responsible for the horror within and she does so without ever revealing what she is, at least not completely and not until the latter half of the picture. The horror in those aforementioned films was more visceral than this one and thus some may not appreciate the skill that went into the effort of making of this film. There is of course some nudity and a little violence and being a horror film coming out of the 1970s; it is almost a prerequisite to feature such things.

In all, the film was fairly exceptional. The scene where Karlen describes the actions of Báthory, the woman from the past and not supposedly the woman in front of him, of the torture and the killing that she did was highly memorable and more than a little disturbing. There are many scenes in the movie that tend to stay with you for a while after the film ends and proves just how well the filmmakers did their job. After viewing this film, you will be hard-pressed to think of anyone else as the fabled countess, so good was Seyrig’s performance. Daughters of Darkness is a truly great movie, horror film or otherwise.

4.5 out of 5

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