Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daughter of Darkness (USA, 1990)

A pleasant enough film to pass the time with on a rainy day, but best not mistaken for the infinitely better 1971 Belgium film Daughters of Darkness (Les lèvres rouges) from Harry Kumel. Kumel’s classic slice of eurotrash is a stylish, adult horror film about a honeymooning couple who cross paths with the lesbian vampire Elisabeth Bathory, whereas Stuart Gordon’s film is a mildly watchable TV flick that concerns a young American woman who comes to Communist Romania in search of her father only to get unexpectedly involved with a circle of nasty vampires.
Mia Sara plays the said American young lady, and she wanders attractively through the role she has patented since her movie debut in Ridley Scott’s disappointing 1985 fantasy Legend (trailer), that of sensitive but strong-willed woman facing danger. As nightmare-ridden Katherine Thatcher, she comes to Romania after the death of her mother in search of the father she has never met. Her search takes her from the US embassy to a nightclub located at the last known address of her father and to the basement workshop of Anton (Anthony Perkins—looking much older than he does in the photo left), haunted along the way by unknown attackers and frightening, moody nightmares. Finally, just as she’s about to let herself get bedded by Grigore, the nightclub owner and vampire heavy of the movie, it is revealed that she is the flesh and blood daughter of a human (her dead mother) and a vampire, Prince Constantine (AKA Anton). Grigore and the other vampires see her as the salvation of their dying race, but Daddy just wants her to be left alone and human. Into the dungeon she goes, but then she gets away, so Constantine gets tied down by the other vampires to die at dawn by the rays of the sun, but then Katherine comes to save him and destroy all vampires, only to be caught in a trap. Big showdown, all vampires burn, a singed-black Grigore breaks through a brick wall to get revenge but Daddy/Constantine/Anton regains enough strength to save his daughter and some dorky blond-haired diplomat guy. The last scene is a dolefully misfired attempt at misplaced humour when the two kiss and fall over in front of some statue.
Daughter of Darkness is one of the numerous relatively mediocre mid-career projects of Stuart Gordon, who as any true fan of horror films knows burst onto the scene in 1985 with a true masterpiece, Re-Animator (trailer), a film that consistently holds up to its reputation. But within five years of his masterful debut, and despite some better than average films such as From Beyond (1986) and the misunderstood Dolls (1986), it almost looked like Stuart Gordon was going the way of many a filmmaker ranging from Orson Welles to George Romero in that he was having a hard time managing to whip up the same magic that he did in his first film(s). Indeed, films such as Fortress (1993) and Robo Jox (1990/trailer) seemed to indicate a true loss of creativity and talent. Luckily, his films of the new century, whether genre projects or not, have seen him back in form, so he need not yet be written off (as one can George Romero).
On the other hand, Daughter of Darkness, a television film probably done to put food on the table, can be written off. As a TV film, it fairs well enough, but it ain't anything to jump up and down about. Gordon transfers Budapest, Hungary into a convincingly oppressive and depressive Romania, the dream sequences do display some of his old flare, and the vampires "biting" technique is unexpectedly grotesque, but the script could have been much better developed, for the dialogue spouted is sometimes atrocious, the attempts at humour all misplaced, the story development seriously lacking, and the characterisation—especially that of Katherine and the dorky diplomat—gawd awful.
That said, you should better rent a copy of Re-Animator....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for review ,I just got this film ''Daughter of Darkness'' on a 9 movie collection Dvd put out by Echo Bridge Entertainment ,but havn't opened or watched it yet..After I view the movie ,I'll post a comment or two on it ! ..Fantasm ,Phx ,Az

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