Daughters of Darkness: The Banality of Evil

Always beware of a Hungarian countess named after Elizabeth Báthory

The best horror films have a way of numbing your judgement; that, after a while, you can’t bother contemplating a world outside of an over-heated, hermetically sealed dreamscape. You forgive sloppy plot points and overt contrivances, as judgement is suspended in this dark land with such a foreign language and customs.

Daughters of Darkness (1971) is more a murder mystery than a horror film. It’s one of the few vampire films that at least hints at the role of mental illness behind the fangs. That’s strange in itself. Though made in 1971, there is little in the film that’s dated…. As I said, it’s a hermetically sealed dreamscape.

The film has only four main characters—Stefan Chilton, the son of an aristocratic British family, his newly-wed wife, Valerie, a Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Báthory, and her assistant, Ilona. It does a lot with a little.

A variety of sexual preferences amongst our quarto of characters adds a background energy, tilting the narrative, adding a sensuality in unexpected places.

When a vampire film names its chief provocateur after a sixteenth century Hungarian noblewoman and alleged serial killer from the family of Báthory, you begin to get the vibe on this mental illness angle. Again, it tilts the narrative—in this case, toward a very contemporary setting, pushing vampirism toward normality. The banality of evil is what makes it truly scary.

Daughters of Darkness takes you, by the hand, to where you don’t want to go, to meet people who are truly dreadful… And that’s why it remains… undead.

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