Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Metamorphosis – review

Director: Jenö Hodi

Release Date: 2007

Contains spoilers

With the absolute slew of vampire movies being released and re-released at the moment it would be easy for many to slip between the cracks – especially if they only get a limited release. This movie is only available from Germany (so far, and as far as I am aware) but when I saw that Christopher Lambert had performed in a vampire movie I had to get hold of it – I have a soft spot for Lambert and his films.

The film is based around the Erzsébet Báthory story and begins with a rather stylised interpretation of her capture at Castle Csejthe. Okay the castle has been transported from Transylvania to Hungary and Báthory was given a trial (in fact the law was changed to allow her to be tried though she declined the invitation to attend) rather than being summarily walled up but it is a fair enough opening scene which culminates with Báthory (Adél Kováts) biting her captor, Paladine Thurzo (Gábor Koncz), and cursing his family for eternity. He rides off with her daughter and she is walled up in her castle.

Cutting to the modern day and a funeral is taking place. A car pulls up and a man, Constantine Thurzo (Christopher Lambert), runs out and cries “Stop!” The funeral continues and Constantine runs up shouting that it is his brother and he is not to be buried there, he wired from England and his brother is to be taken to the family crypt in the ancestral castle. Constantine is held as the locals stake his brother’s corpse.

Elsewhere three young American college kids are driving through the Hungarian countryside. They are looking for a monastery and are lost. The three are Keith (Corey Sevier), JJ (Charlie Hollway) and Kim (Jennifer Higham). Now we should note that these are our main characters and the characters are not brilliant. We have Keith, the central lead, an obsessive about 17th Century Hungarian, who is writing a book about Báthory, and comes across as a little simpering. JJ is, as a character, a pale facsimile of Jack Goodman from An American Werewolf in London (1981). He even has lines concerning where else they might be on vacation (in this case Las Vegas) and the prime difference is that he has his girlfriend with him, Kim. Kim always seems to be hungry or needing the toilet – can we say cannon fodder, can we say annoying.

Constantine is in the graveyard at night, digging his brother up to take home. He puts the corpse in the boot of the car and gets in the drivers seat. He is attacked by something unseen. The kids pull up and are to approach the car when a young woman, Elizabeth (Irena A Hoffman), appears. She offers to take them to the monastery. We know something is wrong as the rear view mirror of the car breaks as she gets in.

In the car she and Keith talk and we get some Báthory exposition. It seems he sympathises with the character, though is not an apologist for her actions. He believes that, had she committed her acts today, she would have been hospitalised and treated and that she was insane due to the abuse her husband had put her through. It is clear that Keith suffered physical abuse from his father. Again we know that something is wrong, when they reach the monastery, and the cross above the church shudders when Elizabeth approaches.

Following JJ crashing the funeral of a monk, Brother Alexis (András Kern), and an explanation by the priest that they believe in three worlds, the world of the living, Purgatory where you go before moving on to Heaven or Hell, the kids bunk down for the night. This three world system is important as they believe that if you die in Purgatory your soul is destroyed. That evening Elizabeth and Keith sleep together and during she vamps out – but stops herself from biting him.

Long story short, the monastery cannot lead them to Báthory’s castle as Brother Alexis died leading tourists there and they were attacked by wolves. Elizabeth leads them and, it becomes readily clear that she is the daughter of Erzsébet Báthory.
They have a car crash on route to the castle but eventually get to a hut where they meet two tourists, Igor (Zolee Ganxsta) and Sabine (Florentine Lahme) and Brother Alexis. We also note that scenes seem to be strangely repeating. I have read of the ‘twist in the film’ but it was readily clear that the friends have died, they are in Purgatory and Elizabeth is trying to lead Keith to ‘the light’. It seems that vampires can move freely between Purgatory and the Land of the Living. Once at the castle the ‘lost souls’ are hunted by Constantine who has become a vampire also.

It is here that the film kicks up a notch, due to Lambert’s presence. He is a fantastic vampire and obviously relishes the role. When we first see him, Igor shoots him with a crossbow, pinning him to a door. He gives that Christopher Lambert laugh (come on, you know the one I mean) and pulls himself free and then suggests that, should he want to kill him he needs to be higher and to the right. Not only well delivered dialogue but a nice side swipe at the hundreds of vampire movies where the heart seems to have sunk to the stomach!

We do get a lot of lore through Constantine. He is a vampire because Elizabeth did not finish draining him (as the kids arrived at the scene of the attack). Elizabeth herself became a vampire, whilst her mother didn’t, not because of blood drinking (which the mother had the daughter do) but because as a young woman who discovered the fate of her mother she cursed the church. Holy objects do not hurt him. He blows at a cross and it bursts into flames, he calls the bible the world’s bestselling work of fiction before putting a hole through it.

As we have seen Elizabeth out during the day we know sunshine is not an issue, although mirrors cannot capture a vampire’s reflection. The only way to get a vampire is to stake it (at which point they carbonise and crumble). They are faster and stronger than a mortal.

There was some interesting lore and story premise here, but it was derivative – especially if you have seen the movie Graveyard Disturbance (1987) –
a film that not only had a similar (without vampires) premise re Purgatory but was much less obvious about it. That said it was fun to watch, and this was in the main due to Christopher Lambert who does raise the bar for the film and shows the ‘college kids’ how to act. The soundtrack abounds with horror clichés but it becomes clear that the derivative and clichéd moments are knowingly added for effect. The effects work well enough, probably due to the fact that they are sparingly used through most of the film.

I enjoyed this, an above average film and worth the effort. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Iorga said...

Hello there,

Just rented this and I'm about to watch it.
Will let you know what I think via review and read your review after I watch it.

Also rented BLED and Bloodsuckers (to watch again but to review for the first time) and also got some non-horror movies too...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Basarab... I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts :)