Thursday, November 10, 2016

Honourable Mention: Blood Countess (2015)

Also known as Lady of Csejte, this 2015 film that was directed by Andrei Konst was released as Blood Countess on UK DVD. The cover taglines the film with “Satanist * Serial Killer * Vampire”, which boded well from our point of view. The tagline lies. Whilst there is the serial killer aspect (which is mostly hidden from view, bizarrely) there is not a hint of Satanism or vampirism given. Hence we move to giving this an honourable mention as Erzsébet Báthory – Anglicised in the credits to Elizabeth – is always of genre interest.

So, beyond a dvd box hinting of horrors not contained in film, the film does try to up the ante by making her a child killer rather than the standard lady killer of legend. Listing 650 children being killed in the opening intertitle, the film does contain a ledger of her kills – each illustrated and the tortures described in detail. This led to two thoughts. Firstly, the book is too thin to detail 650 murders in such depth. Secondly the film does not hold true to its convictions – it tries to up the ante by suggesting that the Countess (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is a child killer and then does not stray anywhere near that territory in reality.

the kids
However, because she preys on children the film then gives us two child protagonists, Aletta (Isabelle Allen) and Mischa (Lucas Bond). This could have been problematic except that Isabelle Allen offers a remarkably mature performance, and whilst Lucas Bond is perhaps a tad over enthusiastic his character called for that. They play a pair of gypsy children. He is an ace escapologist, whilst she has the gift of the gab. They are missing their older sister Katja (Ada Condeescu) who vanished the year before. They are observed by agents of the Countess, Dorata (Lia Sinchevici) and Ilona (Alexandra Poiana).

Báthory's agents
The agents steal the kids' hard-earned monies (that they hid in a fallen tree trunk) and then, when the pair start pickpocketing in order to recoup some monies, ensure they are caught and brought before a judge (Claudiu Trandafir, Dracula: the Dark Prince & Transylmania). They then offer to take Aletta in to the castle and, when she says she is responsible for her brother, extend the offer to him. There is an orphanage in the castle, it seems. The Countess takes a shine to Aletta and makes her part of her personal staff.

Hapsburg knight
Meanwhile there is a Hapsburg knight in the village looking for evidence of wrongdoing in the vicinity of the castle, in order to get the judge to agree to them searching the castle itself. The judge, however, is reticent and refuses even when they bring him a hand taken from a shallow grave. The search for Katja will bring the siblings into Báthory’s bad graces and that will snowball to trigger the castle search. But what of Elizabeth’s blood bathing?

Svetlana Khodchenkova as Elizabeth
We get a hint of it, with Aletta cleaning what looks like dried blood from the side of a steel bath. Báthory claims it is the residue from Parisian bath oils – good for the complexion. And that is it… No blood bathing scene, no claiming it magically makes her younger. We see one poor lad dragged off in the night and later see him alive but his hands bandaged. We then simply get a couple of descriptions of torture from the ledger the Countess keeps. We see a couple of adults murdered also.

trail of blood
It really is a cop out. Why up the ante to child killer and then chicken out of showing anything? Why make a film of Báthory, go down the “she’s evil” route and then not have a blood bathing scene? All in all there is very little point (in the opening scene we see her walking and, as the camera pulls back, she leaves a trail of blood – but it is arty not realistic and presumably ties into Aletta’s visions and the fact that she narrates the opening and closing of the film). All in all a wasted opportunity.

The imdb page is here.

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