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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Angels of Darkness
Angels of Darkness
Revolver Entertainment // Unrated // February 24, 2015
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeremy Biltz | posted March 28, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
J. Sheridan le Fanu's eerie vampire novella Carmilla has had quite a number of film adaptations, from the serious to the silly to the erotic. Some of these have been pretty good, such as Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers, while others have been… less so. Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Dvendorf's Angels of Darkness a/k/a Styria is somewhere in the middle of this pack: well produced but uninspiring.

Stephen Rea is Dr. Hill. It's 1989, and he's gained entry into Hungary in order to study frescoes in an isolated castle before it's torn down. He brings his troubled daughter Lara (Eleanor Tomlinson) with him, since she's been kicked out of her boarding school. Hill hires Miss Pasztor (Erika Marozsan), a local woman from the nearby village Styria, to tutor his daughter. Lara persists in her loneliness, even contemplating returning to self-harm, until a fateful car accident.

Lara is walking in the woods and sees a car lose control and smash into a tree. Carmilla (Julia Pietrucha) is pushed out of the vehicle, and the car rushes off. Lara goes to help the dazed girl, and the two immediately become friends, with Lara meeting up with Carmilla every night for exploring and stargazing, trying on corsets, skinny dipping, etc. Of course, Carmilla is not the innocent young girl she seems, and when mysterious deaths begin to multiply in the village, Lara starts to suspect.

If you're at all familiar with the Carmilla story, you'll know the basic outlines of what happens. And while this is a technically very well put together film, it really can't manage to generate any effective mood or feeling of suspense, two things which are vital for this kind of horror film. To put it kindly, the film is languorously paced. Each scene oozes onward, slowly transitioning to the next scene. Nothing particularly exciting happens. We can't seem to make any emotional attachment to the characters. It's not that they're actively unlikable, just bland and distant.

This is not to say that the film has no merit. The performances are all quite good, especially Jacek Lenartowicz as the menacing yet affable General Spiegel. Rea, Tomlinson and Pietrucha are all doing very good work as well, but they just aren't given a lot to do besides look pensive. There are moments of real tension, and the story is truly disturbing at times, but this is never maintained for very long. The locations, especially the castle, are great, and there are a number of powerful visuals. The music is also impressive, with tracks from The Jesus and Mary Chain and Joy Division on the soundtrack. But none of this technical accomplishment means anything without a compelling story, and that we don't have. There's plenty of material in the Carmilla tale to mine for drama, but that just wasn't done here. Rent it.

The DVD

Video:
The image is 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good. There is some slight grain from time to time, but otherwise no real issue. The colors are bright or dank, depending on the mood being evoked. The film really captures the eerie, wooded countryside well.

Sound:
The audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and is serviceable but not great. For the most part, the dialogue is easily heard, but the audio tends to be a bit echo-y, and this will sometimes make the actors hard to understand. The lack of subtitles exacerbates this. But this isn't a problem all the time, just on occasion.

Extras:
No extras are included.

Final Thoughts:
Angels of Darkness is working from great source material, but can't seem to capture the decadent, transgressive and disturbing feel of le Fanu's original. Instead, it's a boring but beautiful ride, with occasional moments of dread. It's not a waste of time to watch, but it's not exactly inspiring either.

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