Bela Kiss was one of the the most brutal serial killers, who killed 23 young women during the beginning of the first World War. The blood-drained bodies were found in metal barrels, conserved in alcohol.
The story of serial killer Bela Kiss is an intriguing one. If you’re at all like me, I went through a phase where I became really interested in these real life killers and their stories. Bela Kiss is one which was very unique from the others.
He operated in a town near Budapest in the early 1900’s where he was thought to be responsible for the murders of 24 girls whose bodies were found pickled in giant metal drums. The bodies were all found with puncture wounds in their necks and the bodies were drained of blood.
He fought in World War 1 and was sought after by police but was never found. There were numerous sightings of him over the years and in places as far away from his home as New York City as late as 1932. He was never found and some believed he was a vampire. So it comes as no surprise someone decided to turn this story into a film and this someone is first time feature director Lucien Forstner. While his take on the story is often long winded and convoluted, there’s some pretty stunning cinematography and the staging of certain sequences is often pulse-pounding.
Set in the now, a group of thieves pull off a daring bank heist and have made it to their safe point, a strange hotel in the middle of the woods, where they will hide out until the search for them has been called off. Once they have settled in, it becomes apparent something isn’t quite right with the manager or the patrons. Julia (Kristina Klebe ROB ZOMBIE’S HALLOWEEN) begins to suspect something is up when she begins hearing strange noises in the middle of the night.
She is torn between her boyfriend Felix (Ben Bela Bohm) and childhood friend Nikolai (Fabian Stumm) while still holding on to the dream she may find the family that abandoned her as a child. The hotel harbors a dark secret, one which will bring death to some but eternal life to others.
BELA KISS: PROLOGUE has the makings of a cult classic but falls a bit short. I really wanted to love this film but it ended up being far more difficult to sit through than it should have. The film feels far too long (it runs 1hr and 46min) for what it is and it seems like the pacing of the picture is uneven. I found myself getting antsy waiting for something to happen and that just isn’t a good sign.
The cast is very good and helps to keep you invested, especially the performance of Kristina Klebe who is far too often overlooked as an actress. Her innocence and believability is a trait which helps to save much of the film. The story of Bela Kiss is told in flashbacks using a dream-like technique and an abundance of slow motion which never hinders it and creates a vivid nightmarish type of world. These sequences are definite highlights which show off the talents of the director. Rudolf Martin plays Bela in these sequences and is frightening yet feels very human.
The present day storyline builds and builds but doesn’t pay off until the final act. I was hoping for a bit more gore but it was relatively restrained. With a very solid story in place, the major fault of the film is the length and pacing. The first hour of the film really drags along and may cause some folks with short attention spans to just tune out.
The title does suggest this is just the first part of a grander story and hopefully the next film (if there is one) learns from this one and tells a much tighter tale. As it is, BELA KISS: PROLOGUE just barely makes the grade. If the director can tighten his storytelling leading up to the larger set pieces then maybe the next one can succeed where the first film failed. **1/2 (out of 5)