Depicts the intense and fractured relationship between a lonely teenager and a beautiful stranger.
Stephen Rea is such a brilliant actor. Sadly, over the last several years he has found himself taking part in films that aren’t exactly worthy of his talent (ASYLUM was complete garbage). Thankfully, ANGELS OF DARKNESS is far more deserving. It also happens to be another re-telling of the classic tale CARMILLA. It’s a story known to pre-date DRACULA about a female vampire seducing a young girl. So we know where the story is going but the execution is beautiful.
The gothic look reminds me of the early days of Hammer and the acting is top notch all the way around. Selling the picture is the stand-out central performance from Eleanor Tomlinson, without her trevails and bravery as an actress, this could have easily fallen apart. Her performance may have stood out but that isn’t to say the rest of the cast isn’t really good. First time feature directors Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf successfully modernize (sort of, it takes place in the late 80’s) the classic tale while stearing clear of modern tropes like sparkling vamps. It may be slow moving but it will appeal to the arthouse crowd more than anyone else.
Dr. Hill (Stephen Rea) and his daughter Lara (Eleanor Tomlinson) cross a Hungarian border into Styria where he has some important work to do in an old castle. He’s a art historian and the old castle has a treasure trove of murals he’s anxious to discover. His work comes before his daughter, leaving her to entertain herself.
Even if he puts work ahead of her, he still tends to be overly protective which she resents. Lara was forced to go along on the trip because she was expelled from school for allegedly pushing another girl down a stairwell. Her father hires Eva (Erika Marozsan) to be her tutor so she doesn’t get behind in her studies. Struggling with her mental state, Lara takes a walk in the woods only to witness a car crash and a young woman who flees, looking for help. Her name is Carmilla (Julia Petruchia) and is a tortured soul as well. The two girls form a quick bond but things aren’t always as it seems. Girls in the area appear to be killing themselves in large numbers but is this really what’s happening? Or is the truth hidden deep within the walls of the castle.
ANGELS OF DARKNESS (aka STYRIA) toys with new ideas and a new way to see the vampire legend. In older folklore, some believed people who committed suicide can become the undead. It’s lesser known but interesting and the film plays with this legend. It’s an idea I really enjoyed and would like to see it explored further in other films. The filmmakers go to great lengths to establish a look and atmosphere. There’s a flow and rythm to each scene, slowly moving the story forward. For the two directors, fresh out of college, their ambitions took them all the way to Hungary for their first feature and the risk paid off. Assembling a cast of brilliant performers is another highpoint. The chemistry between Tomlinson and Petruchia drives the second half of the picture and it’s undeniable. If I had to make a suggestion, the slower pace may have been a bit two slow in a few instances, but overall a welcome departure.
Mark and Mauricio are directors with a clear vision and a distinct voice just waiting to be heard. ANGELS OF DARKNESS isn’t for everyone, it will appeal to fans of dark gothic horror who aren’t affraid to wait for the payoff. Seeing Stephen Rea in a role with wieght and substance gives me hope for the future of film. There are still filmmakers out there taking risks and casting fine actors, not just pretty faces. It wasn’t an easy road for them to travel, even a crowd-funding campaign was used to complete the picutre. It’s now finished and has finally reached an audience, hopefully it will find the RIGHT audience. ****1/2 (out of 5)