Metamorphosis (2007)

Rating:

UK/Germany/Hungary. 2007.

Crew

Director – Jeno Hodi, Screenplay – Tibor Fonyodi, Jeno Hodi & Allan Katz, Producers – Leander Carell, Jenö Habermann, Patrick Knippel, Adrian Politowski & Steffen Reuter, Photography – Geza Sinkovics & Martin Szecsanov, Music – Gabor Presser, Visual Effects – Glassworks (Supervisor – Hector Macleod), Visual Effects Design – Jörn Meyer, Special Effects Supervisors – Florian Kaposi, Jan Kruse & Zoltan Pataki, Production Design – Jenö Ujvary. Production Company – CinePartners Entertainment/Schmidtz & Katze Filmkollektiv/Film Art/SP Films/Terra Film/Scion Films

Cast

Corey Sevier (Keith), Irena A. Hoffman (Elizabeth Bathory – Present Day), Christopher Lambert (Constantine Thurzo), Charlie Hollway (J.J.), Jennifer Higham (Kim), Zolee “Doglegy” Ganxsta (Igor), Florentine Lahme (Sabine), Andras Kern (Brother Alexis), Janos Kulka (Father Brakos), Anja Kruse (Sister Catherine), Adel Kovats (Elizabeth Bathory)


Plot

The American Keith, his best friend J.J. and J.J.’s girlfriend Kim travel through the Hungarian countryside. Keith is writing a thesis on the legendary Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who is reputed to have bathed in blood. They become lost and pass through a graveyard where they meet the mysterious Elizabeth who offers to show them the way to the Bathory castle. She becomes interested in Keith after he says he believes that Elizabeth Bathory was misunderstood. The two of them become lovers. However, as the journey continues, increasing evidence mounts to show that Elizabeth might be a vampire.


The story of the 16th-17th Century Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory has become a legend. Elizabeth Bathory is believed to be one of the most prolific serial killers in history, with between some 80-600 victims to her name. She procured her victims from among local peasantry, taking them on as servants where she then tortured and murdered them. She was reputed to have bathed in their blood in the belief that it would keep her skin youthful. This has been cited by some academics as the basis for the character of Dracula, although the story of her bathing in blood may be an apocryphal one. Mostly it appears that she relished the sadism and cruelty, which her position of power gave her almost unlimited right to until she killed the daughter of a minister and the authorities stepped in.

Her story has fuelled a number of films. These have included:– Hammer’s supposedly true historical account Countess Dracula (1971) where she was played by Ingrid Pitt; in Daughters of Darkness (1971) where she turns up in a present-day Belgian hotel played by Delphine Seyrig; in various of Paul Naschy’s Waldemar Daninsky films with The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman (1971), Return of the Werewolf (1973) and Night of the Werewolf (1981); the Spanish The Legend of Blood Castle/The Bloody Countess/The Female Butcher (1973) played by Lucia Bose; played by Paloma Picasso in an episode of the erotic anthology Immoral Tales (1974); played by Diane Witter in the obscure Bathory (2000); played by Caroline Néron in the present-day Canadian erotic thriller Eternal (2004); in the present-day played by Michelle Bauer in Fred Olen Ray’s Paul Naschy homage Tomb of the Werewolf (2004); in the cheap Night Fangs (2005); with modern-day girls travelling back in time in Demon’s Claw (2006); in the present-day Dracula’s Curse (2006); in the present-day in the animated Hellboy: Blood and Iron (2007); in the softcore Blood Countess (2008); mixed up with the Dracula story in Blood Scarab (2008); as a present-day abstinence campaigner (Louise Griffiths) in Chastity Bites (2013); as the female Jerry Dandridge (Jaime Murray) in Fright Night 2 (2013); in Lady of Csejte (2015) played by Svetlana Khodchenkova; even in the midst of a videogame in Stay Alive (2006) and as the host of a horror anthology in Countess Bathoria’s Graveyard Picture Show (2007), while Eli Roth homages her activities in Hostel Part II (2007). There were two attempts to set the historical record straight with Bathory (2008) starring Anna Friel, and The Countess (2009), directed by and starring Julie Delpy.

One was drawn to Metamorphosis on the grounds that it showed a good deal of promise. For one, it had a Hungarian director and was shot in Hungary. A Countess Bathory film that comes with the advantage of being made by a people who have the history and culture, as well as makes use of the countryside and locales where the events took place, offers something that any other Elizabeth Bathory film would be hard-pressed to beat. This immediately gives the production far more authenticity than any Hollywood attempt to recreate the historical period would.

Only Metamorphosis ends up being made by Jeno Hodi, a director who is elsewhere known for thriller and action movie video-fodder hackwork like Deadly Obsession (1989), American Kickboxer 2 (1993), Fatal Choice (1995), Triplecross (1995) and Black Sea Raid (1997). After an historical prologue, about the first thing that Hodi has done is to promptly move the story to the present-day and fill the central roles with alternately blandly pretty boy and crassly annoying American twentysomethings. In almost no time at all, Metamorphosis heads down into extremely bad movie territory. Jeno Hodi’s direction, put plainly, is terrible – there is zero conviction to anything that happens throughout the film. Though Hodi has lived in the US for a number of years and has made an effort to bring in an American on script, the dialogue does not feel like anything that a native American-speaker would say.

The point that Metamorphosis goes from bad to abysmal is in the last fifth or so of the running time when Christopher Lambert is revealed to be the real bad guy. There are ghastly lines: “What do you want?” to which Lambert replies, “Only to kill you and drink your blood. Is that too much to ask?” It’s a line that might have emerged okay with an actor who could present it with a modicum of threat, but instead Lambert’s delivery is posturing camp. In the 1980s and early 90s, Lambert was an A-list name but since then has appeared in a great many bad B-action movies. However, Metamorphosis would have to be the single worst performance that Christopher Lambert has ever given. He is completely dreadful and his campy performance reduces a potentially interesting series of scenes where he addresses a number of vampire myths, at the same time as he is taunting victims, into something that resembles grand burlesque. His character has been written in for the express purpose of deconstructing vampire cliches. The part is written and played as a bored, world-weary vampire – but then we laughably learn that Lambert has only been a vampire for two days. Here the script also blatantly cheats, letting us think in the early scenes that Lambert is simply a relative who is upset at the way the superstitious locals treat his brother.

One of the pluses of Metamorphosis is Irena A. Hoffman who brings an ethereal beauty that often transcends the awfulness of the dialogue. However, the film is weighed against her. Her lines verge on the campy: “I never eat in restaurants” or “Sorry, I hate evil people.” And then there are the completely absurd scenes where she suddenly turns into a martial artist to defeat opponents, not the least of which is how badly and unconvincingly these scenes are directed, Jeno Hodi’s reputation as an action movie director notwithstanding. The initial twist that Elizabeth is a vampire and that she is Elizabeth Bathory’s daughter, not Elizabeth herself, can be seen coming a long way off (indeed, from about the point that she steps out of a graveyard and announces her name is Elizabeth).

(Winner in this site’s Worst Films of 2007 list).



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