Daughters of Darkness (1971)
World premiere of Blue Underground’s dazzling new 4K 16-bit scan restoration, taken from the original 35mm camera negative.
We are honored to have Kat Ellinger — editor of Diabolique Magazine and author of the 2019 book Daughters of Darkness (published in Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates series) — introduce this screening and moderate a Q&A with director Harry Kümel following the screening.
One of the most famous Euro-horror films ever and a masterclass in the lesbian vampire subgenre, Harry Kümel’s DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS still haunts our imaginations with its tale of a troubled newlywed couple who cross paths at a Belgian seaside hotel with the wrong vampire at the wrong time — or is it the right one?
At the heart of the film lies Dephine Seyrig in a compelling reimagining of the Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory who — with her unforgettable ‘assistant’ Illona (Andrea Rau) — lures the young couple (Danielle Ouimet and John Karlen) into a complex psychosexual web of intrigue, with an increasing body count linked to a series of mysterious deaths in nearby Bruges.
While unrestrained in its flair for erotic titillation, the legacy of DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS stems from its twist on the lesbian vampire trope that makes women and their desire to find refuge in each other as an escape from sadistic male violence explicit. Even at this point of her career, Seyrig was an established icon of European art cinema through her starring role in Alain Resnais’ LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD (1961), and the feminist spirit she brings to her performance in DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS would become only more explicit in later films such as Chantal Akerman’s JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES (1975), and as co-director of the 1976 short SCUM MANIFESTO, inspired by Valarie Solanas’ notorious work of the same name. This new version of one of the greatest queer horror films ever made reminds us that DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS still packs as much punch as it did upon its first release, and remains just as beautiful, just as disturbing, and just as unforgettable. (ALEXANDRA HELLER-NICHOLAS).