If you’re a horror fan or have an interest in history you’ve most likely heard of Elizabeth Bathory. There’s been many films that incorporates the legend including Countess Dracula (1970) to recent teen supernatural slasher Stay Alive (2006). I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see a version that had originally cast Bond Girl baddie Famke Janssen as Báthory... Replaced by Brit chick talent, London Boulevards Anna Friel.
This story follows the rise and fall of one of history’s most prolific serial killers, Countess Báthory who supposedly bathed in virgins blood to stay youthful.
This is a comprehensive fictionalised TV version directed and written by Juraj Jakubisko with mixed production values in both tone and atmosphere. The setting is fantastic and breathtaking, however, the exterior scenes lack the Gothic feel that the interiors have.
As a TV film, in several parts, the Monks narration and involvement arguably fits, however, as a film it may have benefited from the omission of the character entirely. You’ll also either love or hate the involvement of painter Caravaggio. Historical inaccuracies aside and the unnecessary humour injected usually by the monk, this incarnation of the legend is very interesting and adds food for thought to the tale of Báthory. In addition, it gives an interesting portrayal of politics,religion and royalty.
Anna Friel is fantastic as the miss-judged Erzsébet Báthory and gives a wonderful performance, full of range and emotional depth. It’s not all out horror, a possible nod to Ingrid Pitt in Countess Dracula. Co-Star Karel Roden is on top form as Juraj Thurzo and Vincent Regan is notable. The supporting cast do just that. The principle characters have strong motivations for their actions and the morale choices are at times shades of grey.
It’s not without its faults but there’s a handful of interesting dream and hallucination sequences and enough twists on the tale to keep you watching. This coupled with some fine locations, costumes and performances makes Bathory worth your time.