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METAMORPHOSIS
DVD. Network.

MetamorphosisVampire movies used to be great. When I was a kid, of all the horror films that filled me with anticipation, none did it moreso than a vampire film – especially, but by no means exclusively, a Hammer vampire film. But then it all went wrong. The rot arguably set in with Frank Langella as the disco Dracula in 1979 (or if you prefer, when Anne Rice started cranking out her dull books), where the emphasis moved from horror to ‘dark romance’, and – the odd effort like Let the Right One In and 30 Days of Night aside – it’s been downhill ever since, with vampires becoming progressively defanged, desexed and descarified, Even superior efforts like Buffy the Vampire Slayer - a show I love - have tended to keep the vampires on a leash, and now we have Twilight and True Blood leading the way in vampyric emasculation.

All of which leads us to Metamorphosis, a clumsy European co-production that has potential but manages to throw it all away thanks to a brutal combination of lousy acting and even lousier dialogue - as well as very little horror to speak of.

Opening up with the capture and imprisonment of Elisabeth Bathory, the action rapidly switches to the present day, where Christopher Lambert turns up in Hungary in time to see his dead brother staked by superstitious peasants and then fall victim to a mysterious vampire attack himself, before the action – if we can call it that – switches to three American tourists who may well be the worst actors this side of Birdemic. They are searching for Bathory’s castle, but instead meet the mysterious Elizabeth (Irena Hoffman), who is soon hooking up with Keith (Corey Sevier), who is researching the Bathory story and believes she was hard done by (all that slaughter of innocents to bathe in their blood being an understandable and forgivable reaction to a childhood of abuse, apparently).

This is the sort of film where people who have just met immediately declare their undying love for each other, and so when Elisabeth vanishes, leaving only a cryptic message about ‘the white light’, Keith is determined to find her, Unfortunately, a road accident leads to a meeting with a supposedly dead priest, a nun, two rough-looking tourists and the most ineffectual pack of savage wolves you will ever see, before the unlikely bunch wind up at a castle, where Lambert – now a vampire and suddenly sporting a ponytail – pops up to cause havoc, spout one-liners and generally chew the scenery, before he has a final martial arts battle – really! - with the returning Elisabeth, who of course is the vampire daughter of Countess Bathory. Then it’s time for the most long-winded plot twist in history, for the few viewers still interested. Oh, and there’s a laughably awful Hungarian hi-hop track to enjoy during the closing scenes.

The sad thing about Metamorphosis is that it has potential – it looks great, from the natural scenery to the locations, and when Lambert is on screen, he really kicks the film up several gears, hamming it up ferociously. But his scenes are brief, and for the most part, we are stuck with unbelievably awful acting from all the leads – I was convinced they’d been dubbed at first, so flat and unconvincing was their delivery, but it seems this actually was shot in English. Horror fans will feel cheated, because theirs is precious little horror here, and even the new generation of Twilight-lovers will surely draw the line at this.

Shot in 2007 you can see why it’s taken so long to appear in the UK. Sadly, Metamorphosis doesn’t quite manage to reach the so-bad-it’s-good level that the acting demands. Instead, it’s just bad. Very, very bad.

DAVID FLINT

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