A Very Bad Lieutenant

A Very Bad Lieutenant

Straight bondage in the near-camp guise of Sapphic vampirism

A slick flick being marketed as lesbian vampirism, “Eternal” opens on a dark and stormy night. The film’s claim to be “inspired by true events” has about as much credibility as its effort to forge a Sapphic market niche.

“Eternal” tells the story of Erszebet Bathory, a 16th century Hungarian “Countess Dracula” who drank and bathed in the blood of approximately 650 victims. Described by one character as “a sadist with unparalleled savagery,” Erszebet purportedly remains one of the undead, possibly still around today, in Montreal this film suggests.

In “Eternal,” written and directed by Wilhelm Liebenberg and Federico Sanchez, Erszebet exists in the luscious form of Elizabeth Kane (Caroline Néron), a woman living in a lavish Montreal castle. Her assistant Irina (Victoria Sanchez) procures women off the Internet for one-night stands. A little kissing is the extent of the erotic component of these encounters, followed by a bit more throat slitting which sates Elizabeth’s thirst for blood. The dangerous liaison that opens the film involves Wildcat (Sarah Manninen), the wife of a kinky cop named Raymond Pope (Conrad Pla).

Raymond is distressed that his wife is missing, but perhaps he is more upset when he learns she wanted to be sexually satisfied by another woman. He himself is into serious bondage; his first scene involves being handcuffed to a bed with a belt tied tight around his neck and a gun against his face, being fucked by his partner’s domineering wife.

Desperate to find out what happened to his wife, Raymond begins a game of one-upmanship with Elizabeth that may have no winners. Knowing that Elizabeth was the last person to see Wildcat alive, he suspects her. Elizabeth in turn frames Raymond for a string of murders that Irina is committing. Were “Eternal” a romantic comedy, Elizabeth and Raymond would fall in love. Instead, they eventually have some very rough sex, which is neither as enticing nor as thrilling as the filmmakers hope—but is the film’s erotic core. Had the romantic tension between these two attractive characters generated the slightest bit of heat, the film might have risen above its level of mediocrity.

For all of gorgeous settings and characters, the film’s dialogue is silly. When Irina tells Elizabeth “They are human, they can’t do nothing to you,” or observes, “There are no limits to Madame’s lunacy,” it’s difficult to suppress a howl. Yet, the film does not work as camp, even if the scene of Irina sharpening her fangs is unintentionally hilarious, and the image of Raymond being masturbated by his partner’s wife while her husband is in the next room strains credulity.

To the film’s credit, despite these moments of outrageousness, “Eternal” manages to be pretty intriguing. A nightmare sequence is well done, and the film offers a mild jolt when one character is murdered unexpectedly. Liebenberg and Sanchez pay proper homage to the vampire genre, and they finally get around to some stylish girl-on-girl sex in the big orgy scene during the film’s dramatic climax.

What is more, the entire film is very well art directed, with elaborate, stunning sets and architecture. Even at its dumbest, “Eternal” is great to look at, and even more so when the action shifts to Venice.

The performers make the most of the material. Caroline Néron is saddled with a pretty thankless role, but she injects Elizabeth with some much needed life. Néron is appropriately alluring and seductive as she yearns for “young, beautiful, innocent blood.” Conrad Pla seems to relish playing his flashy role as the hotheaded Raymond Pope, projecting muscle and attitude in every scene. He is great fun to watch, even though his performance is weak.

“Eternal” offers some very pleasurable moments, but sadly not enough of them.