A young woman drives up to an old gothic mansion late at night. This woman, named Rita Pope, has been invited for an S&M/lesbian session by the house’s owner, Elizabeth Kane. However, from the moment we lay eyes on the Kane woman, we know something is not quite right. There’s some sort of detached lust in her eyes. A lust that’s not for this girl in front of her, but for something else.
Our suspicions are proven correct a few moments later. When in the throes of lovemaking, Kane stabs Rita in the neck and begins to drink the other woman’s blood at her moment of orgasm. The look on the younger woman’s face is hard to pinpoint. It looks almost like… satisfaction, as if she enjoyed her death.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, police Detective Raymond Pope is playing pretend while his wife is doing the real thing.
He’s handcuffed to a bed with a belt looped around his neck while his lover tugs on the end of it, strangling him. When that doesn’t seem to get him off, she takes out his gun, puts it to his face and pulls the trigger. It’s empty of course, but Raymond’s face betrays both frustration and excitement. We get the idea that maybe he wouldn’t have minded having one bullet in the gun, russian roulette style. Pope’s style of fun is interrupted by a call. His wife’s car has been found, but his wife hasn’t.
Sex and death play a large part in the motivation of the characters, and this is where “Eternal” takes a turn towards the unpredictable and interesting. A movie with less imagination would have had Kane and Pope eventually slogging through a boring seduction scenario, that we’ve all seen a million times, as he investigates the disappearance of his wife. However, this isn’t that kind of movie. Here Pope wrestles with both his fetish and the love for his wife. One part of him wanting to pistolwhip Kane as hard as he can, and the other wondering how good it might have felt for Rita at the end.
It’s the multidimensional characterization and dialogue that elevates this film far far above being just a vampire movie with a more literate back-story. If you’ve seen the previews, I won’t be spoiling anything by saying that it’s later revealed that Elizabeth Kane might be Elizabeth Bathory; a medieval murderess that killed some 650 women and bathed in their blood, thinking that the baths would give her eternal youth. Frederico Sanchez and Wilhelm Liebenberg have written a screenplay that continually dances around most of the clichés in the vampire genre. They never push the idea of whether Kane is Bathory or just a rich psycho who thinks she’s Bathory, and let you make your own mind until the very end where everything is proven one way or the other.
Much of the film rests on the shoulders of Conrad Pla who plays Raymond Pope. He is the focus of the movie and proves himself an excellent leading man. Pla never fails to elicit our sympathy for Pope even when we realize that the Detective might not be attempting to find out what happened to his wife out of a sense of revenge or justice, but because he wants to try it too. He never overplays the character, instead giving the audience subtle hints at Pope’s inner conflict. I’d never seen Pla act before, but the guy has real star potential. He’s got the natural onscreen charm of a born actor. Half of my enjoyment of this movie is due to him. Hopefully some smart producer will snap him up.
Credit must also be given to actress Victoria Sanchez who plays Irina, Kane’s servant. Her character could have been Goth Chick Renfield to Kane’s Lady Dracula, but it’s not. Irina comes off as a death obsessed psychopath who merely enjoys killing people and the idea of becoming immortal. You never get the feeling that she even likes Kane. She’s cunning, vicious and wrapped in her own narcissistic self-interest.
However, we run into problems with the Kane character, which is one-dimensional at times. Although she does have a few good scenes and Kane’s bemused evil is fun to watch, it’s frustrating to see actress
Caroline Nehron have to play Bela Lugosi with a nicer body; especially when most other major characters are well written. There are also a few moments where we realize that as many clichés that Sanchez and Liebenberg avoid, they smack a couple head on. To their credit, they seem to know this and zip through the tired scenes as if they’re as bored with them as we are.
In the end, we’re left with a familiar story that goes to great pains to surprise you and achieves most of its goals.