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Citizeness Kane: A masked acolyte is wooed by Elizabeth Kane (Caroline Néron) in 'Eternal,' your basic Montreal vampire thriller.


Why can't a 400-year-old vampire take care of one sub–Vin Diesel actor? 'Eternal' is ephemeral.

By Richard von Busack

IF EVERY BIT of garbage was as beautifully art-directed as Eternal is, the trash men would never go on strike. This shot-in-Montreal melo purports the return of none other than the dreaded Countess Bathory. Disguised as "Elizabeth Kane" (Caroline Néron), the vampire uses the Internet to lure a bisexually curious woman (Sarah Manninen) to her mansion. After supping upon her, the countess is distressed to learn that her latest victim was the wife of a vice-squad detective.

Whatever your sexual preference, you're likely to find Detective Pope (Conrad Pla) a wet blanket—a cop as interruptive to the decadent mise-en-scène as that tarantula on the slice of angel-food cake that Philip Marlowe was talking about. Pla is a baldheaded gruffster of the school of Vin Diesel—and let's revoke that school's charter at once. Pope has to fight off the dames: the horny wife of his partner, the baby sitter who has a crush on him. And he is in no mood to match quips with Kane as to the whereabouts of his wife. "I'm going to get a FUCKIN' warrant for this FUCKIN' mansion," he shouts, adding the insult of foul language to the injury to our eyes caused by his pseudo–Don Johnson five-day stubble.

Eternal is shorter on suspense than it is on the erotic side; and while it drops a heavy reference to the decadent writer Lautreamont, it has little in the way of its own wit. All the dialogue is on the same stuffy, blocklike level. Though it's not much, Eternal is still a good-looking not-much. Directors Wilhelm Liebenberg and Federico Sanchez scoped out the Gothic side of Montreal, which is played heavily for French nostalgia. Especially chic is a smoky nightclub where a vampiric chanteuse covers Aznavour's "La bohème" on the piano. No den of vamps is complete without at least one zebra skin and one lava lamp. Bathory is run to earth in a richly designed hideaway in Venice, where she's celebrating her evil with a carnival-themed party. The centerpiece is a Ken Russell Memorial Bathtub, crawling with marble figures of supine women. There, the countess likes to play with her food, opening a few jugulars with a needle-sharp thimble before (sigh) that Vin Diesel guy shows up again.

There was a real-life Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560–1613); she lived in an era that "passed into folk tales because straightforward accounts were too gruesome to tell." So writes native Transylvanian Andrei Codrescu in his suitably ghastly novel, The Blood Countess. Bathory is credited with the deaths of 650 women, whose blood she allegedly bathed in to maintain her youth. The best film version of her story is the episode in the anthology Immoral Tales (1974) in which Paloma Picasso flares her nostrils like one of the horses her dad used to draw, whilst inspecting a warehouse full of unclad victims. Even vegans would find it steamy.

Paloma Picasso probably considers herself royalty. Unfortunately, not regalness but an unconquerable snit is suggested in Néron's performance as the countess. She's not Elizabeth Bathory but Elisabeth Shue, after a good shot of novocaine, yet.

Eternal (R; 107 min.), directed and written by Wilhelm Liebenberg and Federico Sanchez, photographed by Jamie Thompson and starring Caroline Néron and Conrad Pla, opens Friday at selected theaters.

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From the August 31-September 6, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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