Beautiful, lyrical and haunting, Angels of Darkness (also called Styria) is a film based loosely on the first ever vampire novel, Carmilla, written back in 1872. This film retains some of the themes and plot points, while it makes a few changes, setting the story in Hungary in 1986, at a tumbledown castle on the edge of a village. Lara (Tomlinson), a suicidal teen expelled from her boarding school in England, joins her father (Rea) at the castle, where he is working on removing some frescos for preservation. But strange things start to happen when Lara befriends a local outcast girl, Carmilla (Pietrucha), who appears to be hiding from the perverted General.
What starts out as an excavation of a castle and a simple friendship between teens becomes something darker when hidden frescoes hint at a strange cult and suicides of local girls reemerge. Carmilla seems like an innocent girl in trouble, but she also knows a lot more about the castle and it’s history than she should. There are also links between Lara’s mother, who disappeared after trying to harm her daughter, and her former life in the village.
The film is a gothic romance between two girls, each drawing strength from each other as the danger grows nearer. What the film elegantly achieves is throwing suspicion on different people, you’re never sure if Carmilla is the monster or if the General is, or perhaps whether the whole thing is taking place in Lara’s mind. It also tells smaller side stories in such a beautiful way. One of the village boys is trying to save the girls, and had left food for Carmilla at the start of the film. His story is told through his reactions to events. The social history of Hungary and Communism is hinted at through dinner conversations and a lack of care for the castle and its artworks.
Where a lot of teen vampire films often focus on notions about daylight, fangs and religion, this film harks back to the ideas about blood, hysteria and female sexuality. It’s a beautiful film that keeps you guessing about what is real and who can be trusted, but at heart it’s also about a girl figuring out herself and her future.