Eternal (Canada, 2004)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

From the first scene, Eternal seems like a made-for-Cinemax soft porn vampire movie, with one crucial exception. It has the cheesy music. It has the wooden acting by thespians whose names are not destined to top many A-movie marquees. It has the requisite soft focus camera work and hardcore bloodletting. What it's missing is the nudity. Aside from a few fleeting appearances by breasts and buns, there's not much flesh to be found in Eternal. There's plenty of sex, but everyone appears to be fond of doing the deed while wearing as much clothing as possible.

First, let's establish why people watch an exploitation B-movie like this: it's for the guilty pleasure it offers. Lots of naked women are part of the package. By not delivering on this element of the genre, directors Wilhelm Liebenberg and Federico Sanchez dilute the experience, robbing us of part of the fun. They tease but don't deliver. There are unflattering names for people like this. And if you're going to cast second-tier actresses, why not hire ones who are willing to show a little? The logic behind the film's peekaboo attitude toward nudity baffles me.

The story is a stock erotic vampire tale with stereotypes instead of characters and clichés instead of plot developments. There's even a masquerade scene ripped off from Eyes Wide Shut. (In this case, there's no need for the digital obfuscation of body parts, because hardly anyone is naked.) Elizabeth Kane (Caroline Néron) is a vampire who has moved to Montreal from Venice to elude the authorities. With the help of her assistant, Irina (Victoria Sanchez), Elizabeth uses Internet chat rooms to lure potential female victims to her mansion. She promises no-strings-attached lesbian sex, but delivers a dagger to the neck. She makes a mistake when she romances the wife of hard-nosed cop Raymond Pope (Conrad Pla). When Raymond's spouse vanishes, he investigates, and the evidence leads him to Elizabeth. He doesn't suspect her of being Lady Dracula, but he thinks she's a murderess.

The acting is godawful. Most of the players are veterans of Canadian TV. Caroline Néron is easy on the eyes, but causes winces every time she utters a line of dialogue. Her accent is difficult to decipher, but I think she's trying to mimic Bela Lugosi. I kept waiting for her to say, "I never drink…wine." (Although, in point of fact, Elizabeth is always drinking wine.) Victoria Sanchez is also equal parts pretty and pretty bad. Then there's Conrad Pla, who comes across as a poor man's Vin Diesel. For a while, Raymond seems to be a dogged fighter who won't let go of his prey, but, during Eternal's final fifteen minutes, he goes into full "moronic horror film protagonist" mode. The character does at least two things so dumb that he should immediately be sterilized, lest his stupidity gene be passed on to future generations.

All things considered, Eternal isn't that bad. Actually, it is. But it's kind of fun, too, in a way only cheesy exploitation films can be fun. I only glanced at my watch four or five times. I wouldn't recommend this for theatrical viewing, but as late night cable fare, it's an acceptable way for an insomniac to pass two hours. Of course, there are ways Liebenberg and Sanchez could have made the movie more enjoyable but, for whatever reason, they chose not to traverse that path.

Oh, and did I mention that Eternal is "based on a true story." Stop laughing. That has to be accurate. It says so at the beginning of the movie!

Eternal (Canada, 2004)

Run Time: 1:47
U.S. Release Date: 2005-08-26
MPAA Rating: "NR" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1