FEARNET Movie Review: 'Bela Kiss: Prologue'


There are, of course, countless ways in which to wrap a vampire story in new clothes -- and yes, "countless" was meant as a pun (sorry) -- but you have to give the new German import Bela Kiss: Prologue some credit: not many vampire stories manage to revolve around WWI battlefield atrocities and a modern-day story about bank robbers who hole up in a secret hotel in which everyone assumes an ominous nickname... with a bunch of romantic entanglements, double-crosses, and gruesome murders tossed in to keep things weird.

And just as you'd expect from a movie called Bela Kiss: Prologue, things do get pretty weird. Suffice to say that Bela Kiss is a crazy murdering lunatic who somehow seems to pop up decade after decade -- without aging! (I think.) The killer's secret resides within a collection of large creepy canisters, but for all intents and purposes, Bela is practically immortal, definitely unfriendly, and on the hunt for blood that, logically, belongs to the five young bank robbers we just met and already dislike. (OK, the lead girl isn't too awful.)
Debut effort from writer/director Lucien Forstner, Bela Kiss: Prologue certainly suffers from a handful of problems: it offers frequent flashbacks that are considerably more interesting than the "main" plot shenanigans; it offers little to no logic in the area of our "criminal" quintet. The main gal Julia (Kristina Klebe) has a bit of meat on her bones, character-wise, but the others are one-note ciphers who never once come across as "bank robbers" in any fashion. And there's way too much attention paid (in a 106-minute horror film) to a bunch of romantic entanglement subplots that add little to the final product. A little tighter, a little less blather, and a bit more speed would help the film a lot...
On the other hand, there are several worthwhile components scattered around the movie. Mr. Forstner might not be the most compelling screenwriter of the year, but he and cinematographer Sven Latzke have some solid visual treats to offer. Although plainly shot with limited funds, the "flashback" sequences that detail Bela's travels are suitably creepy; the movie is frequently rather lovely to look at, even in its drier moments; and when it comes to the jolts, scrapes, stabs, and escapes, the filmmakers jumble things up with a little Hostel here, a little slo-mo strangeness there, and a few gruesome moments that should keep the gorehounds happy.
While sometimes off-kilter, tonally speaking, Bela Kiss: Prologue does exhibit some legitimate effort and creativity. It borrows a few threads from other horror films (and in fact from a real-life killer) but it's also a rather novel little concoction of its own. Whether or not this "Prologue" turns into a full-bore German horror "franchise" remains to be seen, but Chapter 1 offers just enough promise, originality, and weirdness to keep me curious to see Chapter 2.