Virginia (Mora Recalde) lives a sheltered life with her father on his remote farmhouse, a short distance away from the nearest village. They're surrounded by woodlands.

We hear from the radio in the farm's kitchen that there is an outbreak of rabies in the area. Presumably, then, the father fears the worst when he's summoned to visit his brother's house a few miles away, where his niece Julia is said to be suffering from a mystery illness. The father embarks on his journey by night, leaving Virginia home alone.

However, before long there's a knock at Virginia's door. A local has found Julia's unconscious sister, Anabel (Pablo Caramelo), and carried her to the farmhouse to convalesce. Virginia willingly takes her cousin in. Over the next few days, Anabel rests and gradually recuperates her strength. But something is odd: she doesn't eat, she sleeps through the day, and is prone to disappearing into the woods at night. And why are they are fresh animal corpses suddenly being found in the surrounding woods on a regular basis?

I don't think you'll need Sherlock Holmes to help you figure out what's going on. But Virginia clearly hasn't seen as many genre flicks as you or I, and she remains oblivious to the blindingly obvious. Or perhaps she's just lonely, pining for her absent girlfriend Dani's return and feeling lonely roaming about the big old farmhouse by herself. She enjoys Anabel's company.

Indeed, once Anabel's back on full form, the girls enjoy an evening of wine, vinyl records and what's heavily suggested as being a lesbian encounter.

But then their fun is curbed when Virginia's father returns with his brother, Anabel's father, and some bad news about Julia. Passing Julia's death off as being leukaemia-related, the two men are nevertheless strangely observant of their respective daughters from this point onwards.

And it's from this point - 45 minutes into a 71-minute film - that Josefina Trotta's maddeningly vague script starts to give a little more away. Even though we've already guessed the nature of Anabel's disposition.

DARKNESS BY DAY is an extremely handsome Argentinean film, filled with warm colours, considered framing and great use of atmospheric locations. It adopts a subtle approach to its horror elements for the most parts, building slowly while favouring brooding ambience over shock and gore.

However, for all its sumptuous photography and impressive restraint, it has to be said that DARKNESS BY DAY is ultimately a test of the patience. This is due to listless performances from everyone concerned - including director Martin De Salvo's off-screen partner, Recalde - which fail consistently to elicit tension or muster chemistry between characters. They deliver their lines deliberately, methodically and lifelessly. There's a later scene where Virginia and Anabel kiss; I felt embarrassed for the actors, their discomfort is so obvious.

Which brings me to the dialogue. It's so vague! For such a quiet, intimate film which is reliant upon two characters for the most part, we learn nothing about these people. For example, one character asks another, who's staring suspiciously at them, "why are you looking at me like that?" The reply is "No reason", which the first character simply accepts and resumes gazing pointlessly into space. In another scene, Virginia asks "how are you?" to which Anabel replies "I don't know". And so on. This film is filled with drawn-out conversations of no consequence like this. And when Virginia tells the pensive and sullen Anabel "I don't remember you being so talkative", it's only due to the fact that she's such a humourless character that I didn't think she was taking the piss.

Owing something to Sheridan Le Fanu's classic "Carmilla", which was also a source of inspiration for films such as THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and BLOOD AND ROSES, DARKNESS BY DAY is attractive to look at but ultimately sexless and dull.

Released on UK DVD by Matchbox Films, DARKNESS BY DAY looks good in a healthy 16x9 widescreen transfer. Images are clean, clear and crisp throughout. Colours are consistently warm, while darker scenes were shot day-for-night and retain a lot of detail as a result.

Spanish audio comes in choices of 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both are decent but the latter isn't really needed. English subtitles are well-written and burned-in.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. A static scene selection option gives access to the movie via 12 chapters.

The only bonus feature is a trailer, which clocks in at just over a minute in length. The trailer is in Spanish and doesn't have the option of subtitles.

DARKNESS BY DAY is really well-shot and takes an intriguingly subtle approach to the vampire genre. But it's undone by listless performances and ridiculous dialogue which fails to advance the plot time and time again.

Frustrating fare.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Matchbox Films