Ligeia has been filmed a number of times. The most famous version was the Roger Corman adaptation The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) starring Vincent Price indeed, this was the last of the celebrated Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that Corman would make and set down the essentials of most screen adaptations where the story becomes one about the central characters second wife becoming possessed by the spirit of Ligeia. There have been a handful of other obscure adaptations:- an Argentinean tv production in 1959 about which little is known; Ligeia (1981), a French production with Arielle Dombasle as Ligeia; Ligeia (2002), a low-budget US made version; and a new US-made indie version Ligeia (2012), as well as several short film versions.
This new version is a US-Ukrainian production something that allows location shooting around Balaklava and Sevastopol in Ukraine, where the Vorontsovsky Palace in Crimea serves as a suitably imposing looking mansion. It is a debut film for director Michael Staininger. The interesting name on the credits is that of celebrated horror and Cyberpunk author John Shirley, best known on cinema screens as the co-writer of The Crow (1994).
Ligeia bravely attempts to modernise the Edgar Allan Poe short story. That said, John Shirleys script at least adheres to the basics of the original story more than the Roger Corman version did here Ligeia is still a student of matters metaphysical and is of mysteriously European origin. However, there have been a great many other additions to the story, a few of which may well cause good old Edgar Allan to turn in his grave. Now, Ligeias interest in matters metaphysical has her conducting some poorly explained illicit experiments in soul extraction in the university morgue. More crucially, the way the film is directed, she relishes in what is suggested are all manner of dark and forbidden pleasures, including visits to fetish clubs and lots of Goth poses on the part of Sofya Skya.
Unfortunately for the promising idea of an updated Ligeia, the film founders in a cheap and low-budget approach. You get ominous signs from the opening credits that highlight the names of Michael Madsen and, in particular, Eric Roberts who have both spent the bulk of their careers eking out a living down the lower end of the cinematic market, something that has resulted in resumes filled with bad movie titles. When Eric Roberts does turn up, seeing him cast as a faithful retainer while trying to badly affect a Russian accent produces a case of the giggles that shoots the films credibility in the foot. The problem also ends up being Michael Stainingers incredibly tame approach. Ligeia is a film that constantly wants to suggest Sofya Skya is engaged in all manner of kinkiness yet when it comes to delivering anything, offers nothing more than a single vanilla love scene where we see her bare back. Moreover, in what could have been a complex and intensely captivating title role in a better production, the film is stuck with Russian ballerina Sofya Skya who vamps the part up in a one-dimensional performance that comes down to being no more than a series of poses. Equally, an earnest and nebbish Wes Bentley makes a poor substitute for Vincent Price.