Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Moth Diaries

The Moth Diaries (Canada/Ireland, 2011) directed by Mary Harron, 85 minutes
September 1, 2011, Scotiabank Theatre 4, 12:15pm

Girls. Boarding school. Vampires. Could you ask for more in a cinematic experience? Hmm, possibly ... the gothic horror genre has never really been my oeuvre but I'm willing to give it another try.

Brangwyn College is an all-girls boarding school (where a hotel formerly stood) in the countryside. Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) is best friends with the beautiful Lucy (Sarah Gadon) with whom she has an obsessively intense relationship. Rebecca comes back for her final year with a great deal of emotional baggage. Her father, a celebrated poet, had killed himself two years before in a violent, bloody manner. She hopes for a good year which will eradicate the difficulties of the past. All goes well until Ernessa Bloch (Lily Cole), a new student, befriends and beguiles Lucy.

Ernssa's arrival appears to trigger a series of disturbing events which eventually leave Rebecca friendless, scared and alone: one student is expelled; another leaps to her death; a teacher who torments Ernessa suddenly dies; another student is forced to withdraw by her mother because of the troubling events and then ... Lucy falls mysteriously ill which seems to be triggered by Ernessa's presence.

Are the bizarre and frightening things that Rebecca witnesses real or the the product of a jealous and obsessive infatuation with Lucy? Has Rebecca gone mad and is it because she has inherited her father's "bad blood" and a propensity towards suicide which she flirts with? Lucy suspects that Ernessa is a vampire who has seduced and entrapped Lucy. Why does Ernessa resemble a long ago resident of the hotel?

Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho, The Notorious Bette Page) directs competently and the performances of all the girls are quite good as is Scott Speedman as a sympathetic (and very sexy) English teacher who appears to have crush on Rebecca. I liked the camaraderie between the girls and Harron accurately and sensitively captures the atmosphere of an all girls school. At times, though, she resorts to cliches - the butch schoolmistress who enjoys torturing the girls, the stereotypical goth appearance of Ernessa the supposed vampire, the attractive young male teacher who falls for the brightest girl in the class - which cheapen the film although I like the resolution and way Rebecca takes Ernessa in hand.

Perhaps it is me and I have become exhausted with the whole vampire genre having just burned through the last of the Twilight books. The film adds nothing new to the genre except that the principals are female and there is a strongly erotic element between the girls. But is that enough to make this film fresh and interesting. I'm not sure.


Cheryl said...

How I wish someone would write a blockbuster about zombies, or ghosts, or blobs - ANYTHING BUT VAMPIRES! No more vampires!!!

Michelle said...

Well to be fair to the author Rachel Klein who wrote the book that the film is based on, she wrote this before the whole Twilight phenomenon in 2002. Still, Harron is coming to the game pretty late ...