Gothic vampire themes, hormonal young women stuck at a secluded all-girls school, Catholic uniforms… What could possibly go wrong?
If it’s Mary Harron‘s new film The Moth Diaries, then what goes wrong is the usual: bloody, sexually-charged obsessions between girls in plaid skirts and a film willing itself into the legacies of Carmilla and those fabulous, surreal female vampire films of the 1960s and ’70s.
Unfortunately, The Moth Diaries is a counterfeit heir.
Mary Harron directed American Psycho. So I’ll admit my expectations were elevated; I’d hoped for at least a performance a fraction of Christian Bale’s, or an “embossed lettering” moment – something that would push the viewer past artifice into a self-reflective moment of terror, where you actually wonder if you saw that right.
No such luck. This film, in my opinion, commits unforgivable sins against the vampire genre and wholly disappoints – and is far from what we’d expect from American Psycho’s director.
The story follows 16-year-old Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) as she goes back to girls’ school and reunites with her best buddy, bubbly blonde Lucie (Sarah Gadon), ostensibly telling the story through Rebecca’s diary entires, though this seems more an afterthought as the film progresses.
As expected, a mysterious and exotic (British! And wall-eyed) new student arrives, and as Lucie is drawn to Ernessa (Lily Cole), Rebecca’s friends disappear one by one… and ya know, no one will believe Rebecca when shit gets weird.
The film’s primary failings lie in its complete lack of deviation from (or self-awareness about re-spinning) the ‘female vampire’ formula; next is the capital sin of attempting to create a monster that is not one we want to win, not one we want to die, and not at all horrifying.
This is the lamest kind of non-monster, as if its maker (and director) does not understand why it might be evil but instead relied on predictable fallacies of sex and gender to fill in the blanks. True feminine evil consumes moralistic banality; in this, Ernessa was composed in the least thoughtful way.
Rather than complain about the clumsy attempt to blend hallucination with story arc, the forced performances, disjointed narrative structure, a cast of character cliches, plot points abandoned at each train stop, and a lead character so weak and ineffectual you’d want to slap the stupid out of her if you could only just care about her for one second, sex that isn’t scary or sexy…
What you’ll want to know before you see The Moth Diaries is that this is a film that does everything halfway.
I’ll go re-watch Daughters of Darkness, thanks. And you should go see the August 10 screening of Battle Royale at the SF Film Society Cinema, instead.