THE MOTH DIARIES (2011)
THE MOTH DIARIES (2011)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares
In our April edition of “Cinema Knife Fight Coming Attractions,” I mentioned that I might try to review the new movie THE MOTH DIARIES solo. Well, it turns out that it was in very limited release and never came to a theater near me. However, I was skimming through Cable OnDemand recently and saw the movie was available there, so I’m able to review it after all.
Directed by Mary Harron, who previously gave us movies like I SHOT ANDY WARHOL (1996), THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE (2005) and, probably most familiar to readers here at CKF, the film version of Brett Easton Ellis’s controversial novel AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000), and written by Rachel Klein (based on her novel), THE MOTH DIARIES is a tale of teenage girls and vampires, but it’s much more moody and effective than the recent spate of teenage vampire stories, a’ la TWILIGHT.
Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) is getting over the suicide of her father, a well regarded poet, and, when her mother has trouble handling things, Rebecca is shipped off to an elite girl’s prep school. At first, she’s miserable, but then he becomes incredibly close to another student, Lucie (Sarah Gadon), and this friendship enables her to get through the rough times. As the movie open, Rebecca is going back to school after a break, and is looking forward to being reunited with Lucie again. Unfortunately, this semester, things won’t go as well as before.
The main problem is the arrival of Ernessa (Lily Cole), a pale, moody girl who moves into the room across from Lucie and Rebecca. In showing Ernessa around, Lucie becomes friends with the girl and their friendship becomes more and more possessive. Rebecca feels left out, and, feeling that her best friend has been stolen from her, she comes to resent Ernessa, who is incredibly weird from the get-go, which makes hating her all the easier.
During this time, Rebecca is also taking a class on Gothic Literature and the Supernatural, taught by one of the rare male teachers at the school, Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman, probably the biggest “name” actor in this movie). Conveniently enough, the books he is teaching this term include Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (which has a Lucy of its own) and J. Sheridan LeFanu’s “Carmilla,” which predates Stoker’s classic, and is about a female vampire who seduces and controls her female victims. Rebecca feels that something very similar is happening to her friend Lucie, and feels helpless in trying to save her friend from the clutches of the predatory Ernessa.
As Lucie grows more distant, and physically weak (her illness eventually leads to time in a hospital), Rebecca grows closer to another friend Dora (Melissa Farman), and the two observe some very strange behavior from Ernessa, such as her wandering the grounds while everyone else is asleep, walking along the rooftop of the estate that houses their school, and one instance where she somehow seems to pass through a closed glass window. When Rebecca sneaks out onto the gutters and tries to peak into Ernessa’s room herself, she sees thousands of little moths inside, banging against the glass, obscuring whatever is within the room.
As things get weirder, Rebecca also finds herself having very vivid daydreams and nightmares that seem like hallucinations, which make us wonder, is the growing evidence that Ernessa is a vampire all in Rebecca’s mind, or is there some reality to it? We are never entirely clear, but that’s just fine.
As Rebecca’s group of friends dwindles (either through “accidents” or being pulled from the school by their parents), she finds herself confiding in Mr. Davies about her concerns about the Ernessa/Lucie relationship. He seems to be her confidante, but he really thinks she is merely an over-imaginative adolescent (and also appears to have an agenda of his own at one point). With no one else to turn to, Rebecca becomes increasingly obsessed with confirming her suspicions about Ernessa, and finding a way to get rid of the vampire (if she truly is one) once and for all.
I found THE MOTH DIARIES to be a well-acted, well-constructed little film that deserved a decent theatrical release, but I can see where it might appeal to a much more limited audience than something as popular as TWILIGHT. THE MOTH DIARIES is too gloomy, too involved with pain, to qualify as pure escapism. However, that’s the movie’s charm that it deals with its topic in a melancholy, atmospheric way.
My only complaint is that Ernessa is a little too obviously “different.” From the first time we see her, she looks and acts differently from the other girls. I know this reaffirms the whole “outsider” image, but it would have been more satisfying if Ernessa had seemed more “normal” and able to deflect the suspicions of others with ease. Now that would be a truly dangerous predator!
Worth a rental, or watching on cable OnDemand. THE MOTH DIARIES is a far cry from TWILIGHT, but that’s not a bad thing at all.
© Copyright 2012 by L. L. Soares