Judge Bill Gibron sides with Team Terrible when it comes to this tepid teen vamp stamp.
Every girl has her secrets.
Rebecca (Sarah Bolger, The Tudors) is the kind of tepid teen queen who uses her stint at an exclusive all girl's school as a means of making amends with her palpable grief (she found daddy dead in the bathtub, his wrists rife with crimson). Together with her BFF Lucie (Sarah Gadon, Dream House) they try and cope with the myriad of issues that come with being onscreen adolescents circa early 21st century.
Into their mutual admiration flirtation comes Ernessa (Lily Cole, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) whose pasty skin and insect attracting aroma sets off some wild speculation. When Lucie turns from viable to visibly sick, all suspicions fall on this enigmatic new gal. Rebecca, immersed in the dark pre-Dracula tome Carmilla, is convinced her new classmate is actually a vampire. A lack of shimmering diamond skin aside, few believe her. There's also the possibility that, under the influence of her overly touchy feely literature professor (Scott Speedman, The Strangers), she's merely channeling her own sloppy psychosis.
Welcome to another installment of Short Attention Span Shock Theater, otherwise known as The Moth Diaries. This is a macabre mess for the easily frightened, an ADD-addled excuse to coattail Twilight while dabbling in that most taboo of all fright foolishness—same sex scares. Yep, our mediocre-a-trois skirt the concept of lesbianism (after all, the movie and novel center around the famed supernatural Sappho-fest, Carmilla) without ever getting down to the…well, you get the idea.
Everything here is offered in shorthand spurts, rendered non-cinematic by a desire to infer instead of explain. Granted, we don't want mountains of exposition, but if you're going to get a viewer to care about their harried heroine, her dying buddy, and the new girl who just might be doing a bit of vein draining, some information is necessary. Even worse, you can't just play at predicating your story on some manner of mental illness. We need examples and reasons to believe that Becca may be bonkers. A couple of cursory sentences/sequences just won't do.
If director Mary Harron (American Psycho) was looking to craft a Gothic tone poem, she has failed. The story is too incoherent, wasting Declan Quinn's (Leaving Las Vegas) wonderfully moody cinematography on events that happen off camera, and incompleteness both in character and circumstance. People do dumb things throughout this film, contradicting themselves and the basic rules of the genre. Do we finally discover the truth about Ernessa and her weird odors? No. Is there any indication that she's anything more than a failed figment in Becca's broken brain? Nope. In fact, this film feels like an incomplete assignment. It's got the basics, but no depth.
If the desire was to drop us into the middle of a set of raging female hormones and watch as they work things out in terms both creepy and carnal, this is a big fat fail. On the other hand, if you're desperate for an alternative to Stephanie Meyers' amazing mediocrity as both as writer and creator of myth, then by all means check out The Moth Diaries—the book, not the movie based on it. The tome is a treat. The adaptation is slightly better than awful.
As Blu-rays go, IFC/MPI does a decent job here. The aesthetics are aces, and the 1.85:1/1080p high definition image translates it to your home theater with ambience and authority. There is a lot of detail here, as well as visible textures and sharp contrasts. The overall effect is a film that looks a lot better than the silly story it's telling. As for the sound quality, the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio does a decent job of keeping the movie's subtle cues in check. We get everything from the flapping wings of multiple moths to the breathy entendres of the various gals in crystal clarity. There's a decent sense of immersion and some nicely atmospheric uses for the back channels. As for bonus material, we get a decent making-of featurette, some unnecessary cast-shot video "diaries," and a studio EPK. Toss in a theatrical trailer and you've got…nothing special.
Even those inspired by all things Bella and Edward will find The Moth Diaries tedious and trite. The next time you're looking for fear in an all girl's school, check out Dario Argento's Suspiria. That is some great Goth grrrl power. This is just groan-inducing.
Guilty of being dull, confusing, and (living) dead on arrival.
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