Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Moth Diaries

By Sati. Saturday, April 28, 2012 , , , , , , , , , ,
62/100 (81 min, 2011)
Plot: Rebecca is suspicious of Ernessa, the new arrival at her boarding school. But is Rebecca just jealous of Ernessa's bond with Lucie, or does the new girl truly possess a dark secret?
Director: Mary Harron
Writer: Rachel Klein (novel)
Stars: Sarah Bolger, Sarah Gadon and Lily Cole

Sex, blood, Lily Cole

The Moth Diaries is not yet another teenage take on vampire/monsters legends. It has something movies rarely have anymore - genuine style and atmosphere. Mary Harron who directed American Psycho and captured the essence of the novel without even showing off most of the events is again on the director's seat here. It's bizarre how her career went from being very close to success to approaching the oblivion. Whilst American Psycho was not the masterpiece of directorial work, it was better than most movies out there yet Harron only went on to make TV movie The Notorious Bettie Page (as lovely as the film was it didn't get much acclaim) and then pretty much disappeared.

While a lot of bad things can be said about The Moth Diaries and its story, which is its weakest link of the film, it tells a tale many of people will relate to - the roots of the protagonist's fragility lie in the loss of a parent, here in quite dramatic events. Her father was a famous writer who committed suicide. The main heroine Rebecca, asks interesting questions in her search for her own self - does it mean she is prone to taking her own life too?
However, the true thing people will probably see as something they have been through is the support Rebecca finds from her best friend Lucie.When her father was gone, Lucie, as always, was there for her. Ah, to have best friend. Someone you can tell all your secrets to, who always listens, who is always there. Someone to hung out with, gossip with, admire and love. And then to watch this friend slip away.

With the appearance of mysterious Ernessa in the luxurious boarding school both Rebecca and Lucie are staying, things start going horribly for Rebecca. Lucie is fascinated with the new girl and starts to spend most of her time with her, pushing Rebecca away. Ernessa does weird and creepy things, she never seems to eat and Rebecca seams to be the only one noticing all the things that are suspicious about the new girl. Since Lucie is so fond of Ernessa and Rebecca suspects there is something wrong with the mysterious new student it causes a serious damage to their long friendship. And with that Rebecca loses the only person she truly trusted.
The problem with the story is that it tries to put too many homages and different scenarios in one plot. At one point we simultaneously look at the ghost movie, vampire movie and the tale of young girl going insane. And that all would be fine if all those elements weren't put there for the sake of artificially complicating the plot. In the end, while there is a resolution to the story and the ending is very good, there are so many lose ends here, you would probably need to write a sequel just to resolve all of that mess that was left behind.

With all of that 'The Moth Diaries' while it suffers from weak story is the film with genuine ambiance - dark, Gothic horror, ambiance with all the creepy rooms, old pictures and diaries, young pure girls fighting off evil and beautiful gardens surrounding old mansions. While the amount of inspirations and parallels overwhelms the story itself it makes for some nice visuals - there are gorgeous flashback sequences to the time when the boarding school was a hotel, parallels between this story and Dracula and not just with Becca's best friend name being Lucy and references to other famous vampire stories. Old school vampire stories.
The cast apart from Scott Speedman, who for me feels like perpetual miscast no matter what movie he stars in (except for My Life without Me) is doing pretty good job. Lily Cole who has one of the most unique looks I've seen is doing all right as a villain - her otherworldly beauty alone is something that compels you to look at her. Sarah Bolger who was wonderful playing Bloody Mary in The Tudors plays Rebecca here, while not being particularly amazing, she still manages to hit all the right notes. Those aren't incredible performances, but the actresses are well suited for their parts and they have nice chemistry together.

The film's biggest strength is the atmosphere which pulls you in and almost intoxicates you - it's dark and it's fascinating, much like with "The Others" or quite recent "Awakening". There is something I always found to be creepy about boarding schools - all those girls being disciplined there, away from their families, locked in Gothic mansion along with the vast world of literature which as we all know nourishes imagination. Also as with American Psycho Harron really knows what elements can amplify the overall feel of the story - whether it's quiet piano music coming from another room or porcelain dolls, covered with blood.
The Moth Diaries is not a horror masterpiece, it's not even a particularly good movie. but it's worth watching for the creepy feel of the story and the young actresses who feel very natural and fresh in their roles. It's the kind of film that if you watch late at night won't scare you but it will make you feel as if you were walking through the dark corridors of the basement yourself, even though what you find in the end won't horrify you or even be particularly memorable, the road itself is thrill of its own.

10 comments:

  1. Nice review Sati, I haven't heard of this one. I quite like Lily Cole, and didn't mind her in Dr Parnassus, so may catch this if it comes on TV or something. Unfortunately I don't think I'd really go out of my way to see it though.

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    1. Thanks! It's the kind of the movie I'd mostly recommend to the horror fans.

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  2. One of the few reviewers of The Moth Diaries who gets it! So many movie critics wrote something to the effect of "Twilight lite cash-in" or "It's about a vampire at a girls' boarding school - so where are the fangs and cleavage?" Or both. Whether a reviewer liked the movie or not, those particular complaints are just so lazy and clueless. I liked it a lot, especially the moody atmosphere and the eerie visuals (the best one is Cole herself). I read the book some time ago.

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    1. Thank you! It's funny I never even thought of Twilight with this one, probably because it's not a boy-girl romance.

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  3. I was really looking forward to this as a love a good vampire taale and American Psycho. Shame about the story, but at least mary still got it. I'm hoping she will start making more movies now, although from what i read about Mary she is very picky about the scripts she chooses.

    And i may check out the Notorious Betty Page now

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    1. NBP is very good, it's interesting visually and Gretchen Mol delivers a lovely performance.

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  4. Well you've sold it to me. If it can be compared with The Others, then I'm up for it. Sounds nice and creepy if a little overloaded.

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    1. It's mostly about the atmosphere but it's not something many horror movies have nowadays so I think this one is worth watching!

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  5. This is taking forever to come out over here, I'm a big fan of Mary Harron. Love the design of your site btw, took me awhile to figure out the menu but that's cos I'm dumb :)

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    1. The menu can be confusing, I'm trying to make a drop down menu but it is proving to be insanely difficult :) Harron is great, wish she did more films.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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