The Moth Diaries takes another hapless bite out of the popular high school vampire saga, attempting to provide an interesting twist on a genre we should all have overdosed on by now, fans of fangs or not. However, with an intriguing premise and American Psycho director Mary Harron behind the wheel, The Moth Diaries has the potential to be a film worth the 82 minutes invested. Alas, the optimism fades as storylines are introduced and never full fleshed out and there is little to no explanation as to exactly how Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) can be so certain that new student Ernessa (Lily Cole) a blood sucker.
The film opens with a proclamation from Rebecca on September the 5th, the first day of school—she will write one page in her journal from here on out. Rebecca and her giggly blonde best friend, Lucy (Sarah Gadon), seem to fully enjoy their all-girl boarding school, an eerie former hotel, frequently bonding with their gal pals by smoking weed and playing Rock Band. New girl Ernessa’s arrival soon rocks the fun boat and quickly ignites an overwhelming bout of jealousy in Rebecca as Ernessa and Lucy take a liking to one another. As Ernessa, former model Lily Cole’s chilling stares and icy presence are captivating and the highlight of this otherwise bland film.
When dreamy Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman) assigns the gothic novella Carmilla, Rebecca begins to notice strange parallels to Lucy and Ernessa’s relationship with that of the fictional vampire’s relationship to her female prey. The assumed hypnotizing of Lucy, a chance death by falling (the victim being the only other believer in Rebecca’s claim) and a brutal murder of a disliked teacher is enough to convince Rebecca that Ernessa is indeed a modern day Carmilla. Other hints are sprinkled throughout, such as never witnessing Ernessa eat or sleep, but other than the moths that flutter within her oddly smelling room, audiences never witness the assumed vampire’s pursuit of dinner. Due to the non-blood drinking, it is surmised that this vampire lives off of sucking the soul from her prey (and then convincing them to commit suicide). A little confirmation of this hypothesis would have gone a long way.
Rebecca begins to experience violent dreams soaked in blood featuring Ernessa day and night, always ending with her discovering a blade sitting directly in front of her, something that symbolizes Rebecca’s father’s suicide. These dreams further blur the line between reality and imagination (for audiences and Rebecca) but are great examples of Harron’s directorial abilities, evoking memories of American Psycho and leaving the viewer salivating for more. Unable to find an ally in her vampire hunt, Rebecca takes it upon herself to end this school-year-long plight.
No matter how magical the film’s story line, at least some degree of believability is crucial to success. The Moth Diaries serves up a great helping of symbolism and interesting suggestions in what could have been an exceptional story, but that is about as far as it goes. Instead of promise fulfilled, The Moth Diaries is an example of how even the most skilled director can leave an audience confused and weary when hobbled by a mess of a script.
Director: Mary Harron
Writer: Rachel Klein
Starring: Sarah Bolger, Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Scott Speedman
Release Date: Apr. 20, 2012