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THE MOTH DIARIES is the long-awaited new Canadian-Irish psychological vampire film from Mary Harron that had its North American premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Mary Harron has had an excellent track record with I SHOT ANY WARHOL (1996), AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000) and THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE (2005) so I along with many other people were looking forward to her first foray into gothic horror. What we got was a tease...
Based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Klien, THE MOTH DIARIES takes place at Brangqyn College, an all-girl boarding school. Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) is entering her last year at the school and is still trying to recover from the suicide of her father. At Brangwyn, Rebecca has a group of girls that have become like family, especially her roommate Lucy (Sarah Gadon), the central figure in Rebecca's world. When strange new student Ernessa (Lily Cole) befriends Lucy, Rebecca sees her insular universe start to crumble, feeling threatened by the newcomer. As a result, both she and Lucy's personalities start to change. Rebecca stops eating and turns gaunt and sickly, eventually turning on Lucy as the friends around her fall away, either by death or expulsion. Adding to the mix is her handsome literary teacher Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman) who has more than books on his mind.
The film is beautifully shot and has a nice atmosphere, but there isn't enough blood in the vein to make it worth drinking. That being said, THE MOTH DIARIES is good exercise in cinematic restraint and Harron should be commended on not automatically going for the jugular for a standard vampire film. The cast is one of the most gorgeous I have seen in a long time, and coupled with lesbian overtones between most of the women, the result is a very sexy film at times, but with very little sex in it. There is also no real scenes of vampires in this vampire film, with most of the nosferatu action left to your imagination off-screen.
A mythology teacher within the film explains the three key elements to a vampire story: sex, blood and death, and yet there is nary a trace of these elements in the film we are watching. Now, as a Fangoria reader you might find that last comment a bit of a turn-off, but don't turn away because the restraint exhibited here really works for the film. The film is very much a dual story of a girl dealing with a death and her own sexual awakening, something only hinted at, and then eventually ignored by the end of the film when the story's focus lands squarely on her father.
The characters tend to be a bit bland and one-dimensional for was is supposed to be am intellectual take on vampires. This isn’t a comment on the cast itself because there just isn't much in the script to work from. The script is too linear and everything plays out exactly how you think it should. Everyone who you think is a threat turns out to be a threat, so there is nothing to really get emotionally involved with relating to the characters. Even the speeches from the teacher are nothing more than basic 101 info about vampires we have heard a million times already. Just the fact that we have a teacher explaining the mythology that will be used in this film is cinematic cliché that has been done to death. Although I understand the intention of staying faithful to the book, THE MOTH DIARIES might have benefited from a few unexpected twists and turns along the way.
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