A Gothic Tale of Friendship, Love, and Loss
Written and directed by Mary Harron, the Canadian-Irish co-production has all the fixings for a Gothic masterpiece, but the execution falls a little flat. At fault for this I believe is the all teen-girl cast. Set in a boarding school, the film follows Rebecca, whose diary constitutes the narration of her final, chaotic, year of high school and the obstacles she must overcome (which are not boy-related - refreshing).
Instead, the story focuses on her friendship with her BFF Lucy as the presence of a new, mysterious girl, begins to complicate their relationship.
Unable to cope with her depression without Lucy's support, Rebecca begins to slip. Her growing concern for Lucy's health and her growing anxiety about her father's recent suicide have her in a tail-spin. When the campus is struck with a string of fatal freak-accidents, Rebecca can't help but wonder if the new girl is behind it all, and if she is something other than human.
The film weaves together the stories of both the 1871 Gothic novella Carmilla, and Bram Stoker's Dracula - in no subtle way. Using Rebecca's Gothic Lit course as a way to open her mind to the potential danger of Ernessa, Harron is also able to explore the vampiric themes and motifs of Sex, Blood, and Death (as cited by Rebecca's teacher).
Moreover, Harron is able to create a compelling relationship between Rebecca and Lucy which mirrors that of Mina and Lucy in Stoker's novel. At the same time though, the story follows the plot of Carmilla so as to explore themes of sexuality (especially through the homoeroticism that exists between the girls) and power from a different perspective; one that is specifically female.
It's certainly intriguing and although I was not particularly impressed or surprised by any of it, I still felt drawn to Rebecca's story the whole way through. That being said, I'm not entirely convinced the film wanted to do more than re-imagine Carmilla. As such, it is very much an adaptation but it is lacking in an inspiring new approach. It is not updated so as to address modern-day issues and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does make it a little boring. But in all fairness, there is definitely passion, pain, and a desire for freedom, a desire for love - all things that never are really outdated in the first place.
I classify this one as worth a watch for anyone who is captivated by the Gothic tales.