Saturday, February 23, 2013

DVD Review: The Moth Diaries

The Moth Diaries is a movie I'm going to regard sort of oddly, and it'll probably make a good conversation piece if I ever find anyone else who's seen it. It's a movie so full of flaws and issues that they're leaking out of it at every turn. But it's so well presented and so interesting that I can't despise it. I actually kind of dig it. I've always maintained that I can appreciate or even enjoy movies that are flawed, so long as they're interesting. And this one is certainly interesting.

The plot is a high school reimagining of Carmilla (which the movie references constantly, and which I think gets name dropped more than it actually gets adapted). Rebecca, the lead character, is attending an all-girl boarding school and recovering from her father's suicide. She is very close to (and prettttttty obviously in love with) her best friend Lucy, who begins to drift away from her when a new girl, Ernessa arrives at the school. Since Ernessa doesn't eat, doesn't appear to sleep and has a very strange name, Rebecca begins to suspect Ernessa is actually a vampire and that her attention is killing Lucy.

The film has a plethora of issues (how often to I get to use the word plethora?) but the biggest is an extremely wobbly structure. The film's first act is pretty abbreviated and it doesn't so much climax as it coasts to a stop. The movie clocks in at barely an hour and 20 minutes, and when combined with some extremely out of place surrealist sequences toward the end, it seems to suggest to me that the original cut was much longer and much weirder and it got shave down in post-production. My research into the book it's based on seem to suggest it was built heavily around the unreliability of it's narrator, so perhaps the original cut emphasized that a bit more?

There are also some minor, but annoying, script issues. At least a few of the minor characters are a tiny bit...on the nose I guess is the term I'm searching for. At least one of them keeps dropping in and out of the movie and with one exception, none of them have any real depth or interest.

But I obviously like the movie or that first paragraph would have been a lot more vicious. Unfortunately, the things I like are a little more nebulous, harder to nail down. I guess a big part of it would be the actors. All of them, especially Lilly Cole as Ernessa, are extremely game for the material and they all commit to their roles with admirable gusto. The visual scheme style, especially for dreams and flashbacks, help the movie really come alive in ways that a more conventional style wouldn't have. A lot of the more unique moments (especially the admittedly out of place surrealist sequences towards the end) are interestingly shot and put together. And while the occasional attempts at horror mostly fall flat, a couple of them work surprisingly well.

It weirds me out a tiny bit to be giving this movie a recommendation. If I'm being brutally honest the movie is a failure, but it's an admirable and unique failure. It was directed by Mary Harron, best known (hell, only known) for her adaptation of American Psycho which also walked the fine line this movie fell off. If you go into it willing and interested, it can suck you straight in. So I dug it, and if you're willing to give it a shot, you might too.

Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he kept waiting for a High Tension style twist that never came.

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