April 20th 2012 (U.S. Limited)
Sarah Bolger as Rebecca
Lily Cole as Ernessa
Sarah Gadon as Lucie
Scott Speedman as Mr. Davies
The Moth Diaries follows Rebecca, a student at an all-girl boarding school, and traces her descent as a new student, Ernessa, arrives and begins a close friendship with Rebecca’s friend Lucie. Something is not right with Ernessa and Rebecca believes that with all the changes on the grounds that Ernessa is a vampire. Is Rebecca right in her beliefs or is she going crazy? This film is based on Rachel Klein’s best-selling novel of the same name, brough to the screen by director Mary Herron. I have not read Ms. Klein’s book, but based on this film adaptation I’m not impressed.
Vampires have taken many forms in cinema: Violent creatures of the night, suave seducers, comedic parodies, and the sparkling variety. The creature in question in this instance is Ernessa played by Lily Cole who is the lone standout in the cast. She plays our vampire in question with a slight nod to the classics while using her odd mannerisms to pull off a great but slightly off kilter performance. While Ms. Cole performs above and beyond in her role the other actor’s unfortunately drag The Moth Diaries down. Sarah Bolger in the lead role of Rebecca is unbelievably annoying and Sarah Gadon as Lucie just seems to be repeating the lines that are given to her. Scott Speedman, cast here as the purvey professor that while hitting on Rebecca also throws in some vampire lore to move along the story, just seems out of place and tired.
The script based on Ms. Klein’s book is a laborious exercise in teen girl futility that includes no shocks, scares, or any type of real horror. With the exception of a vampire character nothing in the story would point to this being a horror movie. The dialogue seems like it could be written by a child and has no emotional bearing to the goings-on of the movie. If this is the way that teenagers talk and interact these days the future does not look good. There are attempts throughout the script where the film wants to be smart and mysterious. Instead it is just awkwardly muddled and confusing.
Ms. Herron’s direction is another point of contention. She does not seem to know which way she wants to take the movie. Every time you expect it to excel it crashes down with a moment of boredom. The buildups lead nowhere and scenes seem to blend together and change about with no rhyme or reason. You almost expect the actor’s to bump into each other while exiting rooms. It feels like Ms. Herron was trying to duplicate her American Psycho template, but for a teenage girl setting and it fails every step of the way.
The cinematography on the other hand is brilliant and really makes you think along the way that with a tweaked script and director that they could have had something. The shot of blood raining down on Ernessa is gorgeous and for a brief moment you see a glimpse of the darker road thatThe Moth Diaries could have taken. The location of the boarding school and surrounding grounds provide the great gothic feel of vampire movies of yesteryear while remaining seeded in the present, and once again serve to remind you of a movie that could have been so much better with some changes in the road that it travels.
As a whole The Moth Diaries is extremely deceiving based on its marketing. The image of blood raining down on a girl in boarding school attire and the mention of a vampire is going to mislead a lot of people. Plain and simple this is not a horror movie in modern terms. There is no suspense, tension, or scares; While not technically a bad Z-grade film it does not deserve the money of horror FREAKS. What is so maddening is that it could have gone a different route and been a damn good addition to the genre. Instead, in the end, The Moth Diaries stands as a movie that can’t decide which way to go and it sacrifices itself in the process. The only reason to watch this film is to see the performance of Ms. Cole, who hopefully returns to the genre in a better film next time.