Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Musings on: Peril on the Screen; The Moth Diaries

RIP VII Challenge Peril on the Screen

We had the rare rainy day moment here this morning and I took it as an opportunity to see what Netflix had to offer on the spooky, gothic, atmospheric front. A quick "gothic" search turned up The Moth Diaries. With only a 3 1/2 star overall review, I knew not to expect too much, but the premise sounded interesting enough, and it was just shy of an hour and a half, so I went ahead and gave it a try.

The Moth Diaries opens with Rebecca's first entry in her diary, promising to write a page every day so that "I'll be able to read it later and know exactly what happened to me when I was sixteen." Returning to school after Summer break, Rebecca is hopeful and happy. She has made a place for herself at Brangwyn's all-girls school, and now has a best friend, Lucie, who she loves and credits for helping her get over her father's suicide. Rebecca feels this new school year holds much promise for her and things do start out that way but her happiness is soon tested with the arrival of a new student, Ernessa, who is quiet, mysterious and distant to everyone but Lucie.

When Lucie becomes increasingly removed from her group of old friends in favor of Ernessa, Rebecca begins to find Ernessa suspicious. It doesn't help that she's studying the Gothic Vampire story, Carmilla in her lit class, either, as Rebecca thinks that Ernessa may be a vampire. When strange occurrences start happening, Rebecca's desire to prove that Ernessa is supernatural becomes obsessive. No one around her believes that it could be true and not even Lucie's strange, unexplainable illness makes anyone suspect Ernessa may be playing a part in it. On her own, Rebecca sets out to discover who or what Ernessa really is and stop her before she loses Lucie or worse, herself.

The Moth Diaries is filled with atmosphere, shadowy corridors, dark clouds moving across the moon, muted blues and grays, and lots of texture. A good amount of the action takes place at night where the tension could be easily amped up, yet, the movie is not scary at all. Even though it has everything that goes into a movie that should make you jump and want to cover your eyes, the elements never invoked that type tension built response. Instead the movie ambles along at a steady pace with the spooky remaining placid the entire length of the film. Don't get me wrong, things do happen, but the way in which they happen failed to get my heart racing.

One big flaw this movie has is its unanswered questions, therefore things never made complete sense. Was Rebecca just a disturbed girl, unable to deal with her father's suicide so she escaped into her own fantasy sparked from reading Carmilla or was Ernessa really a supernatural being and Rebecca was the only one to see it? The fact that there were never any real answers negatively impacted this otherwise nicely done movie. Like a lot coming of age stories that focus on a single gender in a secluded setting, there were sexual undertones present between the girls. There is also a flirtation between Rebecca and her male lit teacher. That relationship in particular made me feel as though I was missing some key piece to the story, that if I had it, I would actually get the movie. After finishing, I googled the title and found out that The Moth Diaries was first a book and that the movie was an adaptation. Missing piece found.

I liked the little homages to legendary gothic works. Rebecca calls to mind Daphne du Marurier's literary masterpiece, and Lucie "Lucy" reminds of Dracula. The reading of Carmilla, which is thought to be one of the first Gothic pieces of literature, even predating Stokers Dracula, shows that the author of The Moth Diaries was a true lover of gothic literature and makes me want to pick up the book to see what other little nuggets of the genre I may find betwixt the pages.

The Moth Diaries offers itself as an option to viewers looking for a quiet, atmospheric movie, without much thrill. The acting was solid; lead actress Sarah Bolger (Rebecca) does a fine job bringing Rebecca's fears and uncertainty to life. For a critically panned movie, the cinematography was was visually pleasing. Unfortunately, the story was lacking some punch and depth, and there were definitely loose ends left flailing in the wind. So, not horrible, but could have been much better. C-


  1. Thanks for the review. I'll keep this in mind as I scroll through Netflix myself in the next couple of weeks.

    1. Yes, do. It was worth a watch for the challenge. :)

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