01/05/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
One thing is for sure…Hollywood certainly knows how to milk a cash cow. Serving up yet another vapid vampire entry to suck in (no pun intended) the ‘tween crowd, the low-budget gothic horror show The Moth Diaries tepidly arrives on the scene. A banal bloodsucking soap opera looking to shamelessly capitalise on the Twilight sensationalism, The Moth Diaries drains any remnants left of guilty pleasure goosebumps or recycled romantic regurgitation from the fidgety teen scream genre.
Let’s face it…we need another teeny-bopper vampire vehicle much like a bald men’s convention needing an urgent supply of combs and shampoo.
Surprisingly, this supernatural sludge is from heralded director Mary Harron (“American Psycho”). Harron provides a tedious bite with her hapless horror thriller as there does not seem to be any convincing titillation or imaginative chills which overrides this vacant vampire drama that has about as much hair-raising suspense as a one-fanged Dracula vacationing in sunny Miami Beach.
Although murky and moody, The Moth Diaries struggles to bring some structured frothiness to the forefront. Elements of challenging feminine adolescence, sexual neuroticism, dark cynicism, creepy curiosities, and fear of immortality are virtually sketchy. Harron never properly serves up the macabre meatiness in a sinister fashion…something that is usually her trademark when exploring the weird depths of her cinematic nose for off-kilter exploration. At best, The Moth Diaries is an irksome and atmospheric boofest that foolishly stands in the shadows of quality and quiet fright fare such as the acclaimed Let the Right One In and The Addiction.
The film tells the tale of Ernessa (Lily Cole, “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”), a transfer student attending this posh but creepy all-girls boarding school called Brangwyn. Ernessa is very mysterious and about as welcoming as a closed coffin. The vague suggestion is that there may be more conflicts embedded in the angst-ridden Ernessa but in these kinds of by-the-numbers creep capers that remains to be seen.
Ernessa is befriended by classmates Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucie (Sarah Gadon). Rebecca harbors a secretive heartache as she struggles with the aftermath of her famous poet father’s recent suicide. However, when being exposed to the Wednesday Addams wannabe Ernessa, Rebecca’s already dour disposition becomes more paranoid in jumpiness and disillusionment. It certainly does not help Rebecca’s edginess that her best buddy Lucie seems to be bonding tightly with the stoic Ernessa therefore causing an uneasiness and nagging jealousy in Rebecca.
Rebecca is obsessed with her now rival Ernessa and wonders about this walking Elvira blueprint. Could it possibly be that Ernessa is a vampire with the power to cast a spell on those not suspecting who she really is much like her galapl Lucie? Maybe Rebecca is jumping the gun a bit and letting her hallucinatory imagination get the best of her? Perhaps the memories of her father’s suicide are adding to her stress level? Or what may be influencing Rebecca could be the colorful vampire stories as taught to her by a charismatic Gothic literature school instructor (Scott Speedman)? Worst yet, Rebecca may be correct about her cautionary take on the peculiar Ernessa.
The one main clue that Ernessa may be cursed is the inexplicable amounts of moths that congregate in her dorm room—something of a noticeable warning signal that could enhance Rebecca’s mounting fears about this potential blood-sucking Barbie Doll in a cotton sweater.
Despite the hearty intensity of the performance given by harried heroine Bolger as well as spicy turns by vixen Cole and her new hanger-on Gadon, The Moth Diaries lingers about as a sordid story that is slight and sluggish. Harron’s razzle-dazzle symbolism feels synthetic and is never quite in sync with the unbalanced supernatural twitching that the movie laboriously marches to frame from frame.
Moths are not the only critters coming from Ernessa’s dorm room of destruction—it could be emerging from a lackluster script written on a ripped and discarded T-shirt.
The Moth Diaries (IFC Films)
1 hr. 22 mins.
Starring: Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Sarah Bolger, Scott Speedman, Judy Parfitt, Anne Day-Jones
Directed by: Mary Harron
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Supernatural drama
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
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