Review – Pasty White Female (“The Moth Diaries”)

Director Mary Harron (“American Psycho,” “The Notorious Betty Page”) tackles neo-gothic horror in her latest film, an adaptation of Rachel Klein’s novel “The Moth Diaries.”

Set at a remote Canadian Boarding School for Girls, “…Diaries” is the story of Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucie (Sarah Gadon,) really, really, REALLY close roommates who are looking forward to spending their last year at school together. Enter Ernessa (Lily Cole) a suspiciously gaunt, pale, yet dark figure who quickly attaches herself to Lucie. Rebecca finds herself on the outside looking in as Ernessa and Lucie’s relationship grows stronger; all the while Lucie herself appears to be getting weaker and weaker.

Hmmm… Life force ebbing… Ernessa never seen during the day… Ernessa never seen eating or drinking… Could she be a… super model? No, no, that’s not it. How about a vampire? A ha! Could be. Coincidentally, one of the books being taught by the new hunky English teacher (Scott Speedman) is “Carmilla,” a gothic novel about a female vampire and her prey (that actually predates Stoker’s “Dracula” by about a quarter of a century.) Is this a case of life imitating art? Or would that be art imitating life imitating art? Regardless, Rebecca can’t get anyone to believe her that Ernessa is a danger to them all, even after students and staff start dropping like flies. What’s a good Catholic school girl to do?

Harron does her best with the material, and the film does a good job of establishing an overall mood of dread with several effective set pieces. The ending, however, underwhelmed me. It seems rushed and incomplete, which may reflect the film’s apparent low budget more than the filmmaker’s intent. Harron has done much with little before, so I found myself let down with this film’s conclusion. Solid performances, good location work and moody cinematography can’t make up for a haphazard script and the lack of a solid ending.

“The Moth Diaries” opens Friday, August 10th as part of kind of a “Teens in Peril” week at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema.

Check it out here –> http://www.sffs.org/Exhibition/SF-Film-Society-Cinema.aspx

Also playing is “Battle Royale,” a film that pre-dates “The Hunger Games” by about 10 years and is EVERYTHING that film wasn’t and should have been. Definitely check this one out if you can…

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