Told from the perspective of 16-year-old Becca (Sarah Bolger, The Spiderwick Chronicles, In America), it chronicles a year at Brangwyn, a private school for girls. With the help of her best friend, Lucie (Sarah Gadon, A Dangerous Method), Becca is just starting to cope with her father’s recent suicide as the semester begins.
A new girl arrives, Ernessa (Lily Cole, Snow White and the Huntsman), bringing with her a metaphorical wedge to drive between the two. Becca is not only jealous, but inexplicably drawn to the odd stranger, whose face suggests a porcelain doll, and suspicious of her, as she never seems to eat.
That the girls are being taught J. Sheridan LeFanu’s lesbian-vampire classic “Carmilla” is no accident; the story holds so many direct parallels with the 1872 story that it could be an adaptation. (Instead, its source material is Rachel Klein’s 2002 novel.) For that reason, Diaries would make a great double bill with Hammer’s Twins of Evil, which is based on “Carmilla” and also is new to Blu-ray.
In the past year, there seems to be a small flood of films hitting DVD that have been set at all-girl schools, where the student body engages in very bad things. Cracks and Tanner Hall are two; Harron’s work falls between them, but is closer in style, tone and quality to the former, which is an underseen, underrated thriller.
This one looks to be the same from the outset, except that it does not come together in the end. The performances are there (especially Bolger, who radiates naturalism), Harron’s direction is deft, and the movie overall looks fantastic, slit wrists and all. While visually splendid, however, The Moth Diaries is too ambiguous. It’s a solid try.
The Blu-ray includes video diaries of the girls playing Rock Band and being doused with blood. It’s a living. —Rod Lott