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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Moth Diaries

August 27th, 2012

The Moth Diaries - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The Moth Diaries is the second Canadian film in a row I've reviewed, although technically it is a Canadian / Irish co-production. It is also the second film in a row I've reviewed starring Scott Speedman. It is also the first of two Vampire movies I'll be reviewing in a row. This film failed to make an impact at the box office, but it was the wrong genre for limited release. Will it find a receptive audience on the home market?

The Movie

The film takes place at the Brangwyn, an all-girl boarding school. It begins with the introduction of Rebecca, a 16-year old girl attending the school. She's decided to start a diary and we will be privy to her thoughts. She's excited to be back at school, and back with her best friend, Lucy. She seems quite obsessive about her relationship with Lucy, although we soon learn why. Rebecca first came to Brangwyn after her father's suicide (Rebecca was the one who found the body). She was still emotionally fragile and Lucy was the first person to be her friend while she was the new girl. Reconnecting with their old friends, Charlie and Kiki (Gia Sandhu) and others, they talk about rumors, including a new teacher, Mr. Davies, who is a guy. It's an all-girls school, and that usually extends to the staff. Later on, Rebecca is introduced to the new girl in school, Ernessa Bloch. Ernessa is shy, and rather pale.

Later in Mr. Davies' class, Rebecca and the rest of the students are learning about gothic horror, specifically about Vampires. He hands out Carmilla as a reading assignment. Carmilla is a vampire novel that predates Bram Stroker's Dracula and is about lesbianism, more specifically, a female vampire that seduces a young girl. As she reads the novel, she can't help notice similarities between the relationship in the book and Ernessa's relationship with Lucy. She begins to think Ernessa is a vampire, but, not surprisingly, she has trouble convincing others of that fact. Even as Lucy becomes sick, and other weird events pile up, it's still hard to figure out if Rebecca is right about Ernessa, or if Rebecca's obsession with Lucy has taken a toll on her mental health.

So is Ernessa really a vampire? Or is it all in Rebecca's head? Obviously I'm not going to spoil that part of the movie for you, but I will give you a small hint. I didn't really care. I really wanted to like this movie, but there are many flaws found within. First of all, I thought it never built up any momentum. We are given hints to where the film is going to go very early with the school lessons on gothic horror, but those initial hints don't build to anything quickly enough. Also, the parallels between this story and Carmilla are just too heavy-handed to accept. It might have been better if the film had possessed a darkly comedic touch, in which case the parallels could have at least been addressed in lampshade hanging kind of way. Granted, this kind of tone is risky, but the director, Mary Harron, certainly handles it well in American Psycho. At the very least, it would have livened up the pacing. I did like the performances of the three leads: Sarah Bolger, Sarah Gadon, and Lily Cole. However, they are not given much to work with, as the dialogue is rather wooden. Overall there is enough atmosphere that the movie isn't a complete bust, but it merely teases you with what it could have been.

The Extras

Extras begin with an 18-minute long behind-the-scenes featurette. There are 13 minutes of Video Diaries. Finally there is a 2-minute promotional Featurette.

There are no additional extras on the Blu-ray, nor is the technical presentation a major selling point. It was a low-budget film with certain aesthetic choices that meant a top-notch transfer would have been impossible. There are many dream sequences / flashbacks that use a retro black and white of strange camera filters, and this means the level of detail and the colors are off in these scenes. You can't blame the transfer for this and it is what the director wanted, but it does mean the visuals are not as clear as they would be otherwise. That audio is good, with clear dialogue, but overall the track is uncomplicated.

As for the price, the DVD is $20 and the Blu-ray is $25. Paying 25% more for the Blu-ray is a fine price.

The Verdict

I really wanted to like The Moth Diaries. I prefer films with strong female characters, and this movie had three of them. However, while the performances were strong, the script wasn't, with bad pacing and weak dialogue. Perhaps if you are a fan of the cast and / or the genre, then the DVD or the Blu-ray is worth checking out, but a rental will be enough for most.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Moth Diaries