What are the three elements that always appear in a vampire tale?
Sex, blood and death.
So says Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman), the English teacher at Brangwyn, an all girls private boarding school in Mary Harron‘s film The Moth Diaries. Based on a novel by Rachel Klein, The Moth Diaries follows a group of friends as they return from break and start a new semester, but the group dynamic, especially that of the two main characters — Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucie (Sarah Gadon) — becomes strained when a newcomer, the troubled and mysterious Ernessa (Lily Cole), enters the fold. Alright, “strained” is an understatement, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Sarah Bolger and Sarah Gadon
Rebecca’s father, a famous poet, has recently committed suicide, and she arrives at Brangwyn emotionally exhausted but ready to spend time with her crew, particularly Lucie, her bestie for life. Perhaps there is more to their relationship, because it is implied that everyone at the school is one step away from boning each other. Charlie, the “edgy” one in the group, is already there, announcing that she has been with several women, and the group notes that the entire staff of the school are a bunch of lesbians. Then in comes Ernessa, a wan loner who looks like she crawled out of a Tim Burton film, and Lucie becomes immediately infatuated with her.
Over time, Ernessa replaces Rebecca in Lucie’s life, and Rebecca becomes increasingly jealous of Ernessa and Rebecca’s relationship. Then the bodies start piling up, and Rebecca starts to suspect that Ernessa is a vampire, as the common thread in all of the deaths is Ernessa. Rebecca’s concerns are dismissed as a symptom of her jealousy towards Ernessa and her frail emotional state as a result of her father’s death. Everyone thinks she’s just being cray cray, even though people keep disappearing when they are around Ernessa and — hello — Ernessa can walk through glass! Did y’all see that?
As Lucie becomes closer to Ernessa, she begins to waste away — first emotionally, then physically — and it is clear that Ernessa has an almost vise-like grip over her. Rebecca walks in on a sexual encounter between Lucie and Ernessa, and let’s just say that Lucie is definitely not the top.
Rebecca’s attempts to save Lucie are in vain, and she comes to the conclusion that she must get rid of Ernessa forever.
So there we have it: sex, blood, and death. This is obviously a vampire tale, and Ernessa is, like, so clearly the vampire. Tah dah! Now what? An epic showdown between Rebecca and Ernessa to save the soul of Brangwyn, and because Ernessa killed Lucie, who Rebecca was probably kind of in love with, and that bitch just needs to die.
Sound compelling? Sadly, if this film was intended to be a dark, twisted gothic tale with horror elements, the execution misses the mark.
While Harron has the talent to produce dark, disturbing psychological thrillers, such as American Psycho, watching The Moth Diaries is like watching a vampire invade a series on the CW. The sex is mostly repressed, the blood is corny, and the deaths? They feel as dispensable as the time Scott Scanlon died in the original 90210. Scott who? Exactly.
This is not to say that the film isn’t watchable. It is. Netflix it for a rainy night with a bunch of your friends, and pretend that blood sucking lesbians have invaded Gossip Girl.
The Moth Diaries is playing now in limited release.