The Moth Diaries

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Like butterflies, moths start life as formless, homely little things before becoming mysterious, mesmerizing creatures blessed with the gift of flight. It might have behooved the folks who’ve adapted Rachel Klein’s 2002 novel about spooky goings-on at an all-girls boarding school to have consulted a lepidopterist before setting out, as they seem to have gone the exact opposite route than their titular insect: They’ve taken an intriguing story about female neuroses with gothic overtones and turned it into a graceless, butt-ugly attempt at Twilight-lite.

Both Stephenie Meyer’s teen-horror franchise and Klein’s story involve bloodsucking, of course, and it’s the second half of that word that best describes this unfathomably bad screen version, in which a disturbed young woman (Sarah Bolger) finds her best friend (Sarah Gadon) being slowly stolen away by the odd new girl on campus (Lily Cole). As if that weren’t drama enough, several people who aren’t in this strange transfer student’s good graces wind up dead. Once the hunky new teacher (Scott Speedman) assigns Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novella, Carmilla, our heroine begins to wonder: Is this creepy classmate of hers a…vampire? [Dum-dum-dum!]

Never mind that the movie removes the notions of doubt that made Klein’s book psychologically complex; there are much bigger sins to deal with, like the fact that all the cast delivers their dialogue as if their drinks were spiked with roofies, and Harron, clearly off her game, never establishes anything resembling a mood or rhythm here. (Silent-movie flashbacks alone don’t count.) Small moments and Grand Guignol nightmares are both accompanied by bombastic music-cue bursts, while the female-bonding sessions bounce between grrrl-power posturing and generic Gossip Girl cattiness. Whither the filmmaker who gave us such memorable monsters as Patrick Bateman and Valerie Solanas, or such complex females as Bettie Page? Someone has apparently stolen the director's identity and is making movies under her name. The real Harron may want to consider suing for slander.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday April 20 2012
Duration: 83 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Mary Harron
Cast: Sarah Bolger
Sarah Gadon
Lily Cole
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