Like butterflies, moths start life as formless, homely little things before becoming mysterious, mesmerising creatures blessed with the gift of flight. It might have benefitted the filmmakers who have adapted Rachel Klein’s 2002 novel about spooky goings-on at an all-girls boarding school to have consulted a lepidopterist before setting out. They seem to have taken the exact opposite route to their titular insect: taking an intriguing story about female neuroses with gothic overtones and turning it into a graceless, butt-ugly attempt at ‘Twilight’-lite.
Like Stephenie Meyer’s franchise, Klein’s story involves bloodsucking. 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 here to deal with. Like the fact that all the cast delivers their dialogue as if their drinks were spiked with sedatives, and Harron, clearly off her game, never establishes anything resembling a mood or rhythm here. Meanwhile, the female-bonding sessions bounce between girl-power posturing and generic ‘Gossip Girl’ cattiness. Where is the Mary Harron who gave us such memorable monsters as Patrick Bateman and Valerie Solanas, or such complex females as Bettie Page? Someone has apparently stolen her identity and is making movies under her name.