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Equal parts Goodfellas and Dusk till Dawn. A reputed mobster Sonny Trafficante was hoping to get away to the family hunting lodge for a little rest and relaxation and create some memories. Instead what he got was a night he will never forget.
Lara (Eleanor Tomlinson) and her estranged father, Dr. Hill (Stephen Rea), travel behind the iron curtain to a decrepit castle outside the Hungarian town of Styria. In the nearby woods, Lara witnesses a car crash. Carmilla, (Julia Pietrucha), escapes from the wreckage as a driver attempts to run her over. When Lara hides this beautiful and mysterious stranger in the castle, the two start an intense and chaotic friendship. As their relationship deepens, the young women of Styria begin to go mad. When local girls are found dead from apparent suicides, Lara wonders if Carmilla is to blame or is there a darker secret behind the mass hysteria destroying the town. Written by
I've read the original J.S LeFanu novella written in 1872 and putting it in a modern setting doesn't seem like a bad idea (the key word being "seem") and the castle they rented out as the location looks amazing even when measured against other, higher budgeted versions of Carmilla. My problem with it is that it seems a little disjointed in terms of what works and what doesn't.
Being that Dracula was the 19th Century vampire book that caught on I'll assume that you don't know the plot. Lara (or Laura as she's known in the book) stops a car accident (or carriage) from killing a woman named Carmilla. Friendship blossoms between them, with lesbian subtext (although in the movie it's shot in a way which there's no mistake) but soon young girls start dying and a general tries to stop Carmilla from killing more people.
Here's what I didn't like. Stephen Rea being the most bankable star looks like he's sleepwalking through the entire movie. Kind of like a "I'm clueless about my daughter in this movie. Okay, Where's my paycheck?". Being that the emotional core of the novella and this movie is Carmilla and Lara's relationship as she's forced to kill a lover thanks to her being a vampire (I assume it was written with a different mindset in the 1870's but that's definitely an interpretation) and it's rushed. It's kind of like "BAM! They've just met and now they're having a romantic night under the stars!" and I mean the day they meet! Elanor Tomlinson as Lara doesn't do well either and it half-translates the novel to a 1989 setting. Meaning half of it has moments that would have worked better in the 1800's. Parts like the townspeople referring to Carmilla as a "gypsy girl" and The General saying something like Lara is of the devil due to her dodging questions and making her uncomfortable. Oh and making Lara a 1980's emo just doesn't work.
Onto what I liked. The cinematography and the locations make this seem like it was shot on a much higher budget then it is. The castle especially looks brilliant even by the standards of other adaptations. Then there's Julie Pietrucha as Carmilla, she is brilliant in the role and I do like how this movie portrays vampirism. I also don't mind the change of having The General know and help Carmilla to stop from killing people and it also managed to throw in themes of feminism and it actually blends seamlessly with the story.
So is this the Carmilla adaptation I wanted? No. But it's a damn shame considering how close this was to being a good movie for me. So far, if you want a good Vampire movie with lesbian subtext and themes of feminism, I'd suggest something like We Are The Night. This however is worth a look but it just doesn't do it for me as a fan of the book.
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