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Run-of-the-mill schoolgirl Gothic; Lily Cole is incredible, though
drownnnsoda29 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"The Moth Diaries", based on the book by Rachel Klein, tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is returning to boarding school for the year at Brangwyn, a secluded girl's school that was once a grand hotel in its heyday. The girl is Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), and she's still dealing with the trauma of losing her poet father to suicide, so she seems to invest all of her time and emotion into her friendship with fellow student Lucie (Sarah Gadon). It's a new year, Rebecca has her circle of friends, there's a hot new English teacher at school (Scott Speedman), and by all accounts, it seems like it's going to be a great year for her. That is, until Ernessa (Lily Cole) arrives at the school. Tall, dark-haired, and mysteriously brooding, Ernessa seems to have a secret. And when she and Lucie become too close for Rebecca's comfort, she goes a bit mad. Is Rebecca overreacting, or does Ernessa have ulterior motives?

I'm going to be frank here; with Mary Harron (the woman behind "The Notorious Bettie Page" and "American Psycho") penning the screenplay for this and directing it, I expected more and got less. I'll begin by telling you what's wrong with this movie and then end my review on a more positive note with what was done well. The biggest problem with this film is, almost fatally, its overall plot structure. Harron's script is terribly choppy, and the transitions in the film are wooden and seem like filler material. Since the film is based on a book that was written in journal form, Harron opted to use internal dialogue and asides from the Rebecca character, drawn out of her diaries. The problem this creates is that her placement of these asides and "thoughts" as they may be come across as inappropriate and almost cheapen the film to Lifetime status. The poor transitions here kill the plot momentum and also eliminate suspense, which a film like this needs in order to gain investment from its audience.

Secondly, there is the dialogue. It's stiff, boring, and completely uninspired, ala a made-for-TV B-movie. Acting-wise, we've got performances all over the spectrum. Sarah Bolger is competent as our obsessive leading lady, and Sarah Gadon is decent as her object of obsession, but neither are particularly impressive. The incredibly good-looking Scott Speedman is awkward as the English professor whose oh-so-convenient literary insight provides the film's classic vampire arcs, but I think his on screen stiffness is more a fault of the script than his acting ability. The other girls in the film are, well... pretty bad. That's all I'm going to say. So, this brings us to Lily Cole, who plays our vampy new girl; simply put, Cole outshines everybody here. Although her role is nothing new in the horror/vampire genre, her embodiment of this classic character was flawless. She plays up the brooding aspects without becoming hammy, and at times comes across as charming and sweet— just like a vampire. Physically speaking, she's intimidating on screen; the camera-work accentuates her height, and her raven hair and doll-like face add to her character's overall eeriness. In short, she's really, really great in this.

In addition to Cole's performance, I also really enjoyed the visual aspects of the film. Where Harron has failed her script, she's succeeded as a visualist. Her work on "American Psycho" displayed her talent for imagery, and she does a great job in that department here. The Gothic overtones and the atmosphere of the school take center stage through the cinematography, and there are several sequences that do impress- the raining blood scene in the school library is the standout scene in the film; visually disturbing as well as thematically relevant.

I'd also like to point out the very obvious allusions that the film makes, the biggest one being to Carmilla, the classic precursor to the vampire novel, and an inspiration for countless horror films. There are parallels to Dracula as well, and the film stays true to a lot of the classic plot devices of these stories rather than opting for the more modernistic approaches to the subgenre, such as the tweeny aspects we see in the "Twilight" franchise. For that, I congratulate this film for sticking to its guns. In true Gothic fashion, there's a heaping helping of repressed homoeroticism, unexplained deaths, foggy courtyards, anemic young girls, and mysterious trunks in the basement.

Overall, "The Moth Diaries" is as much of a success as it is a failure. The script is weak and unfortunately fairly stagnant in terms of plot momentum. The dialogue is also poorly-written and the acting from the supporting cast is very much TV-movie status. If you can deal with the teenage melodrama, there are appealing visuals and nice Gothic overtones here as well as parallels to the classics, but I'm not sure that's enough to save the film for most people. 5/10.
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An excellent example of what filmmaking used to be...
kevin-127222 July 2013
I randomly selected and streamed this film last night on Netflix, enjoyed it, and checked today to see what others were saying about it. I was surprised to find harsh words about the film, and they made me wonder why people would react this way to a well-made story like this. The cinematography is lovely. The music is so well suited that it plays unnoticed beneath the visuals – never clashing with the emotional content of the scenes. The sound editing is top notch. The young actors are all excellent. Set design is spot on for the story. No dialog is wasted. Etc. etc.

So what was the problem? My personal reaction was quite good. When it started, I expected a bad film – another sappy story about girls at school. In fact, the only scene I didn't care for was the girls "partying" in their rooms. Such a cliché rendering. But the rest was endearing. The film seduced me, drawing me in further and further as I watched. It's not revolutionary, to be sure, but why does every film have to be revolutionary? We don't hold music to that type of criteria. "Oh, another blues song. That's been done…"

Harron's achievement here is in the mood of this piece. I see people complaining about the connecting scenes, and I think about how much they must hate a film like Upstream Color or Tree of Life or Melancholia (though those films are rated quite a bit higher). The Moth Diaries is not like those films because it has a much more grounded story.

Why are people down on this film? My best guess is that the negative reactions this film received are indicative of the altered nature of film itself. The Moth Diaries takes a different tack than contemporary blockbusters. It's not The Conjuring (a great horror film), which twists every few minutes and keeps throwing shocks at you, making you squirm in your seat. But it's not intended to be. It's not a shock piece. It is a mood piece, and Harron does a beautiful job of establishing a consistent mood throughout, a mood that captures appropriate emotional content for the age-rage of the characters in the story. Had this movie been released in the 1970s, it would have found a large, receptive audience. I, for one, found it refreshing to watch a film that takes its time building mood and environment and character.

The strength of the film is its subtlety. Unfortunately, it appears that subtlety is lost on many contemporary film goers. For me, The Moth Diaries returned me to the days when movies could be captivating and sensory without abandoning story in service to "art." I liked it and I'll be tracking Mary Harron's work from now on.
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Good, but could have been great.
thebody63 September 2012
I think that this film had an interesting (while not entirely original) plot, but from what I've heard about the book, should have been better than it was. It showed some very promising acting from a few young actresses and I liked the directing. The main problems are that there wasn't enough character development of, well, any of them, the resolution seemed rushed and not nearly as epic as it could have been, and the mystery surrounding the character of Ernessa was, instead of intriguing, just puzzling. It's a little hard to describe, but I didn't feel that intangible suspense and relation to the characters that I'd like to have felt. Overall, I'd say it's worth a watch, but I do wish it had been better crafted.
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The Moth Diaries is quite interesting
Argemaluco19 July 2012
Director Mary Harron works more frequently on the TV, but I have always found her films (I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page) interesting mainly because of their mixed focus, commercially accessible and also with enough personal vision in order to bring them an unusual artistic varnish. That's why I was interested in watching The Moth Diaries, Harron's first incursion in the horror genre, and it fortunately ended up being very interesting.

The screenplay from The Moth Diaries displays an unexpected dimension and deepness, and it always keep us on the constant doubt about the nature of the phenomenons we witness. We never exactly know whether there's a supernatural influence at the school, or if that's just a metaphor of the main character's nerves. Besides, the somber corridors from the building and the whispering woods which round on it contribute to create a melancholic atmosphere, very appropriate in order to accentuate the main character's emotional conflict.

In the leading role, Sarah Bolger takes the biggest advantage of her expressive face in order to transmit her character's emotions without the need of words. Sarah Gadon also makes a perfect work as Lucie, and I also liked Lily Cole's performance very much. I usually can't swallow the "models who become actresses", but Cole has displayed genuine histrionic talent in The Moth Diaries, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and St. Trinian's.

On the negative side from The Moth Diaries, a few moments feel a bit dull, and the ending feels kinda convenient. Nevertheless, I think this movie is worthy of a recommendation, and I will definitely keep having interest in Harron's filmography.
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Pasty White Female
soncoman8 August 2012
Director Mary Harron ("American Psycho," "The Notorious Betty Page") tackles neo-Gothic horror in her latest film, an adaptation of Rachel Klein's novel "The Moth Diaries."

Set at a remote Canadian BoardingSchool for Girls, "…Diaries" is the story of Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucie (Sarah Gadon,) really, really, REALLY close roommates who are looking forward to spending their last year at school together. Enter Ernessa (Lily Cole) a suspiciously gaunt, pale, yet dark figure who quickly attaches herself to Lucie. Rebecca finds herself on the outside looking in as Ernessa and Lucie's relationship grows stronger; all the while Lucie herself appears to be getting weaker and weaker.

Hmmm… Life force ebbing… Ernessa never seen during the day… Ernessa never seen eating or drinking… Could she be a… super model? No, no, that's not it. How about a vampire? A ha! Could be. Coincidentally, one of the books being taught by the new hunky English teacher (Scott Speedman) is "Carmilla," a Gothic novel about a female vampire and her prey (that actually predates Stoker's "Dracula" by about a quarter of a century.) Is this a case of life imitating art? Or would that be art imitating life imitating art? Regardless, Rebecca can't get anyone to believe her that Ernessa is a danger to them all, even after students and staff start dropping like flies. What's a good Catholic school girl to do?

Harron does her best with the material, and the film does a good job of establishing an overall mood of dread with several effective set pieces. The ending, however, underwhelmed me. It seems rushed and incomplete, which may reflect the film's apparent low budget more than the filmmaker's intent. Harron has done much with little before, so I found myself let down with this film's conclusion. Solid performances, good location work and moody cinematography can't make up for a haphazard script and the lack of a solid ending.
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timepass supernatural thriller...
saadgkhan14 August 2012
The Moth Diaries - CATCH IT (B-) My expectations for The Moth Diaries were higher ever since I saw its promos and surprisingly at that times I hadn't seen Mary Harron? American Psycho or even Sarah Bolger in The Tudors. Once I saw Sarah Bol ger in The Tudor as Young Bloody Mary Queen of England (A Princess at that time) I was really psyched about it. Though after watching this I got to know that its directed by American Pycho's director. The Moth diaries is a chilling story of Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), a young girl who, haunted by her father's suicide, enrolls in an elite boarding school for girls. Before long, Rebecca's friendship with the popular Lucy (Sarah Gadon) is shattered by the arrival of a dark and mysterious new student named Ernessa (Lily Cole). Rebecca, whose overtures of concern are rejected by Lucy, finds herself lost and confused. Rebecca starts to suspect that Ernessa is a vampire, but, despite the suspicious deaths that begin to occur, her fears are treated as simple girlish jealousy. As the bodies of young girls pile up and the line between reality and the supernatural starts to blur, Rebecca decides to take matters into her own hands and get rid of Ernessa. (RT) Girls or boys living in boarding schools are not a new concept for movies. The concept of the movie is interesting even the execution is but there is something lacking. I couldn't figure that out it might be the production value or just typical scare tactics or its predictable ending. Sarah Bolger is amazing as she was in the Tudors. Sarah Gadon is good. Lucy Cole was made for these kinds of creepy roles. Her face is perfect to play roles like these. Scott Speedman is good but doesn?t have many scenes. On the whole, it?s not scary or even plays with your mind like American Psycho. It turns out to be a time pass supernatural thriller.
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Very big waste of time
chestbuster198720 March 2012
I only watched this movie because I noticed the director had worked on something I really enjoyed before. But this film was pretty much a disappointment. Everything in the movie seems to just be "said", not actually acted. You feel no depth in the characters, their relationships just have to be "accepted" by the viewer. It all seemed very mechanized but I was at least hoping for some sort of greater point to it all (which of course never came) There's no explanation whatsoever as to why the characters behave the way they do, no motivation for their actions. It seems more like they are robots with predefined roles, instead of actual representations of human beings. I honestly have no idea what the target audience for this was, it's not romantic, it's not horror, not much of a mystery. It's basically a lame pseudo-emotional film with hints of horror (very mild hints mind you!).
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Rebecca, living in an all girls boarding school, struggles with her sanity as she fears a roommate of hers is a vampire. Warning: Spoilers
I loved this movie! I feel like many people come into this movie with a set perspective because they see that its about vampires and they automatically associate it with the Twilight saga. However, it is nothing like Twilight or The Vampire Diaries. The movie is more about girls relationships, it really shows the mind of a teenage girl and her daily struggles, along with the overwhelming supernatural theme that carries the movie. The film also has a ambiguous element to it, as you are constantly wondering whether Rebecca is mad or if Ernessa really is a vampire. It has many levels to it, and it's overall a beautiful movie.
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Help me! My father had talent.... poor me!
nick-yeo-main1 February 2012
Rebecca attends an all girl boarding school for tiresome adolescents in an old hotel. Through her friendship with fellow student Lucie, she has learned to re-embrace life, after the suicide of her poet father.

However, When spooky new student, Ernessa, arrives and supplants Rebecca in Lucie's affection: Rebecca becomes jealous and decides that Ernessa must be a vampire, as described by her handsome romantic fiction teacher.

Staff and students succumb to premature exits of one sort or another and Rebecca becomes more and more convinced of the malevolent and supernatural influence of Ernessa whilst desperately fighting off the urge to kill herself.

Never was the nike "just do it" campaign slogan more in my mind. This film might appeal to you if you are a teenage girl, with little imagination or cinema experience.... otherwise I would avoid it.
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Beautiful Moths
brendanalpiner28 August 2012
I can't exactly put my finger on it, but there is something quite beautiful and unique about "The Moth Diaries".

One thing anyone seeing the movie should know is that it is NOT a horror movie. It is a dramatic thriller that has some elements of horror to it (much like Black Swan). Maybe it was the whole idea about the female empowerment or the literature weaved into the story line, but I couldn't keep myself from watching the movie.

The acting is average, nothing really great or horrible about it. If you have ever read the book, it pretty much follows right into it. The actors did do a good job of portraying the characters as I imagine.

Will everybody like "The Moth Diaries"? No. It's a very hit or miss movie. But in a year full of terrible horror films, you can do a lot worse...
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Shades of Carmilla
ksj8706 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Based on a popular young adult novel but equally indebted to Sheridan Le Fanu's classic novella "Carmilla," The Moth Diaries is a story of angst, loss, and the dividing line between reality and fantasy. It might also be a vampire story. At least, one of the characters thinks another girl is a vampire, one who transforms into a flurry of moths on cold, moonlit nights. Can the protagonist save her best friend from the vampire's evil intentions, or is the vampire really just playing with her real prey?

For the most part, the script does justice to its literary inspirations, and perhaps one reason the film failed to equal the popularity of the original novel is that it is too quiet, too subtle, too psychological. Is it a horror movie? Not really, at least not in the accepted sense. Fans of slasher films or torture porn certainly won't find what they're looking for in this movie, and for all that The Moth Diaries is marketed as a vampire film it's debatable--even doubtful--if it's really even that. The Moth Diaries is more psychological drama than anything else, albeit a very Gothic one.

As a Gothic melodrama that explores the nature of grief, love, and the painful process of personal evolution, The Moth Diaries is extremely successful. The plot remains ambiguous and even after the closing credits much remains uncertain, but it is clear that whatever has actually happened, our main character has, somehow, left one epoch behind and emerged into a new one. Anyone who can relate to that may find much in The Moth Diaries to identify with.
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Viewers know this is not Horror
Thrill_KillZ18 March 2012
I hadn't seen any trailers for this, just the brief description and the genre title of HORROR. Almost immediately the viewer is brought into the atmosphere of the close nit bunch of young girls living at a pricey boarding school. At first I was in good spirits and was quite captivated by the beauty of our main characters but as time went on, it seemed the less went on. This would be a very fine pick for young girls of course they would have to re-label it to Drama/Mystery. What we end up with is a 115 minute saga that did not in the slightest bit tug on my thriller strings and it completely failed to deliver anything to us in the Horror genre as there was none.

If they put this into theaters as it is I expect very bad results for it. I felt a little like I had been conned out nearly two hours, it's like you put an hour into the story thinking chaos will begin to reign in the second half & then the sun comes & and pretty birds fly instead. 3/10
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Gothic horror tries to hard to be a classic.
jaguiar31328 August 2012
Moth Diaries is a supernatural horror set at an all girl boarding school where young Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) is sent after the suicide of her writer father. She befriends the pretty Lucy (Sarah Gadon) and all seems well until the arrival of the strange Student Ernessa (Lily Cole). Lucy is drawn to Ernessa and the more Sarah tries to find out who this mysterious new girl really is, the more she begins to believe that she is faced with the very type of vampiric creature that she is reading about in her literature class. As the bodies pile up and everyone attributes Rebecca's suspicions as a product of the emotions left over from her father's death, Rebecca decides she must deal with this monster herself. Moth Diaries is one of those movies that tries hard and sometimes tries too hard for it's own good. There is a very Gothic mood to it. Director Mary Harron tries to give it the same period feel of a Dracula story despite being set in modern day. There are some nice visuals and effective scenes and the cast all perform well. But, sometimes the film is a bit too obvious for it's own good. Some of the scenes come across as a bit silly when maybe a bit more subtlety would have been better. Some of the voice narration by Rebbeca comes across as forced, telling us things we already have figured out for ourselves. The film probably could have used some of the sly humor that Harron used to perfection in the classic American Psycho but, here the tone comes across as a little too serious and it also can't decide whether it wants to be a straight horror or something more along the lines of a Twilight movie with it's melodramatics(Such as Rebecca's relationship with Scott Speedman's literature teacher that goes nowhere). Moth Diaries is not a complete failure and it has entertainment value but, it could have been a lot better if the filmmakers weren't trying too hard to create a goth classic in the same vein (sorry, had to) as Dracula with the melodrama of the Bella and Edward saga.
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torontomovies24 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
One of the worst films I've ever had to sit through in a movie theatre. Should have been made for and aimed at children. But it isn't. It's a mess of under-explored plot elements and bad dialogue. Awful writing, awful direction. Disappointing to say the least. There is actually nothing else to say about this movie. Nothing. The relationship between the girls is unbelievable. We're supposed to believe they are the best of friends but the on-screen energy is awful. One particular scene featured one of the girls breaking down and crying. But the actress just looked like her face was in pain, probably because she wasn't really bothered. This movie is set in the modern day and yet all the girls are running around at night in ankle length white night-dresses.

Worst scene: Teacher gets fresh with student all of a sudden. Most people just laughed. It was so ridiculous.

Best scene: The opening moth-animation.
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Misses by a mile
FilmPulse13 May 2012
Every film-lover has had that moment when he or she sees a film that tries to say too much and ends up saying little-to-nothing at all. Unfortunately, that is the case with Mary Harron's adaptation of Rachel Klein's female adolescent angst drama The Moth Diaries. Here is a film that attempts to cover female friendship, hetero- and homoerotic longing, suicide, coming-of-age, murder, love, betrayal, jealousy, familial separation, grief, empathy, and much more in a single 85-minute vampire fantasy. If it can be done, this is not the film that does it. Its downfall is largely due to the piling up of explication upon explication as if Harron does not trust viewers to follow a simple but sexy storyline virtually styled after the famous made-for-television after-school movies of decades past.

The film opens with teenage girls joining one another for a new term at a Catholic boarding school. Most of the girls we meet know each other from previous terms – this is especially true for best friends Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucy (Sarah Golden). We know that Rebecca and Lucy are inseparable and that Rebecca is particularly dependent upon Lucy. Viewers are led to believe that this dependence has grown since Rebecca's famed poet father committed suicide a couple of years before the film's opening scenes. The close relationship between the two girls is forever interrupted by the arrival of a new British student named Ernessa (Lily Cole). Like any literary and/or cinematic predator prototype, Ernessa tirelessly works to separate and weaken the two girls to fulfill her own desires. Early on, the oft-seen triangle is in place with Rebecca as heroine, Ernessa as foe, and Lucy as victim.

This triangle can be found in numerous teenage girl stories. The fanciful twist here is that Ernessa is a vampire-like creature who forces her way into the existing friendship to prey on Lucy. However, the decision to attack Lucy is confusing and illogical. Lucy appears the vision of confidence and carefree youth while Rebecca is the introspective and wounded one. One could or would have imagined that Ernessa would pick on Rebecca as the weaker of the two, especially given that they have their fathers' suicides in common (though we know Ernessa's father killed himself over 100 years prior). This against-the-grain characteristic could have opened up many possibilities, but the film simply does not have the time or energy to follow up on Ernessa's motives. I will leave that central story's remaining particulars to the film's viewers. Be forewarned, there are many an incredulous event that occur one right after the other.

I wish to end on the film's major downfall. As previously noted, Harron dooms the film with double explication. First, a new handsome male English teacher arrives and begins the term with a study of Gothic fantasy fiction (which is the film's style). In a segment too on-the-nose to be believed, he introduces Bram Stoker's Dracula as being about "sex, blood, and death" which mirrors the central themes in The Moth Diaries. Second and more importantly, he assigns the girls a vampire novel with a female-centered storyline that perfectly mimics the film's own narrative. In this situation, tone might very well have saved the film just as Harron's nicely-captured satirical preppiness of the 1980s had saved her outrageous adaptation of American Psycho. Harron has likened the tone here to Peter Weir's acclaimed Picnic at Hanging Rock. Unfortunately, she aims too high and misses by a mile. Weir's masterpiece is known for its inaudibly powerful tone while Harron's fantasy bashes us about the head with too much explanation and not enough mystery.

Todd FilmPulse.Net
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Simply don't bother.
Boba_Fett113823 April 2012
This is a movie you are very likely to forget, a week after you have seen it. I wouldn't exactly call it one of the worst genre movies ever made but it still is one that is lacking a whole bunch of things.

The way the horror and whole mystery of the movie gets presented is disappointing, to say the very least about it. It's lacking a good buildup and the movie does a poor job at explaining everything and to let stuff make sense. Really, when looking back at this movie, nothing really makes enough sense, which only adds to the redundant impression that the overall movie is making.

You can't even really this a horror but I also don't think that this was the approach they were heading for. They went for a more quiet and humble approach, which was supposed to add to the movie its mystery. But the story just isn't ever interesting or original enough to carry the movie through. As a viewer you will already figure things out before the characters in this movie will, which is always an annoying aspect about genre movies, such as this one.

Another big reason why the movie just doesn't ever work out is its pacing. The movie really has some bad editing in it and at times it even feels like scenes are completely missing. Things often happen too fast ever each other and there just isn't ever a natural flow to any of it. It feels almost as if this movie got shot in a hurry and got put together in a couple of days, in the editing room. It does feel a bit like an incomplete movie.

Thing that I did like about it was the fact that it featured an all girl cast. It's set at a boarding school for girls. It gives the movie already a special sort of atmosphere and the way the girls interact with each other feels genuine. I'm also confident about it that women will like this movie better than men, since some of its themes should be recognizable to most.

It still is a movie you simply shouldn't bother with. It's not exciting, it's not mysterious, it's not surprising, not scary, not particularly pleasant. It basically has far too little to offer to anyone.

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Good potential, but terribly delivered.
verianesse17 March 2013
This movie was extremely disappointing. The plot was poorly developed, as well as the characters, who were all flat and painfully insipid, and the script was a complete waste.

I haven't read The Moth Diaries before, but from this movie and several summaries, I can tell where the story is going. And I can tell it has potential to be a good film. Not only because of the story line, but also because the cinematography of the entire movie was well done, which shows the director is capable of capturing the story.

But alas, the story that is captured is bleak and lazily drawn out. Scratch that. More like said out. Rebecca, the main character, frequently voices over her thoughts and what she's found out, instead of showing the audience. The ending is abrupt and it almost seemed like I had been watching the storyboard of the movie's ending, rather than the real ending itself. Even though I knew what was happening, I didn't feel like I ever got any time to absorb any information. The plot was practically being thrown into your face.

Some cuts in the movie were also very awkward. I had to go back to watch certain scenes again because I thought I'd missed something, but it turned out that the cuts were just really sudden. I believe that if some things had been dragged out a little longer, they would have left a larger impact on the viewer. One example would be a scene where Rebecca sees Ernessa in the library and Ernessa begins to sing to her. Right before Ernessa sings, she says something, then it immediately cuts to her singing in a split second. There is no slow tilting of the head forward or suspended glassy-eyed gazing, etc. She simply breaks into the song, which was sung creepily enough to know she was trying to be creepy, but not enough to creep me out.

It was ridiculous for any genre of movie it was meant to be. Whether it was a psychological thriller or a horror flick, it failed to boggle my mind or scare me at all.
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Is My Classmate a Vampire?
Chris_Pandolfi20 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
In the same vein as Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," "The Moth Diaries" is a dark brainteaser – a Gothic psychological thriller that continuously challenges the audience's perception of reality without coming to any definitive conclusions. Here is a film in which we cannot trust most of what we see or hear; we're being toyed with, and whatever deductions we make stem entirely from what we personally bring to the experience. I know this is the case because many scenes are intentionally structured to be interpreted in two ways. That writer/director Mary Harron pulled this off without making it seem mechanical or contrived is something of a great achievement. We're obviously being manipulated, and yet it's done with such passion and cleverness that we find we don't much care.

Adapted from the novel by Rachel Klein, it tells the story of Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), a sixteen-year-old starting a new semester at a very posh all-girls' boarding school, which was a hotel over 100 years ago. Entries in her personal journal, coupled with very brief flashback sequences, reveal a deep personal tragedy, namely the suicide of her father, a published poet. When she first attended the school two years earlier, it was just after his death, and her personal life was still very much a mess. She found solace in Lucie (Sarah Gadon), who has since become her best friend. This semester, Rebecca feels lighter, freer, and generally much happier than she once felt. But things soon change with the arrival of a new student. Here enters Ernessa (Lily Cole), a quiet, dark-haired, pale-skinned young beauty.

Ernessa doesn't seem unpleasant, not at first, although there are certain odd characteristics Rebecca notices. Why is it, for example, that she joins all the girls in the cafeteria yet never eats? She can't be anorexic; physically, she looks like a normal teenage girl. One night, Rebecca wakes up, looks out her open window, and sees Ernessa pacing barefoot on the pavement. Lucie doesn't seem to take notice of any of this. In fact, she's quite taken by Ernessa, who helps Lucie study her German and Greek assignments. Lucie tells Rebecca that she's not giving Ernessa a chance, and that although she has unresolved issues, Ernessa is a nice person once you get to know her. Rebecca doesn't see it the same way. From her perspective, Ernessa is stealing Lucie away from her.

The new English teacher, Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman), is an outspoken admirer of Rebecca's father. He even possesses a first edition of his book of poems. This, combined with his indisputably handsome features, leads to unshakable suspicions on our part, namely that he will cross a line with his students – or, more specifically, with Rebecca. There is one scene that clearly shows something physical, and yet the nature of Rebecca's character soon gets us to wondering if that scene actually took place. But before that happens, he introduces his students to the world of Gothic vampire fiction, which he says all contain sex, blood, and death. From this, Rebecca begins to suspect that Ernessa is herself a vampire. She looks at a group photo from 1907 and sees a figure that, although somewhat blurred, resembles Ernessa a great deal. She begins to smell something rotten emanating from Ernessa's room, although no one else seems to notice it. When Rebecca sees Ernessa walking precariously on the ledge outside her window, it looks as if she reenters by literally passing through the glass without it breaking.

Rebecca's world is repeatedly disrupted by a string deaths and gradual isolation from her friends. Ominous occurrences escalate in frequency. What are we to make of the scene in which Rebecca quite suddenly gets a nosebleed when Ernessa walks into the room ... and Ernessa takes a small taste of Rebecca's blood on her finger? Why does Ernessa's room appear to be filled with thousands of moths, especially since a moth is central to a happy memory Rebecca has of her father? Lucie's health progressively takes a turn for the worse, her energy draining day by day. Could it be that Rebecca is Ernessa's real target? And what about the sudden appearance of a diary from 1907, in which a young woman vividly recalls a suicide?

The one question that's never really answered is whether or not Ernessa is an actual vampire. It's quite possible that Rebecca's obsession with her, along with visions of incidents that have no rational foundation, stems from jealousy and the trauma of her recent loss. In a quietly tense scene, Rebecca toys with a razor blade – which, incidentally, came to be in her possession through unknown means – and wonders aloud if she carries the same "sickness" her father carried. Strange, how a film so untrustworthy in narrative can simultaneously be so intelligent and so absorbing. "The Moth Diaries" is an exercise in game-playing; we may not know what the rules are, or even if there are any rules, but we go along with it regardless out of sheer morbid curiosity.

-- Chris Pandolfi (
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Horrid but fun
andrewjoy-758788 March 2020
Warning: Spoilers
About a girl school with strange going ons, best bit seeing Sarah bolger blouse being unbuttoned
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It was
jntrla-0512920 July 2019
Not what i was expecting. its probably why i gave it such a low rating. i thought there was gunna be sex and blood or blood and sex but nooo its almost a pg-13 flick and theres no fast paced stuff at all. but what did it for me was the ending seems like the ending should have been in the middle or beginning or something, didnt like the ending at all. skipping this ill let u know, ur not missing anything
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Girl power or moth power?
fedor822 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Some decrepit old ghost/vampire lady-thingy impersonating a sexy young dyevochka is really a moth, or actually 1000s of moths (we're made out of atoms, she of moths), and she is like really old and stuff and likes to kill young girls for fun and she's like such a filthy old pervert that she even has sex with one of them, which is technically pedo territory, right? But you can't arrest moths for sexual molestation, can you?

Anyway, Lily Cole Moth has her eye on killing Sarah Bolger Non-Moth - that's her ultimate goal, and one which Sarah figures out only at the end of the movie, way way way long after even the dumbest of us dumb viewers had already figured it out an hour earlier. So if Lily Moth wanted to kill Sarah all along, why did she wait so long and kill several people who aren't Sarah Bolger? No, Rachel Klein the author doesn't know and neither does Mary Harron the director. They don't bother to tell us WHY Lily came to that school to kill random people, nor why moths hate water (do they?), nor why moths are into same-sex activity. (If moths were inclined that way, wouldn't there be a LOT less of them?)

In fact, there's a strong whiff of lesbianism permeating the entire movie which makes me suspect that either the director or the author are leaning that way. They even portray the only heterosexual encounter in the movie - the actual intercourse - as painful and unpleasant.

And those of you who think that your patience will be rewarded with a grand finale Sarah vs Moth Lily, you're sadly mistaken, because Sarah sneaks up to Moth Lady real easy, sets her on fire, kills her, and that's pretty much it, and the whole movie was slow for no reason and it looked like a build up to a harrowing finale (which turned out to fizzle like a tiny firecracker) and quite predictable and Lily is far too tall for these small girls to be playing anyone but Godzilla or a ginger King Kong, and the make-up department should be hung for turning her into a brunette and giving her a goofy Goth-chick makeover - as if all mysterious vampire moth ladies are into Goth fashion - which made her look unattractive which is quite a feat because she's actually quite pretty (as is Sarah), and this movie is sort of like a stylized version of a lesbian slasher flick and there's not much more else to say about this mediocrity.
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Just Ok
Foutainoflife17 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This is not bad but nothing to rave about either. The story is somewhat predictable but most things are these days. I'm still trying to work out a few of the details. Was she a ghost? Some sort of vampire? Maybe a mix of the two? We never saw marks on Lucy's neck so was she killing her by draining her of energy? She walked in daylight, yet was sleeping in a trunk indicative of a coffin so that cancelled out vampire right? I don't know. I would've liked more of her backstory. It kinda fell short of being a horror movie. It is a drama with paranormal elements. No scares at all.
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Not bad, not great, but still entertaining
hypnokomedy18 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Actually not a bad movie. Lily Cole and the actress who played the main character are pretty good. There are some plot holes: The teacher who kisses the girl, nothing happens to him, and one wonders why he is even present in the movie. It is fairly clear from the beginning of the movie what is happening, and what will likely happen. We're told that Ernessa has to do laps in the pool as a punishment for not showing up at gym classes, but we're not told why, and we discover she can't swim. This tidbit goes nowhere, except to provide justification for a later murder. The movie has Ernessa changing into moths, but again, we're not told why. Ernessa wants the female led to kill herself but we're not told why a suicide will somehow guarantee vampire immortality. One of the girls, a Japanese student, is somehow induced to throw a chair out of the window, ostensibly to get her kicked out, and therefore out of the circle of friends so Ernessa can continue her work... but we're not told really why. One of the other characters goes off to the woods to lose her virginity but this is apparently only a vehicle for a dream sequence where the studly English teacher is seducing the student. But since the English teacher sub-plot really doesn't go anywhere, one wonders why this was included. But if you're doing something else, and have the movie on, it's not a bad flick. The set is visually rich, and the characters are present enough to make it entertaining.

To summarize there is a tension throughout the movie that was pretty good though one wonders whether or not the director/screenwriter had some difficulty in finding her ending.
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Interesting failure from "American Psycho" director Mary Harron
lazarillo25 February 2013
There are three reasons I wanted to see this movie. The first, is director Mary Harron who did the excellent "American Psycho" a decade ago, but has yet to really follow up on it. The second is I enjoy ANY adaptation of the Sheridan LeFanu tale "Carmilla", a story which preceded Bram Stoker's more famous "Dracula" and one that introduced the lesbian vampire trope. This 19th century story has served as inspiration for the British Hammer Studio's "Carnstein" trilogy, the Belgian classic "Daughters of Darkness", the lesser but still worthy Spanish film "The Blood Spattered Bride" and and even Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dryer's early sound classic "Vampyr". The third reason, is that I am always a sucker for any movie set in a girls' boarding school. Before you label me a pervert, however, let me stress that the actresses playing "girls" in these movies are usually in their twenties and far, far sexier than ANY actual schoolgirls.

The movie does resemble "American Psycho" in that it's left very ambiguous whether what is happening--the protagonist (Sarah Bolger) suspects a new arrival to the school (Lily Cole) of being a vampire when tragic events befall her friends--is really happening or is all in the troubled protagonist's head (and perhaps the real cause is more mundane adolescent problems like anorexia nervosa). The protagonist's fertile imagination is sparked by the LeFanu "Carmilla" story, which she is (rather implausibly) reading in her English class, and she is also haunted by the recent death of her father. The morbid eroticism and repressed desires of the classic story do fit in well with what is actually going on in the school (as do the intimations of lesbianism and lesbian jealousy).

Sara Bolger is pretty if also pretty young (she was a little girl in "In America" only a few years ago), but the real problem is she is not quite a strong enough actress to pull off such a complex character (she's certainly no Christian Bale). But she gives it her best try. British actress Lily Cole has the right look (creepy), but she too is a pretty inexperienced. Sara Gaddon, a somewhat older actress, has all of the more erotic scenes, but her character is rather underdeveloped. The movie is definitely too erotic and violent for kids--or perhaps even your more impressionable teens (although it's hardly a lesbian sex romp either). The biggest problem though is the short length, which I think indicates that Harron's vision was perhaps somewhat hampered either by a lack of money or interference from the people providing the money (maybe both). Still while the movie doesn't entirely work, it is a very interesting failure.
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Beautifully Shot, But Just Never Goes All the Way
gavin69427 October 2012
Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) is suspicious of Ernessa (Lily Cole), the new arrival at her boarding school. But is Rebecca just jealous of Ernessa's bond with Lucie, or does the new girl truly possess a dark secret?

I liked the look of this film, I liked the characters. I found Mr. Davies interesting -- his "Twilight" hair, and his creepy advances (not sure why a man is teaching at an all girl school). I feel like there was more to him than the film ever let on (should I read the book?).

In fact, the film stumbles (in my opinion) because it has lots of loose ends, such as the scene with Rebecca's period (what was going on here?) and why does it matter that her father was a respected author? If the story had just been straightforward, it might have been able to explore more of the important themes rather than just showing girls playing video games.

And I have to ask, is this a "girl" film or a horror film? I feel like that decision could not be made. It claims to be a horror film but has the tone of a girl party film. Why? I am all for mixing genres, but you have to have the right tone. Coming from director Mary Harron ("American Psycho") I expect better. Another reviewer suggested the film be called "pasty white female". I kind of agree.

Lastly: Whoever wrote the Netflix summary is an idiot. They refer to Rebecca as a "college senior" (she is sixteen, in boarding school) and says that Ernessa may be a vampire -- she is not, nor does anyone ever think she is.
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