The Moth Diaries

Director: Mary Harron

Notable Cast: Lily Cole, Sarah Bolger, Scott Speedman, Sarah Gadon, Valerie Tian

Rating: R

Review: Me thinks I wasn’t the target demographic Mary Harron (American Psycho) had in mind when she adapted Rachel Klein’s spooky novel for the big screen. Sure, a vampire tale taking place at a hopefully sexy all girl’s boarding school sounded promising, but The Moth Diaries was deceiving childish. Using some cheeky meta (self-aware) film tactics, an English teacher at the school reveals all vampire stories involve blood, sex, and death. Right, a good vampire film possesses all of these and I agree. So how does Harron stack up against her own head nod? Blood: yes, there is briefly blood. But it’s a tale wanting to be considered horror, and only one scene actually uses a proper amount. Sex: eh, it’s pretty awkward and weird. No sultry blood sucking seductresses lurking amongst these shadows. Death: people die, but we never see it. We get the character that happens to stumble upon a corpse already slain, skipping the interesting part. So, by horror standards, The Moth Diaries fails miserably on all accounts. Five minutes worth of horrific elements doesn’t even satiate the most tame genre hunger, as we’re forced to sit through some Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants type best friend chick flick extravaganza roller coaster the other 75 minutes. Again, 23-year-old male horror enthusiast…probably not the demo The Moth Diaries was made for. People praise Rachel Klein’s original literature, so I hope the all too common case of “writing trumps adaptation” yet again became reality, but I’m rating the film alone. Sorry. Innocent tweens looking for a safe movie which can also let them brag about making it through an entire horror film will love The Moth Diaries piggy backing off Twilight’s success, but for the rest of us movie goers out there: Just Say No. Like a moth drawn to light for no rational reason, don’t fall prey to The Moth Diaries’ immaturity zapper. Let a younger audience suffer through this one, maybe finding relatable intrigue in juvenile tendencies and teenage induced female moments. Um, what was I thinking?

Rebecca (Bolger) attends a prestigious single sex boarding school where she has close friends and an escape from her troubled past. Only a few years ago Rebecca’s famous writer father committed suicide, but she uses friendship to combat the depressing memories. Roommate and best friend Lucy (Gadon) makes her happiest, as the two are an inseparable pair. That is until new student Ernessa (Cole) shows up to school, taking a fancy to Lucy. As time wears on Lucy becomes more distant with Rebecca and increasingly attached to Ernessa, but also becomes increasingly sicker. Rebecca starts to notice strange smells and bizarre behavior shortly after Ernessa arrives, and her suspicions start kicking. Convinced Ernessa is some sort of vampire draining the life out of Lucy, Rebecca starts snooping around campus for clues. But will her curiosity come with a price as she uncovers hidden secrets from Ernessa’s past? Or is Rebecca simply concocting this crazy scenario to deal with her own lingering emotional problems?

*Cue random chick pop rock anthem that doesn’t fit any of the actions on the video game…*

Watching The Moth Diaries becomes reminiscent of sitting through some Disney channel best friends forever forced emotional bliss with overly peppy teens having way too much fun doing mundane activities. The aura of perfection before Ernessa arrives is disgustingly magical and disturbingly Hollywood, deploying an overload of forced smiles and batting eyelashes. But when Ernessa arrives, horror still fails to kick in. Another girl is introduced into the fold and group dynamics change, but at no point was I overwhelmed with ghoulish notion thought to come along with a prospective vampire floor mate. And our actresses don’t do much to help generate tension either. All relationships and interactions feel tremendously forced and lacking realism, almost like some of the girls were reading right off of a script. A bad after school special script for that matter. In no way am I saying the actresses are unwatchable generally, but Harron’s movement of story never really evolves in real-time, forcing our actresses to feel like puppets acting frame by frame. Angry one scene, relaxed the next…The Moth Diaries plays more as inconsistent parts instead of a whole.

Mystery shrouds The Moth Diaries as Harron doesn’t want you to understand whether Rebecca envisions Ernessa’s other worldly tendencies or if in fact Ernessa has returned for some dark reason. Everything points to Ernessa being evil, and Harron offers no other explanation or logic to suggest otherwise as a film like Fight Club delivers. The Moth Diaries wraps up exactly as it starts in that same cloud of confusion created by Ernessa’s arrival, while Rebecca stares blankly out of a car window. Funny, I was making that same blank face right back as a mirror image when I realized Harron was going to leave me in the dark, all alone, with just my frustrated and fed up thoughts. Ernessa’s chilling back story wasn’t engaging enough to keep audiences interested to begin with, so offering no relief enraged wasted brain power put into possibly expecting a much grander twist. Is Ernessa something special? Is Rebecca insane? Is almost every girl at that school a lesbian or was that just me? SOMEONE NEEDS TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS BEGGING CLOSURE. Looks like nothing but wishful thinking.

But Natobomb, Harron didn’t want focus to be put on vampires! Rebecca’s journey was supposed to hold weight and expose the mind of a child dealing with much deeper inner issues! What did you expect?! We’ll, obviously tons more cinematically. What could have saved The Moth Diaries? Cutting out the nudity and dialing down the minimal cursing, becoming openly accessible to audiences more fitting the material. Harron’s vessel is built not for more mature audiences, better suiting Twi-hards and diary-writing-Beiber-loving-Team-Jacob-worshipping school girls. Like a little Nancy Drew story with a tad bit more violence, all horror fans should heed my warning. The Moth Diaries barely can be considered horror if at all, existing more as a dramatic ghost story, and will fool numerous genre fans. Hell, I was fooled into watching. And who’s laughing now? Certainly not me…

Final Rating: 3.5 pesky moths out of 10

And OK, seriously, those nightgowns in today’s world? I can take vampires…but those hideous things?? You lost me.


About Matt Donato

Co-Founder of the Certified Forgotten Universe. Editor, Podcaster, Writer, and pretty rad dude. Don't feed him after midnight, but beers are encouraged. Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd: @DoNatoBomb.
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2 Responses to The Moth Diaries

  1. belchdini says:

    Guess ill be deleting that shit off my hard drive, thanks for the warning. Sounded promising in fangoria.

    • I’ll never discourage someone from out and out ignoring a film as I love some pretty terrible films, so don’t be afraid to try it out! But yes, The Moth Diaries is some of the most boring bullshit I’ve gotten my hands on this year.

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