“The Moth Diaries” is based on is the atmospheric 2002 debut novel by Rachel Klein. The book is ripe with gothic menace. It’s a “Dracula” allegory that explores female sexuality, jealousy, supernatural bullying and repression at an all-girls private school. On screen in this lazily made movie, however, those qualities become as thematically washed-out and colorless as star Lily Cole’s ghostly complexion.
Adapted for the screen by director Mary “American Psycho” Harron, the story revolves around Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), a young woman studying gothic literature at a creepy old private school. Her studies begin to bleed into her real life when a new student, the otherworldly Ernessa (Lily Cole), comes between her and her BFF Lucie (Sarah Gadon playing a loosely veiled version of Ms. Lucy Westenra, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula). The gothic horror trifecta of sex, blood and death become all too real as students and teachers start dying and Rebecca’s worst nightmares come true.
Mary Harron should have been the perfect person to bring this feminist gothic horror to the big screen. Her past films, “I Shot Andy Warhol,” “American Psycho” and “The Notorious Bettie Page” are rich experiences, studies in subtext and nuance in a way that “The Moth Diaries” just isn’t.
At a slight 85 minutes, it feels as though large chunks of narrative have been randomly removed from the film in order to snap up the pacing. The movie does fly along, but it does so in sacrifice of fully thought out ideas, dramatic tension or characters you care about.
Despite some atmosphere and a fetching cast, “The Moth Diaries” is so lacking in depth not even the addition of 3D would add some dimension to this cardboard-thin excuse for a gothic tale.
What could have been an interesting study in anxiety and subjugation is, instead, a melodramatic mess that makes the histrionic “Twilight” series look multidimensional and didactic.