Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vampire Carmilla – review

Directors: Tom LePine & Denise Templeton

Release date: 1999

Contains spoilers

After Dracula, Carmilla is arguably the most influential piece of vampire literature. Certainly when it comes to 19th century literature that is an inescapable truism. It is also one of the most abused pieces of vampire literature.

Like Dracula there have been a fair few movies that have little or nothing to do with the original story, despite claims to the contrary. Some, despite having no meaningful connection with the original prose, are works of absolute genius, Dreyer’s Vampyr being a prime example.

You’d think a film that styles itself as J Sheridan Le Fanu’s Vampire Carmilla would have at least a passing interest in the original story. Unfortunately this borrows a couple of names, does the anagram thing – rather clumsily – and has a lesbianism aspect. Beyond that the film bears as little resemblance to Carmilla as possible. It is also rather borrowing.

in the woods
We start with a couple of teens in a car, they are out in the woods – we know this because the scene is interspersed with a stock trees scene and there are stock ‘woodland night time’ sound effects playing. They are getting hot and heavy – an excuse to have her remove her top for a little viewer titillation – but she hears something and wants to go elsewhere as she thinks there is a prowler spying on them. He goes for a pee and then falls across the hood of the car bleeding – in a shot that reveals a couple of parked cars behind, what they were doing in the woods is anyone’s guess! Five shadowy figures (drawn over the stock wood footage) appear.

at the grave
In a graveyard Laura (Stacia Crawford) and her boyfriend David (Kevin Summerfield) stand in the rain as she looks at her sister’s grave. Monique (Marina Morgan), said sister, was not part of her life – Monique was five years older, born out of wedlock and given up for adoption. They go to her house and look around. We hear that the bank is going to foreclose as Monique’s husband died a week before her. Now, in a minute David is going to look around the town and discover that it is deserted… Where did they get the keys to the house from?

So, he pops a lock on a box that – by some psychic prescience or bad script writing (you decide) – they know contains a diary. She sits outside a church and reads it whilst he looks around to try and find someone and get some gas. After looking around for some time he sees a figure (we don’t see who it is, but I suspect it was the priest we later see). He runs to the figure, who vanishes off but there is a charred looking (and false looking) corpse there. David beats a retreat via the medium of speeded up film. Laura wants to stay overnight, despite the fact that Monique’s house has no electricity and David – despite having found a corpse and no townsfolk – agrees.

meeting Carmilla
Now during this we get flashbacks to Monique’s life. She is in an abusive relationship with a husband who both physically assaults her and commits marital rape. Out in a bar one night she meets a mysterious woman. Later she is named as Carmilla (Bootsie Cairns), though in the flashbacks we never see her face in full shot – probably to try and fool us when David later meets Mircalla… told you the anagram was used clumsily. Anyhoo, get together, a bit of soft focus, no thrills or passion lesbian sex, caught by husband, Carmilla overpowers him… yadda, yadda, yadda…

beware women in cloaks
That night, as the police from elsewhere send a couple of cops to check out why they cannot raise the town, David and Laura sleep. Earlier he had heard a noise like lots of people talking but thought little of it. Next thing you know she is sleepwalking and meets a mysterious woman in a cloak. In the morning she awakes, he has gone looking for anyone – again – and she has bite marks on her neck.

vampire townsfolk
In the town he meets Mircalla, sees the cop who stops an attack by a vampire on the priest and is subsequently killed. David is then marched upon by a horde of grey faced townfolks who mean him no good. He and Mircalla head back to the house, where Laura is out cold and Mircalla distracts him by smoking weed with him and then Laura waking up and having sex with him (presumably due to Carmilla's influence, given they were waiting until marriage). In the morning Laura has vanished and he is threatened by a horde of vampires… what will he do?

vampire Monique
Who cares? Okay, to be complete we have to note that a stake through the heart seems to work fine but then so do bullets. The vampires are not affected by sunlight, as suggested earlier when I mentioned the day time attacks. Most act more like zombie hordes than vampires, but there you go. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and there is a scene with the priest waking up in his house, pulling out a cross. We hear Monique singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” before knocking the cross out of his hand and that was actually quite a good scene – though story pointless. One good scene does not a film make.

There are some poetic voiceovers from time to time, but the acting isn’t anything to write home about and the general dialogue is flawed. The film has ‘erotic’ moments that are as sensual as wet lettuce – overly soap music, close ups that show nothing and no displayed passion. All in all this is a disappointing and ultimately a boring film. 2 out of 10 (for the “Onward Christian Soldiers” scene).

The imdb page is here.


RoseOfTransylvania said...

Sounds garbage, indeed.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

that it is Rose. :) Cheers as always for stopping by :)