Saturday, May 05, 2018

Honourable Mention: Carmilla Hyde

This was a 2010 Australian movie that was written and directed by David De Vries and it isn’t a vampire movie. However, by the name you can tell it takes some of its premise from Carmilla and there are common tropes running through it.

The film starts with a woman, Carmilla Hyde (Anni Lindner) sat with a bruised, bound man, Dr Webster (Sam Tripodi), with duct tape over his mouth. She holds a cut-throat razor. As we go into the credits we see comic books, as well as the covers of Carmilla and Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Carmilla not Millie
Millie (who is also Carmilla) is a shyly reserved young woman who shares a large house with Sara (Nina Pearce). Sara owes back rent, that Millie has been covering. Sara is with Nathan (Cameron Hall), whom she describes as a f*ck buddy. Millie, on the other hand, is bookish (she’s reading Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil) and a virgin. Sara’s friend Britt (Georgii Speakman) wants to move in but the lease is in Millie’s name (so they couldn’t get rid of her from the house) and Millie isn’t interested in renting the spare room out. Britt hatches a plot to bring Millie down a peg or two.

When they are all in one-night Sara takes Millie off for a daring makeover. When back downstairs she is given a glass of wine that Britt has spiked (its never said what with, one assumes it is some sort of date rape concoction that removes inhibitions). When she awakes in the morning there is blood on her sheets and she has a memory gap. She suggests to Sara that she has been raped but gets little sympathy (she was up for it, her housemate says) and then Britt emails her a film of her having sex and dirty talking.

Dr Webster's a bit tied up
She goes to a psychologist, Dr Webster, who persuades her to let him use hypnosis. He explains the limitations of hypnosis – limitations that the film then abandons for the sake of narrative – and helps her to remember. She asks if he can make her forget and he asks what she wants. She says to be free of guilt and inhibitions and he opens that possibility. As she comes out of the trance (but still under the altered state of the hypnosis) she releases a stream of expletives.

becoming Carmilla Hyde
She is more assured, more confident and asks how long it will last – he says it will last for a short while but she will regain her inhibitions by the time she next awakens. He suggests that he could give her a post-hypnotic trigger that will place her in the state as she wishes – the trigger is drinking a glass of red wine and speaking a trigger word. She chooses Carmilla Hyde as her trigger phrase and, with her new-found confidence, she looks to gain revenge – aiming to seduce and bring down both Nathan and Britt. However, memories supressed by Millie are surfacing through Carmilla, revealing past trauma.

Britt and Carmilla
So what is interesting here is that one of the ways the vampire genre can be interpreted as a metaphor is that the fangs and bite represent penetration. In this case she is literally penetrated (there is hymen bleeding) and this leads to her turning – in this case to a new personality, indeed it is suggested that Carmilla Hyde (as she insists on being called) is a separate personality. Whilst she isn’t a vampire, she is certainly a vamp. Sexually active and sexually aggressive (which, of course, the female vampire was portrayed as, certainly in the classic 19th century tomes). Also interesting is the use of hypnosis, as we have a small cadre of vampire stories/films in which hypnosis creates the vampire (Blood of Dracula & the Bloodthirsty Doll) or impacts the appearance of the vampire (Dracula).

Nathan and Britt
Before the hypnosis, when coming to terms with the rape, Millie throws a figurine of Christ – perhaps showing a conscious abandonment of God – the cause of the vampirism in the 1992 Dracula. When Millie first triggers the change, she raises a glass to a poster that she has of Carmilla and there are two moments when the story is partially quoted with an abridgement around “In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die, die, sweetly die into mine” and also the abridged, “You will think me cruel, very selfish, but love is always selfish… …How jealous I am you cannot know. You must come with me, loving me, to death; or else hate me and still come with me… …Love will have its sacrifices.

repressed memories
She also gains the power to hypnotise others. Whether there was a goof in running order around this I don’t know. She is eventually given pills that will induce a hypnotic state and uses these to put more than one person in a trance – but the first person she seems to hypnotise is before that point – though they have undergone a head trauma, one cannot see how she was able to just hypnotise them unless one accepts she has powers or if the scene ordering was changed and originally the scene was meant to occur after she was given the pills.

Cameron Hall as Nathan
I must repeat that she isn’t a vampire (Britt does mention the V word but in relation to the origin of the name Carmilla). However, all the above does seem to be drawn from a merging of vampire tropes and Jekyll and Hyde tropes (remembering that vampires and Hyde have been drawn together before, for example in Daughter of Dr Jekyll). The power of hypnosis seemed a bit too invasive, by the end of this, and it relied on a massive suspension of belief but there are those tropes and the tie to Carmilla.

The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

No rating?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I don't rate Honourable Mentions or Vamp or Not posts... I used to rate short films (or, sometimes, class them as honourable mentions because they're just so darn hard to rate comparatively to a feature) but now just write an article about them.

Vampire features, and TV series/episodes, of course get ratings