Carmilla: A Daydreamer’s Review

Welcome back, Daydreamers. Today’s post is going to be based on something wildly different than what I normally cover. I wanted to write reviews on media and entertainment for a long time but never got around to it. This will be my very first movie review, so I hope you can enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.

To begin this review, I will inform you on what the premise for this movie is before getting into any spoilers. The Carmilla movie is based loosely off a novel of the same name by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Carmilla is a Gothic novel which tells the story of a mysterious girl who turns out to be a vampire that is making everyone around her sick or dying. Carmilla has a lesbian relationship with the main character, Laura, whom she is making sick as well. I recommend reading the novel in its entirety. It is not a long novel and is considered a classic in the horror genre. That said, let’s move on to the movie review.

I’m going to be very blunt about this. When I went into the theater in Brooklyn to watch this movie, I was hoping for the absolute best. I really wanted a proper telling of the story of Carmilla in movie form. There has never been a movie or form of entertainment that remotely came close to telling the story of Carmilla with even a shred of accuracy.

The most recent incarnation of the story of Carmilla before the 2019 movie was a TV show about college girls. I’ve got nothing against this re-imagining, but that is exactly what it is: A re-imagining of a classic to fit modern culture. There has never been a proper movie based off the original novel itself that lived up to it. This is what I was hoping for with the 2019 release.

To my disappointment, that is not what happened with this film. To put it bluntly, the movie was just another flimsy retelling that took the name, characters, and setting to basically do whatever they wanted with it. There are many problems which I will list here that must be explained in order to describe the problems with the movie.

Spoiler Alerts Beyond this Point

Looking at the trailer above, one would think that this movie has serious potential. Very little is told about the story, but it pulls you in just enough to make you interested in the movie itself. This trailer does what a trailer is supposed to do. As soon as I saw the slow building trailer for what I was hoping to be a proper creation of a novel in movie form, I was ready to watch this film. The book itself is less than one hundred pages long, so I thought this film would be easy to recreate. The source material was too easy to screw up. There was no way this could go wrong in 2019 with this format considering they had a ton of references where a director dropped the ball and showcased to audiences how to NOT make a movie based off a classic Gothic horror novel.

I could not have been more wrong.

This movie starts out slowly enough introducing Laura, the protagonist of the movie. In this movie, she is looking forward to meeting a pen pal she exchanges letters with since she lives in a secluded castle with her father, a governess, and other servants. Laura comes off as a defiant teenage girl who often shows contempt for the wishes of the governess who runs the castle in her father’s absence. Laura also seems to dislike religion in general, opting to look at the books her father keeps on the occult and other mysteries against the wishes of the governess.

Carmilla is introduced later after a carriage accident and befriends Laura. They sneak off and start a romance together after getting to know one another for several days. Carmilla’s presence eventually starts to coincide with a mysterious illness that befalls Laura. Laura’s father finds out that the pen pal Laura was supposed to meet died as a result of similar symptoms to the sickness Laura was now afflicted with. Upon discovering that Carmilla was the cause of the illness, Laura’s father and the governess find Carmilla who runs away taking Laura with her and kill the title character in front of Laura.

There are two primary problems with the movie that must be discussed in detail.

  • The movie’s pacing is too slow
  • They failed to tell a compelling story

It is understandable that sometimes a movie’s pacing needs to be slow in order to retain interest and pull you in. Movies like Takashi Miike’s Audition, A Serbian Film, and Oldboy perfected the slow buildup to a stellar finish with a plot twist in movies. The pacing in Carmilla had none of these qualities. First off, you spent almost an hour in before the title character made her appearance. The movie spent entirely too much time exploring Laura’s daily life with little to no explanation of what the story was about. I had a difficult time staying awake as a result of the extremely slow pacing that led to no particular point or plot twist.

Carmilla, the title character, isn’t introduced until the second half of the movie. During this time frame, there is a lot more nothing going on as Carmilla and Laura go on and off with their romance. The conflict doesn’t begin until around the last half hour of the movie in which the story’s central focus and conclusion are rushed in so quickly that the viewer is left with more questions than answers. The viewer is left with a half ass version of the original novel’s story pushed into a movie with poor pacing and a rushed finish. The viewer is left in confusion as to what the story was supposed to be about. If one were to have never read the novel or even remotely understood the source material, this movie would’ve told them nothing. Carmilla was a nearly two hour film that paced too slowly until the end devoid of plot, depth, and character. This brings me to my next point.

The story in this movie was almost nowhere to be found. The only aspects of the movie that remotely resembled the original source material were the names of the two main characters and pieces of scenes within the movie. There was the romance between the two characters, the fact that Laura gets sick, and Carmilla’s evil intent within the movie. The problem was that there was no indication that she was a vampire at all. Carmilla being a vampire was central to the character of Carmilla yet this was not mentioned in the movie at all. Laura had to give Carmilla a name in the movie when in the novel, there was no mention of Laura giving Carmilla her name. In the novel, Laura is bitten causing her to be sick, but in this movie, she kisses Carmilla’s bloody lips which causes her to fall ill. The novel gets straight to the point while being able to immerse the reader in the story and plot. The movie bores the viewer and forces the audience to look for parts in the movie that resemble the novel. There’s almost no supernatural element to the movie whatsoever. It wastes time adding scenes that were never mentioned in the novel in what feels like an excuse to fill up time. The viewer ends up looking at maggots more often than the story gets told. You are left disappointed in the pacing while trying to frantically figure out what is even occurring within the movie. By the time, it gets to the part where Carmilla is finally killed, you don’t even get to see her die. The movie simply implies that the death took place.

To conclude this review, if you were to ask me if you should watch this movie, I’d simply tell you to save your money and hope for the next director to take a crack out of the novel and try to turn it into a movie. This movie ultimately seemed pointless, dry, and devoid of any of the life and magic that made Carmilla the legendary Gothic novel it was known to be. The source material is less than a hundred pages and can be read from front to back within the same day. There was no excuse to screw it up, but unfortunately, another director makes the mistake of trying to tell their own story instead of trying to display the story already written. Please just read the original novel if you don’t know the story because watching this movie or any of the movies that try to retell the story will leave you not knowing anything about it. It would honestly take you less time to read the novel than watching this movie and would be a superior experience.

Until the Next Daydream

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