Have you ever seen the classic Dario Argento horror film called Suspiria? Of course you have. You're reading film reviews at FEARnet, which means you've seen the bare-bones basic giallo classics by now. (Plus I won't tell anyone if you haven't.) How about more recent releases like Lucky McKee's The Woods or even John Carpenter's The Ward? I'll make it easier: if you've ever seen ANY allegedly scary story in which a lonely girl gets shipped off to an unfriendly boarding school of some sort, then you've seen everything Mary Harron's painfully dry The Moth Diaries has to offer. As a fan of Ms. Harron's work (particularly The Notorious Bettie Page and American Psycho) I was looking forward to her take on a potentially familiar tale of young females in trouble, but The Moth Diaries hits the screen in neutral and never hits the gas.
So anyway, like, there are these two GIRLS, see, Lucy and Rebecca, RIGHT? And they're BFFs until a weird new girl called Ernessa shows up! Pretty soon Lucy and Ernessa are totally blowing Rebecca off, omg, plus that freaky new girl has MOTHS in her dorm. Ack, like flying bugs!
Try to extrapolate that plot synopsis into the most tiresome visual companion imaginable, but be sure to throw in Scott Speedman as a hunky professor who just might (no!) have illicit plans for some of these troubled high school girls. As Ernessa insinuates herself into Rebecca's group of friends, guess what happens? Yes. Several of them die in very predictable and perfunctory fashion. And of course nobody believes Rebecca when she claims that the new girl is actually a vampire in hiding. On and on it slogs by, with no attention paid to establishment of characters beyond basic sketchy stereotypes. Adapted by Rachel Klein from her own novel, The Moth Diaires feels like it started out as a girl-on-girl version of the empty-headed Twilight movie, but all that remains of that potentially provocative theme is a few stray moments in Act III, which is when The Moth Diaries finally starts throwing some potentially fun stuff at the audience.
The two lead girls (Sarah Bolger and Sarah Gadon) do decent work with a truly transparent screenplay, and the oddly lovely Lily Cole brings some much-needed weirdness to this patently dreary movie, but basically we're looking at yet another "girl who cried vampire" story, one that (to be totally fair) may be set in a suitably foreboding location, but brings very little in the ways of mood, style, atmosphere, or originality.