Title: The Moth Diaries

Directed By: Mary Harron

Starring: Sarah Bolger, Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Valerie Tian, Melissa Farman, Deena Aziz, Laurence Hamelin, Scott Speedman

Of course you want a horror movie to be a good film, but there’s no denying that this genre can get away with a lot; mask bad performances with intense suspense or fill in plot holes using bloody good fun. However, when you’re an all-around failure like The Moth Diaries, there’s no successful asset to use as a crutch, and the whole production suffers exponentially for it.

After the untimely death of her father, Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) has found solace in her home away from home, her boarding school – or, more specifically, her best friend at school, Lucie (Sarah Gadon). Now it’s been two years since her father’s passing and Becca is thrilled to get back to school and live happily ever after with Lucie and her other pals. However, this year, something threatens to spoil Becca’s fun, Ernessa (Lily Cole).

At this school, new kids aren’t banished to the realm of outsiders rather embraced and Lucie adopts Ernessa as her new best friend. Naturally, Becca isn’t happy about this and when things get strange and even violent, she can’t help but to point a finger at the newcomer. Everyone insists she’s just jealous, but Becca is positive Ernessa is harboring a dark secret.

The Moth Diaries starts off bland, but still promising. There’s something about the boarding school vibe, the camaraderie between the girls and the alternative/pop soundtrack that simply gets you pumped to enter this world. However, the moment Bolger opens her mouth, it’s evident this movie’s got some major problems. Sure enough, the entire film is drowning in tacky dialogue including lame sex talk, chatter about the hot new teacher (Scott Speedman) and totally uninspiring lines like, “This is going to be the best year ever.” What makes this issue absolutely insurmountable is that the cast just isn’t all that good.

Becca is the entire movie. If director Mary Harron does anything right, it’s giving the audience a stable character to latch on to and take us through the story. Trouble is, Bolger isn’t a good actress – in this film at least. It’s tough to put the blame on Bolger’s ability because almost every young actress in this film suffers from a similarly stinted performance, suggesting it might be a result of poor direction. They all stick to their character’s stereotype and make no effort whatsoever to breathe any life into them, making them all painfully uninteresting.

This is unfortunate for a few of Becca’s less important friends, as they all blend together and are rendered entirely meaningless. However, while Valerie Tian’s role as the sassy and fun-loving Charlie might be quite small, she deserves some serious credit for her work here. Back in 2009 she did a lot with a little, turning the line “All babies want to get borned,” into one of Juno’s most memorable moments and while she doesn’t find nearly as much success with her material in The Moth Diaries, she does give Charlie a nice amount of flair, making her pop amongst her bland counterparts.

But, in the grand scheme of things, Charlie means nothing and so is the case with many of The Moth Diaries’ characters. Speedman’s Mr. Davies could have been cut entirely. Minus the fact that apparently every high school movie needs a hot new teacher, his character has zero impact on the chain of events. While Gadon’s Lucie’s is quite necessary for the sake of the plot, as far as any emotional impact goes, Gadon is entirely unsuccessful. We get a glimpse of her friendship with Becca early on, but she flips a switch so quickly, it makes it tough to get on board with Becca’s fight to win Lucie back.

As for Becca, Bolger clearly tries and does manage to carry the movie to a point, but there’s a sense that she suffers from a lack of cohesive direction. Harron’s got this great group of budding young stars, but doesn’t seem to know what to do with them in order to get them to stand out. Bolger has a few nice moments, but generally, she’s consumed by her duty to play the quintessential likable heroine and fight The Moth Diaries’ lame villain. If there’s anything creepy about Ernessa it comes from Cole and Cole alone, not the script. Of course it’s necessary to sidestep her motives for the sake of suspense, but even towards the end, nothing is made clear enough to present Ernessa as a solid threat. If it weren’t for Cole’s rather unique look, there’d be nothing menacing about the supposedly smelly new girl next door.

The Moth Diaries is a total miss thanks to poor performances and a weak story. Harron never manages to build any tension and her inability to get her cast to bring some life to their characters leaves us with no one to root for. Then again, without having a clear sense of who’s fighting what and what for, why root for anyone anyway?

Technical: B-

Acting: C-

Story: D+

Overall: C-

By Perri Nemiroff

The Moth Diaries Poster
The Moth Diaries Poster

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By Perri Nemiroff

Film producer and director best known for her work in movies such as FaceTime, Trevor, and The Professor. She has worked as an online movie blogger and reporter for sites such as CinemaBlend.com, ComingSoon.net, Shockya, and MTV's Movies Blog.

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