At last year’s New York Comic Con, when it was revealed that the web series Carmilla was going to continue its story as a feature film, I was excited, but I was also wondering: what next? With Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) and Laura (Elise Bauman) at the end of their harrowing adventure of defeating a literal goddess using the “Power of Heart” (hell yeah) and Carmilla being granted the gift of life, what more does their story hold besides cute vignettes of our heroines being adorable? Well, the movie quickly answers that by giving us the most compelling question of all: Does Carmilla deserve her humanity?
When we find our lovers at the beginning of the film, Laura is stuck in a rut having created a five-year plan for her career as a journalist but finding herself dissatisfied with the current path she is on (protagonists, they are just like us). Especially, because Carmilla is enjoying her “mo’money, no problems” post-vampire lifestyle by sunbathing and eating fancy pastries. But when Laura begins having Victorian erotic vampire dreams about Carmilla from back in her “mother knows best” days it coincides with Carmilla’s human life force via the Resurrection Spell (her “spark”) beginning to fade. So the Scooby gang—Lola Perry (Annie Briggs), S. LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander), Mel (Nicole Stamp), and Kirsch (Matt O’Connor)—have to reunite and head to Styria to figure out what the hell is going on.
One of the best things about the Carmilla writers is that they are very much in tune with their fans and what they want to see. This film is definitely for people who are already familiar with the original web series and that isn’t a bad thing. It knows when to go for the sexy moments, giving us the most graphic of any Hollstein sex scene that could have existed in the old one camera format. All of the actors take full advantage of the new medium and you can see everyone having a lot of fun with being allowed to do more with set and special effects than ever before.
Additionally, the story offers some excellent character development for Carmilla. Even though she is the title character and all of the cast goes through a journey of some kind, it was Laura who was truly the protagonist and anchored the story. Carmilla was the one who struggled to be a hero and quite frankly, never wanted to be that, except to please Laura. At the end of the story, it was through her love of Laura that she was granted a human life, but the movie asks the question of if she deserves it and what about the girls who weren’t Laura?
We get to see some of Carmilla’s victims, in the forms of Emily and Charlotte Bronte, played by Cara Gee and Grace Lynn Kung respectfully, but also in her old-great love Elle, played by Wynonna Earp star, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, who gets to show off her real accent. Elle reminds the audience that while Carmilla has been off living her new life, these young women she helped sacrifice to a murderous demigod have lost theirs. Elle is a good villain because even when you aren’t rooting for her, there is still a sadness in knowing that in her heart she felt betrayed by the person she loved most. She is not driven by jealousy or a desire to get Carmilla back, but to inflict as much pain she can in return for all that she has suffered. Carmilla has to come face to face with what that means and allows the audience to see how much our favorite dark-haired beauty has grown in these last “five years.”
There are times when the special effects are a bit clunky and the pacing gets off and running once the second act begins, but at no time does it feel tedious. The pop-culture references still work, the chemistry between the two leads crackles and pops whenever they are together and the supporting characters all get to shine, especially Mel. It is a mostly seamless transition from one style of filmmaking to another and that is an extremely impressive feat.
Watching the movie, the thing that I felt the whole time is how great it was to see a film like Carmilla on screen. You get dynamic queer leads with sexual intimacy that doesn’t feel like a male gaze smut scene, LaFontaine’s proper pronouns get used by everyone and there doesn’t have to be a long drawn out conversation about it, there are women of color that get to be bad ass and have conversations with other women of color. It is something that rarely gets to happen in supernatural genre fiction without needing an entire coming out narrative or explanations about how there couldn’t possibly be non-white people or queer in the Victorian Era. Instead, Carmilla understands that it’s strongest factor is how inclusive it is.
Carmilla may be about vampires, but it is also about love, friendship and the power that comes with living your truth and fighting for the things that matter most even when it feels impossible.
For anyone living in Canada you can get a chance to see the movie in theaters Thursday, October 26th if you go to Cineplex Events, they have a listing of all the places that will be screening the movie. If you pre-ordered The Carmilla Movie on VHX, you’ll be able to watch the film immediately beginning October 26 and, beginning October 27, fans can also catch the movie on Fullscreen, the exclusive streaming home of the film.
So buckle up Creampuffs! It is going to be fun.
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