Except Harris cleverly peppers her film with ominous touches, flavoring the narrative with much-needed tension and ambiguity. Lara spots two men wheeling a corpse through the woods, with what looks like a dagger in its heart. She later finds a cross in the grass, which reappears in a crucial scene. Lara’s surreal dreams of ripping open stomachs, and having her stomach sawed by a man that morphs into Carmilla, are somehow both jarring and perfectly plausible.
Carmilla boasts top-notch production design and period detail. Cinematographer Michael Wood deserves awards for achieving so much with so little. Immersed in shadows, with candles often providing the only source of light (even the sunlit sequences are bleached out as if drained of blood by a cinematic vampire), the film may be claustrophobic in setting, but epic in its range of emotions, and the painterly way Wood frames them.
“…epic in its range of emotions…”
I loved the shot of the girls emerging from the fog in their gowns, alone and scarred but oddly free, wandering through the fields, both lost and found. I loved the multiple close-ups of faces, lips with blood applied like lipstick, slithering worms, and decomposing flesh. I loved how expertly the filmmakers use sound. At one powerful moment, the wind billows, rustling up the leaves, signifying danger. Phil Selway’s playfully sinister score is never intrusive and plays a crucial part in tying all these elements together.
“Tell me, why is it that men are so easily swayed by the sight of a pretty face?” a character wonders. While strong feminist motifs—just as relevant during the film’s period setting as they are now—are prevalent, Carmilla is so much more than yet another single-minded polemic about female empowerment. It’s about the allure of the unknown, the forbidden, about discovering yourself and finding a strange solace in danger. Sensual, poetic, dark, and gothic, Carmilla eclipses Twilight in every aspect.
"…sensual, poetic, dark, and gothic..."