DVD Review: Carmilla

STUDIO: Film Movement | DIRECTOR: Emily Harris | CAST: Jessica Raine, Hannah Rae, Tobias Menzies, Devrim Lignau
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 20, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
BONUSES: featurette, bonus short film
SPECS: NR | 94 min. | Fantasy romance drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | 5.1 Surround

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes):
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Although it was inspired by the vampire novella of the same name by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu—a tale that was published 25 years before Dracula hit the page—it would be a disservice to think of Carmilla as just another vampire film. Thoughts of Twilight or Underworld should be put aside; there is no gory violence in this British production, just a beautifully done, cautionary tale of female repression.

Hannah Rae and Devrim Lingau in Carmilla

Fifteen-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae, Broadchurch), lives in relative seclusion on a vast English country estate in with her aloof, widowed father (Greg Wise, Sense & Sensibility) and stern, superstitious governess (Jessica Raine, Patrick Melrose), who physically punishes her for such indiscretions as using her left hand, which is a sign of the devil. It’s the late 1700s, so Lara doesn’t have social media to keep her company or TikTok to keep her entertained. Oppressed and isolated, Lara yearns for companionship and is devastated when the daughter of a family friend falls gravely ill and must cancel her visit.

Then, late one night, there is a deadly carriage accident involving a mysterious young girl named Carmilla (Devrim Lignau, Under Suspicion). The local doctor (Tobias Menzies, The Crown), puzzled by Carmilla’s lack of injuries, suggests she remain at the cottage until she recuperates and they can find her family. Lara is instantly drawn to the beautiful, more worldly Carmilla and her sexual curiosity awakens. As Carmilla seduces Lara into becoming her blood sister, a haunting romance between the two begins. Soon they are discovered by the governess, who will do anything to put an end to such evil doings.

Carmilla is dripping with atmospheric gothic imagery, from its exquisite shadowy lighting to its subtly effecting score. The skillful direction by Emily Harris (Borges and I), who also wrote the screenplay, takes a quiet and deliberate approach that lets the drama build effectively. The fact that it’s never revealed what Carmilla is, nor the danger she imposes, makes the mystery surrounding her even more compelling. Lignau and Rae are mesmerizing together and, to Harris’ credit, their sensual scenes never feel exploitative.

Carmilla is a refreshing take on the coming-of-age and vampire genres.

Buy or Rent Carmilla

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at DishDisc.com.