Friday, July 19, 2024

The Carmilla Movie is Campy, Sexy, Suspenseful, and Really Gay

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Directed by Spencer Maybee and written by Alejandro Alcoba and Jordan Hall, The Carmilla Movie is fun, suspenseful, a bit creepy, really gay, and sexy as hell. If you’re looking for a Halloween movie with gay vampires and ghosts, sexy ladies who like ladies, and where the women and queer folk get happy endings, this is the movie for you.

Based on the webseries of the same name, The Carmilla Movie takes place five years after the events of S3. Carmilla’s (Natasha Negovanlis) human heart, her ‘spark’ as Laura (Elise Bauman) and Lola Perry/‘Perry’ (Anne Briggs) like to call it, is fluctuating. In short, she’s turning back into a vampire. Plus, Laura is having nightmares that involve Carmilla’s past life as a 19th century vampire and her first great love Elle (Dominique Provost-Chalkley).

Carmilla, Laura, Perry, and LaFontaine/‘LaF’ (Kaitlyn Alexander), team up with Melanippe/‘Mel’ (Nicole Stamp), and Kirsch (Matt O’Connor) to get to the bottom of Carmilla’s wavering spark and Laura’s creepy dreams. Along the way, they meet the ghosts of Carmilla’s past, including Emily and Charlotte Brontë (played by Cara Gee and Grace Lynn Kung respectively) and Elle herself. This gothic, supernatural thriller/love story has plenty of laughs and is accessible to both newcomers and fans of the original series.

It’s good to see the gang back together! (Sadly, minus Danny and Mattie for all but a few shots.) From left to right: Mel, Kirsch, Laura, Carmilla, Perry, and LaF.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend the webseries. S1 is absolutely perfect and while S2-S3 may have their flaws, they’re still enjoyable. The episodes are anywhere from 2-12 minutes long, so it’s bingeable in a weekend. You don’t need to watch the webseries to watch the movie—the introductory segment does a good job summing up the most recent events to provide context—but there are in-jokes and gags that you won’t get if you haven’t seen the series. The film is enjoyable on it’s own, but why miss out on even more sexy gay vampire goodness?

Anyway, back to the movie. The Carmilla Movie blends suspense, hilarity, and a touch of creep factor really well. Yet without veering into the gory or gross. It’s more gothic than anything, complete with a haunted mansion in England, supernatural dreams, and the past literally haunting the protagonists. There’s an air of mystery and thrill to the first half that evolves quite naturally into a fuller discussion of Carmilla’s guilt over her past actions and how best to live her ‘life’ (i.e., her human life), or even whether or not she deserves to do so after what she’s done.

And that gets to one of the things I loved most about the film. There’s an undertone of solid therapeutic practice and mental health undergirding everything. From Laura gently pulling Carmilla out of a dreamscape repeating the worst day of her life with a gentle “I’m here, you’re safe, you’re not back there any more” to Carmilla’s request for trust that she’s not giving up, it’s a solid explication of dealing with guilt. Either someone’s done their research or someone has been to a great therapist (or both). Either way, I love it. As someone who has mental health issues, I appreciate when I can see that films have chosen to work healthy therapeutic practice into the script rather than platitudes.

It’s also damn hilarious. I adore these characters. There’s humor for everyone’s taste: deadpan, snark, goofiness, puns, a bit of slapstick. As an ensemble cast, this team of characters play off of each other well and their unique brand of humor brings out the humor of the others really well. I could honestly watch just about anything these characters were in and enjoy it. And can I just say, it’s good to see Perry back to her neurotic self again? I missed her in S3.

I’ll also add in that I loved the inclusion of the Brontë sisters. When they were first announced, I wasn’t sure how they’d fit into the plot. Boy am I glad they’re there. I don’t even care if it makes objective sense to anyone who hasn’t watched Carmilla. Charlotte Brontë is one of my favorite writers of all time. She was also very likely queer, so seeing her get a little lady loving action was sweet, sweet victory. Casting both her and Emily as women of color was a cherry on top of this delicious re-birthday cake.

LOVE the new ladies!

Speaking of diversity, I applaud how diverse Carmilla’s ghosts were. (A weird sentence, I admit, but it makes sense I promise.) A small thing, but it goes a long way toward highlighting just how much this film cares about representation. Some films would be content with a diverse cast of heroes (others, not even that). The Carmilla Movie populated even it’s secondary protagonists and background characters with diverse ethnicities and body types. When I saw black women at the masquerade ball, I could have cried from happiness. All too often people of color get left out of Victorian settings for the sake of “historical realism” (which is neither historical nor realistic, but I digress). I’m so grateful The Carmilla Movie sidestepped that.

[Side note: If Charlotte Brontë can use correct, gender neutral pronouns for a nonbinary character like LaF, then I don’t want to hear any more excuses about how ‘hard’ it is to incorporate that into a movie ‘naturally’. That excuse is officially bullshit.]

And how can I forget how really, really gay it is? It’s really gay you guys. Like, super gay. And in the best possible way.

The Carmilla Movie revolves around two women in love; it’s about queer women and decidedly for queer women in it’s presentation of the love, sex, and romance of the main protagonists. Other people can enjoy it, absolutely. At the same time, for a movie filled to bursting with women kissing each other, it decidedly lacks the male gaze. There’s no hint of objectification or exploitation. It celebrates even dare I say revels in woman loving woman (wlw) sexuality. It’s sensual and sexy and bursting with chemistry. But it’s from an insider perspective rather than an outside one, and that makes all the difference to how it comes across.

Even the credits are really gay.

On the production side, the production quality and cinematography impressed me. Not only was it flat out excellent for an independent film, it worked for Carmilla in particular. For those who may not be aware, the webseries is filmed from a desktop webcam. It has a decidedly community theater ambiance with all the kitschy camp and cheap special effects that go with it. It’s one camera, head on, with no movement. The only difference in scenery comes with Laura moves her computer to a new location. Not so the feature film! I wasn’t concerned about the transition from webcam to multi-camera filming. More…intrigued. I wasn’t sure if the film would still be able to capture the campy magic that made the Carmilla webseries so delightful.

I needn’t have been worried. With plenty of sight gags, characteristic humor from characters like LaF and Mel, it still captured the same kitschy charm as the series, just with a bigger budget and fancier equipment. It’s hard to describe, but people poofing into piles of dust and a broach turning into a birthday cake are both quintessentially Carmilla. The webseries had a distinct vibe to it, a mixture of the supernatural and the absurd. The film conveyed that well enough that the better special effects didn’t seem out of place and the overall tone felt the same.

The soundtrack was on point as well. The score throughout perfectly amped up the atmosphere, whether it was sexy or creepy. The list of songs with lyrics is brief, but the choices were gorgeous and fitting. I’ve already been playing a couple of them on repeat since watching it, they were that good.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt like everything I loved about Carmilla the series—the heart, the camp, the sexy times, and the humor—just in a higher budget production that still managed to have the same charm. It’s alternately lighthearted, suspenseful, and deeply moving.

Plus, it’s got queer Charlotte Brontë played by an Asian Canadian actor. What more could my poor queer heart desire? (Other than more Danny and Mattie, that is.) I’m simultaneously dead and the movie added 20 years to my life. But then again, that’s Carmilla for you! Both dead (undead?) and very, very alive. And sexy. Don’t forget the sexy. And the gay.

Basically. (Source)

Now go watch it so I have someone to flail with! Make sure you watch through the credits. Not only are there some funny easter eggs in them—I see that Trump joke, Laura—there’s a hidden teaser at the end. I won’t tell you what’s in it, but I’m super hype for possibly more Carmilla to come! Is there going to be another movie? A fourth season? I have to know!

The Carmilla Movie is currently available worldwide via Fullscreen’s subscription service.

Images Courtesy of KindaTV and Shaftesbury Films

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