Hi everyone! Today, I wanted to do a special blog post, mainly because I recently rewatched Jennifer’s Body and was struck by its similarities to the novella, Carmilla, that I never noticed before.
Because of that, I wanted to look at the similarities, as well as highlighting another favourite movie of mine called The Moth Diaries.
Let’s dive in with a look at the novella that started it all:
For some nights I slept profoundly; but still every morning I felt the same lassitude, and a languor weighed upon me all day. I felt myself a changed girl. A strange melancholy was stealing over me, a melancholy that I would not have interrupted. Dim thoughts of death began to open, and an idea that I was slowly sinking took gentle, and, somehow, not unwelcome possession of me. If it was sad, the tone of mind which this induced was also sweet. Whatever it might be, my soul acquiesced in it.Carmilla
Carmilla is a classic Gothic novella by Sheridan Le Fanu, an Irish author, and was written in 1872. This does mean that it predates Dracula by Bram Stoker by 26 years. Currently available to read for free online, Carmilla is written from the perspective of a young girl who lives with her small family on an old, isolated estate. A carriage overturns on their land and a woman begs the protagonist’s father to take in her beautiful, ailing daughter as the mother needs to tend to urgent business. The father agrees. Soon the protagonist and the guest, Carmilla, becomes fast friends, until their friendship becomes intimate in a more terrifying way.
Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever.Carmilla
The young girls’ relationship is a standard example of the eroticism found in Gothic vampire fiction, though the novella never really acknowledges this same sex chemistry. I think it’s pretty obvious though. I enjoyed how Le Fanu developed this theme more than how Stoker did in Dracula. In Dracula, it’s made clear that Lucy — Mina’s friend and victim of Dracula — is an easy target because she’s flirty and sexy. BAM – made into a vampire. While Mina is very loyal and modest and thus is saved.
Carmilla, on the other hand, is more like the story of the sexual awakening of a young girl. The isolated setting and the close relationship the girls develop creates a tense and chilling tale — especially since, unlike the aloof Dracula who strikes only at night and stays away otherwise, Carmilla is more than happy to get physically and emotionally involved with her victims.
The Moth Diaries
The Moth Diaries is a 2011 Irish-Canadian Gothic horror film, written and directed by Mary Harron and based on a 2002 novel of the same name, by Rachel Klein. Starring Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Sarah Bolger, and Judy Parfitt, the plot follows a teenage girl named Rebecca, living at an exclusive all-girls boarding school. The movie starts out highlighting her rather close relationship with her female best friend, Lucy, which is disrupted when a new girl arrives at the school and begins to demand all of Lucy’s attention.
Soon, Rebecca becomes convinced that this new girl is a vampire. Lucy claims that Rebecca is unhealthily jealous and that she is “suffocating” Lucy. Unfortunate events begin to occur, tangled in with the social pressure, the sexual awakenings, rumours, and secrets — you know, teen girl things.
There are three things you find in every vampire story: sex, blood, and death.– The creepy male teacher in The Moth Diaries
I haven’t found anything that says this movie or the book is directly inspired by Carmilla, but the creepy male teacher in the movie does talk about the novella in one of his classes, as well as mentioning other tropes of the Gothic horror genre. That and the fact that The Moth Diaries revolves around female relationships and sexuality, as well as the infiltration of a vampire into a young girl’s life, I would find it hard to believe it wasn’t.
The movie itself received rather unfavorable reviews but I really enjoyed it. I found it hit the Gothic notes really well, the actors did an amazing job, it’s dark, it’s sexy, it’s tense, and haunting. I’ve actually been looking to watch it again, so hopefully I can find it streaming somewhere. I think about this movie often.
I’d be surprised if most of you haven’t seen this movie already — Jennifer’s Body is a 2009 American comedy horror written by Diablo Cody, Directed by Karyn Kusama, and starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, and Adam Brody. When it first came out, it didn’t get the best reviews, but has since grown into a cult classic of sorts.
The film follows two female friends, Needy and Jennifer. This theme is already familiar, I think. They are really, really close to the point where Needy ditches her boyfriend to hang out with Jennifer. They have cute nicknames and share everything. Then Jennifer gets taken away by a shitty indie band looking to make it big by sacrificing a virgin to Satan.
Jokes on them, Jennifer enjoys sex — in her words, she’s not even a backdoor virgin anymore — which means the sacrifice technically works except she doesn’t really die, she turns into a succubus.
Like the Gothic theme of vampires and sexuality, Jennifer preys on the men who would do anything to have sex with her, which keeps her strong and alive. Unlike a vampire, Jennifer doesn’t have to avoid the sun. The small town sees a large rise in the death rate among its male citizens and Needy is the only one who suspects that something terrible has happened to Jennifer.
Hell is a teenage girl.– Jennifer’s Body
There are some obvious shared themes: the relationships — sometimes loving, sometimes toxic — that women can share, the growing pains of teenaged girls, sex, blood, and violence. The movie also has some of the best lines I’ve ever heard and Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried put on amazing performances.
There are spoilers incoming by the way. So skip this coming section if you’ve not watched the movie yet.
Originally Jennifer avoids hurting Needy out of love for her friend. In fact, they even share a kiss in the night. When they finally do come into conflict, Jennifer bites Needy before Needy manages to stab her through her heart, killing her. It’s then revealed that Jennifer passed on some of the succubus’s powers by biting Needy. Sound familiar?
After reviewing all three here in this post, I think it’s pretty obvious the connections the two movies share with Carmilla. All three revolve around intense and near sexual relationships shared by young girls, these relationships then devolve — either by an outside supernatural influence or the supernatural influence of one of the girls — resulting in tragedy. Each of the three also feature a creature of some kind (vampires or the succubus) that the protagonist must overcome — usually in a violent climax. Each of these novella/films is an excellent portrayal of how strong women and their friendships can be and I would recommend all three!
I hope you enjoyed this post! I know it kind of strayed from my usual reviews, but after rewatching Jennifer’s Body recently, I felt like I really wanted to post my thoughts on it, The Moth Diaries, and the influence Carmilla has had on powerful, feminist literature and film.