*BEWARE OF SPOILERS BEYOND THE MARKED POINT!*
It really goes to show just how digital media has changed and evolved when a webseries can not only run for four seasons, but even get to a point where it now has a feature length movie. It’s a little nuts when you consider that, a few years ago, this never would have happened!
For those of you who are now lost and confused:
Based on the novel by Sherridan le Fanu (very, very loosely so) and presented in a vlog format, the series tells the story of journalism freshman Laura Hollis and brooding vampire Carmilla Karnstein.
When Laura’s roommate goes missing (as well as several other girls), only to be replaced by the rude and mysterious Carmilla, Laura does her best to find them and find out who is behind the supernatural abductions.
Over the course of three seasons Laura and Carmilla fall in love, deal with Carmilla’s evil mother, struggle to work out their relationship and ultimately work together to prevent the gates of hell from being opened.
The series is a lot of fun and very suited for binge watching, given how most episodes are only a few minutes long. The story is fast-paced but never leaves the viewer behind, the characters are well-written and the leads playing Laura and Carmilla (Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis) have very enjoyable chemistry.
It’s also extremely nerdy, so beware if that’s not your thing, but I imagine the description would have lost you around the ‘lesbian vampire’ part.
Update (1-11-2017): For those of you interested in the series, all 4 seasons can be found at KindaTV’s YouTube channel here.
If you’re interested in the movie, you can purchase it (and potentially behind the scenes material) here.
The webseries has built up quite the fanbase over the course of its four seasons and this movie, partially funded by these fans, is absolutely made for them. If you are not familiar, odds are you will be pretty lost.
I was one of the fans who funded part of the movie by preodering it and...eh...
Well, I kind of love this movie...but I really don’t like parts of this movie.
Let’s start positive!
The chemistry between our leads is as great as ever and, though five years have passed in-universe, the characters are still as likeable as when we last saw them.
The acting is pretty great too, though the ‘English accents’ on some of the new characters can grate a bit when they’re not hilarious.
It is a bit odd to see the cast in something other than the vlog format we’ve grown so used to, but it is not very distracting and it is very clear that a lot of love went into this project.
*Again, Spoilers beyond this point!*
It is also nice that other members of the cast are not neglected in terms of the story. Lafontaine and Perry have a nice little mini-arc about selling their supernatural start-up, with Perry trying to communicate that she wants to do this to get more free time while Lafontaine is at first more worried about selling out and losing control.
Annie Brigs and Kaitlyn Alexander play off of each other wonderfully and maintain the ‘married for 40 years’ vibe surrounding their characters.
Mel also gets a lot more screentime and even a romantic subplot which, while brief, is very cute in its own way.
Kirsch is...also there, mostly to act as clueless comic relief. Matt O’Connor gives a good performance, but Kirsch is still pretty much the token guy.
So, what about the main story? Well, that starts off and builds very well and...then it kind of fumbles near the end and drops the ball.
The basic premise is fine. Five years after the end of season three, Laura and Carmilla are living together when Laura starts being plagued by nightmares and Carmilla starts to turn back into a vampire.
To figure this out, the group travels to Styria to confront Carmilla’s past and find out what is happening. This goes better than expected, when they run into the ghosts of girls Carmilla delivered to her mother. Thankfully, they are not vengeful and rather need Carmilla’s help to pass on.
However, something is clearly amiss and while I won’t go over the whole thing here, let’s say that shennanigans happen and Carmilla’s former lover Ell steals her human life in order to use it for her own. However, she can’t leave either, so Laura and friends have to find a way to deal with Ell.
For the most part, this is fine. Certainly more original than all of Carmilla’s victims just jumping on the haunting and murdering wagon, but still a bit clichéd in the way it hits the ‘scorned lover’ trope.
Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Also known for her potrayal of Waverly Earp) gives a great performance as Ell, but the movie noticeably falters the moment she actually appears on screen. However, this is no way the fault of the actress, but rather the writing.
The main problem is that Ell is very, very angry...but not much else. Not only have the characters already dealt with an antagonist who was primarily angry once before (namely the dean), but this feels like a serious waste.
The impact of Ell’s death is a major part of not just Carmilla’s first season but of the character Carmilla in general. The guilt and pain of that moment is something she caries with her for a very long time.
In many ways this should make Ell a great antagonist, but the problem is that not much is done with this. This is a perfect set-up for emotional, heart wrenching conversations. And then none of those happen.
I’m not saying there is no room for anger, but that seems to be all there is. There is one moment where we see Ell looking pained and hesitant, when she walks into the room where the moment she learned about what Carmilla was and left her on repeat. Yet, they do nothing with that emotion.
In the end, there is very little that really separates Ell from any of the other girls who died because of Carmilla. What separates Ell from the others, her relationship with Carmilla, just doesn’t carry the weight it should because the two never really have a meaningful conversation.
Also, and I know I’m probably not supposed to question this, but where did Ell get a book on magic rituals? Were those just laying around?
Finally, there is the ending and that has proven to be rather divisive.
In the end, Carmilla gives up her regained humanity to allow the ghosts of her victims to pass on, meaning she is once again a vampire.
To its credit, the movie actually seems to realize that this is not a great option. Laura goes over the impact this will have on their relationship when Carmilla once again can’t age while Laura gets older and older. To its detriment, the movie then proceeds to do nothing to adress this.
It feels like the movie tries to hand-wave a major problem when both Laura and Carmilla just go “Eh, we’ll figure it out.” Yes, that wraps up Laura’s arc, but it is a pretty weird attitude to take given that their relationship was the focal point of three seasons and the main reason people watched.
There is also the fact that Carmilla regaining her humanity was one of the last things to happen in the series. It raises the question of what the point was of giving the character back her humanity, if you are just going to take it away again in the movie.
Some fans have defended this choice by claiming that it was the vampire element of the series that drew them to it in the first place. However, fans who were less pleased with this decision seem to feel it cheapens the fact that Carmilla ever got her humanity back at all.
Most of them do agree, though, that either Laura and Carmilla should both be vampires (or otherwise immortal) or both be human.
I am in the latter of the two camps mentioned above.
That being said, I understand the choice from a thematic point of view. Taking responsibility is a major theme of the whole movie and Carmilla’s entire arc hinges on it. If there is nothing for her to sacrifice, there is little weight to Carmilla taking responsibility for her actions. It should come at a cost.
Had there been nothing to sacrifice for Carmilla in taking responsibility, one of the themes of the movie would have suffered.
However, I feel that making the cost Carmilla’s humanity was the wrong choice.
Carmilla regaining her humanity happened in the finale of the last season, meaning we as fans never really got to see her get used to and enjoy being human outside of a few brief moments in the movie itself. For the characters it has been five years, but for the viewers it has been significantly less and it makes us wonder what the point was.
Season 3 ended on a very hopeful note, with both characters free to live and grow old together at last. Taking away that humanity again so soon...Well, it would be overblown to say it utterly ruins that moment, but it certainly takes away a lot of the impact.
There is an a clear sense of “Well...shit...” around this ending, despite the fact that it hits a fairly positive note before the credits.
Speaking of which, they do mention a Fountain of Youth during said credits, so I suppose we are free to assume that Laura and Carmilla abused the absolute hell out of it to deal with the whole mortality problem.
In the end, part of me loves this movie.
It has a number of moments that are so great because they’re funny, or sweet, or well-acted, or even just because they pander to the audience in a way that’s just right.
Of course, there is also the fact that this movie is pretty unique. We’re talking about a movie that prominently features a lesbian couple that actually survives through the story (as much as a vampire can, anyway) played by bisexual and pansexual actresses. Not to mention that one of the main characters is non-binary.
I love that the webseries I’ve watched faithfully has gotten to this point.
I might disagree with the direction the story and particularly the ending took, but in the end there is still a lot to like about this movie and it is so worth watching.
So, it’s certainly not perfect and part of me hates parts of this movie, but I’m glad it exists and I would recommend fans of the series to watch it. Hell, even if you’re not a fan I’d recommend it, but you might want to actually check out the series first.