The Moth Diaries (film)

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The Moth Diaries
The Moth Diaries FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mary Harron
Produced by Karine Martin
Written by Mary Harron
Based on The Moth Diaries
by Rachel Klein
Starring Lily Cole
Sarah Gadon
Sarah Bolger
Valerie Tian
Melissa Farman
Scott Speedman
Music by Lesley Barber
Cinematography Declan Quinn
Edited by Andrew Marcus
Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation
Media Max Productions
Mediabiz International
Samson Films
Distributed by Alliance Films (Canada)
IFC Films (US)
Release date
  • September 6, 2011 (2011-09-06) (Venice)
Running time
85 minutes
Country Canada
Language English

The Moth Diaries is a 2011 Irish-Canadian horror film directed by Mary Harron and based on a 2002 novel of the same name by Rachel Klein. The film stars Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Sarah Bolger, Judy Parfitt, and Scott Speedman. The film received generally negative reviews from critics.


At an exclusive boarding school for girls, Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), a sixteen-year-old teenage girl, records her most intimate thoughts in a diary. Two years ago, Rebecca's father, a gloomy poet, took his own life by slitting his wrists. Her mother transferred Rebecca to the school, hoping to help her daughter escape the dark memories of her father's death. With the help of her best friend and roommate, Lucy (Sarah Gadon), and many other girls, Rebecca soon recovered.

But this year will never be the same. A mysterious, dark-haired girl named Ernessa Bloch (Lily Cole), enrolls into the school. Lucy quickly becomes best friends with Ernessa and becomes distant from Rebecca. Ernessa's presence makes Rebecca feel uneasy. She tries to confront Lucy about Ernessa's dark secrets, but her pleas are dismissed as pure jealousy. Eerie things start to happen. First, Charley (Valerie Tian) gets expelled because of Ernessa. Dora (Melissa Farman) dies in a freak accident shortly after spying on Ernessa's room, and a teacher is found murdered in the woods. Tension starts to grow at the school.

To Rebecca, Ernessa is an enigma. She seems like she can walk through closed windows, and she is often seen lingering around the basement (a place that all students are forbidden to go). Rebecca thinks Ernessa is a vampire.

Ernessa slowly gets rid of Rebecca's close friends, leaving Rebecca to find out what is happening by herself.

A new English teacher, Mr Davies (Scott Speedman), arrives at the school. Mr Davies shows particular interest in Rebecca. The two share ideas on Romantic literature and poetry. Rebecca soon learns that vampires don't necessarily drink blood, but they can drain the lively spirit out of their victims. Mr Davies addresses himself as a fan of Rebecca's poet father. Rebecca turns to Mr Davies for help, but it is no use. During their conversation, the two kiss but Rebecca pulls herself away.

On several occasions, Ernessa confronts Rebecca in the library, and one time, presents Rebecca with a sharp razor and elaborates on the pleasure of death. Another time, Ernessa sings a disturbing nursery rhyme about "The Juniper Tree" then slits her own wrists, causing blood to rain down on her and Rebecca. Afterwards, Ernessa and the blood disappear.

One day, Lucy is sent to the hospital, but only Rebecca knows that Lucy is sick because of Ernessa. Rebecca tries to convince Lucy that Ernessa is the root of all their problems, but Lucy refuses to listen and profanes at her. Although Lucy recovers for a couple days, she soon dies after Ernessa completely drains the life out of her.

Rebecca steals the keys to the basement, and after entering, sees an old stone coffin with Ernessa's full name engraved on it. From an old diary, Rebecca learns that many years ago Ernessa's father also killed himself; and Ernessa, unable to cope with the grief, took her own life thereafter. Rebecca soon learns that for the whole time, Ernessa has wanted Rebecca to kill herself. In other words, Rebecca is the target victim, and not Lucy.

Shortly after, Rebecca returns to the basement to discover Ernessa sleeping in the stone coffin. Rebecca pours kerosene on Ernessa and around the coffin she is still sleeping in, lighting the kerosene before Ernessa wakes up.

Rebecca then walks outside to see a fire truck present and her classmates standing around. Through a door she sees the ghost of Ernessa, who slowly turns around and walks into the sun before vanishing.

Narrating that the authorities are suspicious of her, Rebecca is comfortable in the knowledge that Ernessa will not have left any remains. During her transportation to the police station she pulls a razor blade out of her diary and secretly drops it out of the car window, deciding that she will not do the same as Ernessa. Rebecca looks blankly out of the car window as the film fades to black.



The film was shown Out of Competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

The Moth Diaries received negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 14%, based on 42 reviews.[2] On Metacritic, it received a score of 38 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "Generally unfavorable reviews".[3] Neil Young of The Hollywood Reporter criticized the films lack of narrative suspense and overall inert storytelling, stating that "The Moth Diaries is about as scary and menacing as the harmless lepidoptera in the film’s title."[4]

On May 4, 2015, Scout Tafoya of included the film in his video series "The Unloved", where he highlights films which received mixed to negative reviews yet he believes to have artistic value. He stated that "unlike other young-adult adaptations, the ritual and hardship of being in high school is never edged out by the supernatural goings-on; Rebecca and her friends worry about boys and grades as much as vampires ... Harron was attempting to communicate honestly with teens and pre-teen girls, to make a movie with characters and situations they might recognize." Tafoya further added, "Where the world refuses to stop turning just because crisis mounts for one girl, and thanks to a careless if not downright malicious marketing and distribution strategy, its audience never got a chance to watch it alongside Twilight sequels or Marvel movies ... The film industry is only just learning it can't get away with ignoring women of all ages."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE MOTH DIARIES – MARY HARRON". La Biennale. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  2. ^ "The Moth Diaries (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "The Moth Diaries Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  4. ^ Young, Neil (6 September 2011). "The Moth Diaries: Venice Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Tafoya, Scout (4 May 2015). "The Unloved, Part 17: "The Moth Diaries"". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 

External links[edit]