Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Carmilla, Season 1 (2014)

Like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this is a modern, video-blog style reinterpretation of a 19th century novel.  Though in this case, I think it would be fair to say that this is more "inspired by" the original work - Sheridan Le Fanu's 1871-1872 serialised novel Carmilla - rather an "adapted from".  The LBD moved its narrative to modern times, but largely kept the structure of the plot in place (albeit updating things to account for different social conventions).  By contrast, this series really takes only the same basic starting point as the book: that a young woman named Laura becomes the target of a cabal of vampires.  One of these vampires (the eponymous Carmilla) also happens to appear to be a teenager, and is the cabal's main agent.

Rather than following the novel's pretty standard "work out there's a vampire and kill it" narrative, Carmilla the web series instead recasts itself as a reluctant love story between between two young women who are temperamentally polar opposites - not to mention one of them being a 400 year old undead.

Laura becomes a naive but courageous college student who finds herself enrolled at the distinctly unusual Silas University, where the words "School Spirit" have a rather different meaning than their usual one.  When Laura's room-mate Betty mysteriously vanishes, she begins searching for answers.  This is complicated by the arrival of her new room-mate: Carmilla, of course.

Carmilla, for her part, is a jaded soul who finds Laura's idealism infuriating - but also, to her own disquiet, rather charming.  What will she do when she finds herself trapped between the demands of the cabal and her growing affection for Laura?  Well, to be honest you can probably guess.

Carmilla is a fun show.  It's true that it occasionally suffers from the nature of its video-blog format: we never see any location except Laura's dorm room, and we sometimes hear large blocks of exposition about action sequences that occurred elsewhere.  Which has the advantage of being cheaper and easier to film, I am sure, but still feels a little awkward.

Fortunately, they've assembled a fine cast (I'm particularly fond of some of the secondary characters), and the scripts have enough funny and/or touching moments to overcome the few moments of weakness.  As long as you aren't homophobic or one of those people who turns their nose up at romantically themed stories, there's a lot to enjoy.  And you don't even have to pay to see it, if you don't want to.  While I bought the remastered digital download, the original versions of the episodes are freely available on youtube (first episode here).

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