Somewhere in the US-American South, the late 1800's: Since her mother
has disappeared, teenaged Ann (Ione Skye) has been kept pretty much cut
off from the outside world, holed up in the family mansion by her father
Leo (Roy Dotrice). Then an unfortunate coach accident not far from the
mansion turns into a blessing when the sole survivor, Carmilla (Meg Tilly)
turns out to be a girl Ann's age, and since her parents have died in the
accident, Leo decides to let her stay with Ann for a while. He soon finds
himself drawn to Carmilla, too.
Ann adores Carmilla because she has
travelled a lot, tells her of the big world, and promises to take her with
her some day. However, with Carmilla's arrival, something the
superstitious townsfolks believe to be the plague has hit the countryside,
and even near Ann's family mansion a "plague victim" is found.
Leo's black maid Ms Hodgett (Armelia McQueen) is the first to suspect
Carmilla, but then she finds her death, torn to pieces by vampire bats.
Also, Ann wakes up with bitemarks on her neck the next morning.
Amos (Roddy MacDowall), an eccentric detective who comes up with the
theory that Carmilla is a vampire - and reluctantly, Leo is brought to
believe him ... and of course, Amos is right, but how to convince Ann.
and Leo do their best to keep the two girls apart the next night, but
Carmilla kills Amos, then runs off with Ann to hide in the nearby family
crypt. There though the two girls are cornered by Leo and a mob of
villagers, and when they enter the crypt, they find it full of vampires -
but no Carmilla. At first, Ann wants to just run away, but when she and
dad find her mother, kept in an undead state begging them to stake her
(which they do eventually), she starts to realize what Carmilla is really
The next night, Carmilla, who has actually taken a liking to Ann
and wants to have her as a companion rather than a bloodbank, comes to
fetch Ann - but a fight ensues and Carmilla is eventually staked by
accident. The rising sun makes her disintegrate.
several nice things to say about this adaptation of Carmilla:
Transplanting the story to the US-American South actually works better
than expected, and beautiful local landscapes and backdrops are captured
to the film's advantage. Furthermore, the cast is first rate, both in
acting and in just "looking the role".
And yet, this episode
of nightmare castle falls several feet short of meeting its expectations:
While the backdrops are captured in an impressive way, little effort is
made to create a suitably creepy atmosphere, the source material is
stripped of almost all its erotic undercurrents and told in a
disappointing as-is manner, the dialogue is very much on the stiff side,
and despite their best efforts, the actors, good as they are, are not
always able to overcome this handicap, and the finale in the crypt as well
as Carmilla's actual demise are lacking in thrill and tension. And on top
of that, a real set of rules that vampires are supposed to follow in this
film are never established: For example, early on, we see Carmilla walking
in the sunlight quite frequently, but later in the game, her body is
disintegrated by the sun. Plus, the things she fears or doesn't fear
change from scene to scene.
After having said all that though I guess if
you like the Carmilla-story as such and have 50 minutes to
waste, you might just as well watch this one, just don't expect any new
insights or something ...