I was promised atmospheric queer vampire romance directed by a woman. The first half of the film delivers, but the second half just doesn’t hit the mark.
Rebecca is a student at an all-girls boarding school (surprise). She totally wants to be gal pals with her bestie Lucy, but Lucy is too enraptured with Ernessa, the new student who totally isn’t a vampire, to notice.
Spoilers ahead. Warning: contains brief descriptions of sexual assault.
Unfortunately, the film devolves into tired tropes rather quickly, without exploring the actual impact of any of the threads it attempts to start.
-Creepy male teacher at an all-girls school. There’s other ways to establish the failure of authority figures in a young queer student’s life, or with the sexualization of teens by adults, or with the systematic abuse of power in a cisheteropatriarchal society without making it seem that all male teachers are pervs in lurking.
-Sad and dead queer women. Of course the sad queer vampire is sad and queer and makes the other queer girls sad/dead. Oooo, naughty queer boarding school girls and vampires! Ugh.
-Pointless rape subplot. Rebecca’s friend Dora is considering having sex for the first time with her boyfriend, and talks to her friends about it. She has them on look-out for her while she has sex in a field near campus, but as Rebecca approaches in the morning, she has a vision of Dora saying no and telling her boyfriend to stop, but he doesn’t. It’s not clear if it’s a vision of an actual event or not, but it’s dropped as quickly as it’s brought up.
-Racism and biphobia. In isolating Rebecca, Ernessa gets Charley, the only person of color in Rebecca’s group, expelled. Which is better than getting killed as a plot device, but still. Also, telling Charley that having sex with girls “doesn’t count” is biphobic, sapphophobic and gross. Is it something that a teen would say? Of course. Is it even addressed? OF COURSE NOT.
It’s not enough. It’s like the director Mary Harron wants to address how vulnerable girls and women are in society but just chose to stick with tired tropes that fail to offer new insight into the queer vampire genre or address the issue of rape culture adequately. The film just touches on those elements, as if to titillate the audience instead of taking a stand on social issues.
Do yourself a favor and skip this one–read The Gilda Stories instead. Or Annie Archie’s (not Halloween related) illustrations of “naughty lesbian scenes” (“Nothing gets us going like watching queers wheatpaste ‘DONT TELL ME TO SMILE’ all over the city“).
Rated R. Contains blood, gore, female wasting disease, creeper teacher, suicide (graphic), suicidal ideation, accidental death, rape, vampires, biphobia, heights.