“Carmilla” the webseries is hosted by Youtube by KindaTV, and has three seasons in total. (Courtesy of Smokebomb Entertainment)
“Carmilla,” a YouTube based web series, launched its first feature length movie on Oct. 26. The series ended last October, and followed Laura Hollis (Elise Bauman), a college freshman, and her friends as they tried to save the world, from the Sumerian vampire cult that controlled their Syrian based college. At the same time, Laura fell for her new vampire roommate Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis). Suffice it to say, it strays a bit from the original source material: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 19th century gothic novel, of the same name, that had warned of the dangers of female sexuality.
Despite the limitations of a low budget, the series nuzzled its way into the hearts of millions of viewers with its unmatched LGBT representation, amazing writing and some of the best acting found on YouTube. At the end of the third and final season, the creators announced a fan funded film was underway. Some were exited for the change of direction, and others thought the series should end gracefully on a high note.
The movie picks up five years after the events of the web series. The gang is faced with a new challenge. Carmilla, having been granted mortality at the end of the third season, begins to turn back into a vampire, and Laura starts having dreams about events and people from Carmilla’s past. Carmilla thinks that the dreams are messages from her past victims and scorned lover.
Laura and the rest of her friends from the series, including crazed scientist LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander), designated mom friend Lola Perry (Annie Briggs), and reformed frat boy Kirsch (Matt O’Connor), return to Syria to find the cause of the dreams and “revamping.”
The movie does a great job to naturally present information from the series without feeling forced. It provides background in a light-hearted, joking manner, keeping things simple, and avoids over explaining. The writers went to great lengths to make the movie accessible to new viewers without boring the previous fans with facts they already now.
In the simplest terms, the movie is a lot like “Scooby-Doo,” but more mature. The series had always been a bit campy, and that certainly has not changed in the new movie. The movie does not take itself too seriously, instead choosing to poke fun at common tropes of the horror and mystery genres. It is not afraid to be weird and cheesy, but only if it is to drive the plot forward. The writers for the most part know when to keep things funny and when to get serious. This created a genuinely enjoyable, well-balanced movie.
Another factor in this are the actors’ delivery. Most of the cast have played these characters for four years now. They know the roles well, and it shows now more than ever. Good writing can only go so far, and it is their delivery that often makes or breaks the movie. They make the ridiculous story believable.
For all the things the movie does right, there are a few things it got wrong. The pacing of the movie is off. It drags near the middle because it is slow to develop any plot points. There are a few scenes in the middle that serve no purpose but to appease preexisting fans, contributing little to nothing to character or plot development.
These scenes could have been easily forgiven if it was not so clear that the movie needed the wasted time to develop the ending, which was rushed and largely unsatisfactory. However funny and ironic the ending may have been, it failed to dig deeper. There was no closure for the antagonist, and there really should have been considering the character had been such an important part of the series’ lore.
In fact, it seemed that the writers were too afraid to truly dive too deep into the themes of the movie. Instead of seriously exploring the ideas of revenge and guilt, the movie skimmed the surface and used comedy to deflect, or found convenient solutions to avoid any real development. This is frustrating to see from a series that had previously been so successful at expressing complex ideas in creative and engaging ways.
Overall, “Carmilla” is a fun and enjoyable movie, but it does not seem to want to be much more than that. While the pacing could use improvement, and the movie could have been so much more, the story is still funny and charming, and the characters are every bit as lively as before.