But the film's weakness is that it still tries to play it both ways, as troubled coming-of-age portrait and Gothic horror, with the result that the two elements end up seeming equally half-realized. Despite an inevitably somewhat glamorized surface, a certain attention is paid to real-world adolescent detail, like the presence of casual recreational drug use or the disappointment voiced by one student whose eagerly awaited deflowering turns out neither good or bad, but just an indifferent experience. There's also a knowing wink at the usual adult dismissal of teenage ideas when Mr. Davies condescendingly shrugs off Becca's fears: "Cooped up here you girls can get so close, all that emotion can turn toxic." The movie is handsome enough, with a color palette that aptly grows darker and more untrustworthy as things progress.
Cole is well-cast for her eeriness, while Bolger gives an intelligent performance even if the film ought to be channeling her character's growing instability more vividly — as Harron managed very well for Valerie Solanis and Patrick Bateman.
There's little suspense here, however, and the fantastical elements are seldom staged with any inspiration. You get the feeling that this highly talented director ultimately couldn't find anything all that interesting in her young-adult-fiction material, but still hoped for a Twilight-style hit that might make more personal future projects easier to fund. (Even after Kathryn Bigelow's 2010 Hurt Locker Oscar, it still seems like the road is always uphill for women directors.) Instead she wound up with a polished but forgettable genre piece that's probably the mildest entry in the annals of lesbian (or at least Sapphically-tinged) vampire cinema yet.
THE MOTH DIARIES opens Fri/10 at SF Film Society Cinema.