I sat down this week to watch VerveGirl TV’s Carmilla web series. 2+ hours later I finished it up and thought, “Well that was pretty damn good!”
I had a chance to read Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampire classic just a few years ago. I liked the idea of the story, just wished someone would execute it better. I’m not sure I’d call this “better”, but it was entertaining and, as you know, that is what I like my entertainment to be. To help you decide if you might find Carmilla entertaining, I created a little Venn diagram:
Right from the first moment, there is a strong hint of the snarky-cute-noir campus dynamic feel of Veronica Mars, particularly with the fraternity, the “Zetas”, (and a flat-out reference to the show) combined with the faux-monster horror-comedy of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. The latter is particularly strong from the moment we meet Carmilla, who anyone watching might see as inspired by Faith from Buffy. There’s a fair dollop of Nightvaleish Lovecraftian dialogue as well. (You could easily make a case for two more circles in the diagram above reading “Familiar with Lovecraft mythos” and “Listens to Welcome to Nightvale.” There’s a lot of overlap between those and the above, I imagine and I would not presume at all that I am the only one with all of these in my pocket. ^_^)
One could easily watch this if one knew – and enjoyed – any of these series, but it’s when one has actually read Le Fanu’s story, the whole thing begins to gel. Carmilla is a leather goth, Faith-like in her lack of giving a shit, Laura is an intrepid journalism student who keeps a video blog of events, which is a lovely analogy to the letter-writing diary of the original story. They are joined by dorm floor monitor and her genderqueer friend, who are, in fact, Madame Perrodon and Madamoiselle La Fontaine.
There are other touches that appeal, the visions of the black cat-like creature, or the child in white, the fact that Laura’s father is overprotective. Nothing terribly heavy-handed, just a light stoke here and there.
Episodes are short – most run about 5 minutes. The budget is low, but the video-log framework means that the story takes place almost entirely as narration from Laura and her friends in her dorm room. Together, the 36 episodes run about 2 and half hours for what is a coherent reworking of Carmilla. I especially liked the puppet show version of Carmilla’s personal history.
At the beginning of the series, right out of the box, Laura develops a crush on her TA Danny. Danny, leader of a Amazonian campus sports group is a good candidate for Laura’s affection and the tension between them is strong. But Carmilla worms her way into Laura’s heart and even before the climax comes, it’s obvious that she’s won the battle for Laura. Neither of these are subtext. I think you could make a good case for Perry and LaFontaine, as well, but there are complications there. ^_^
Overall – 10
While it’s not the so-sexy gauze and castle version this story really deserves, I’m comfortable giving this Carmilla top marks. It was a lot of fun. Good characters, fun writing, short webisodes, free. And La Fontaine saying what I was thinking about vampires. Yeah, 10. I’m good with that.