Carmilla Hyde, a title that calls forth two classic pieces of horror mythology in one fell swoop! Australian filmmaker Dave de Vries takes the very basic narrative structure from the Strange Case of Dr. Jekly and Mr. Hyde but influences it with the erotic overtones from the classic gothic vampire story Carmilla. These are topics that deserve their own mention, as the film tends to recall these stories in ways outside of the blatantly obvious referencing. For myself as a viewer Carmilla Hyde seems to recall these classic pieces of literature and mythos in both its pacing and atmospheric approach to horror. With that reverence for the works of old does come a decent amount of archetypes and some cliché territory, but with Carmilla Hyde the really solid and new ideas generally conceal much of that. Although certainly not a perfect film, it is an interesting piece of cinema from down under where the Aussies once again prove that they have an eye for Genre film like no one else does.
Young virgin Millie (Anni Linder) spends the majority of her time buried in her books, where she grows an infatuation with her stories but distances herself from those who surround her. Millie lives with her roommate Sara (Nina Pearce), who spends her days having sex with Nathan, her friend with benefits. When she’s not sleeping with Nathan, then she’s hanging out with her good friend Britt (Georgii Speakman) who she desperately wants to move into the house but Millie simply won’t allow it. Britt is a slut who spends her nights partying away in whatever seedy dives she can wander into and Millie would simply rather distance herself from that atmosphere. However, in an attempt to move Britt in and kick Millie out of her own home, Sara and Britt scheme to embarrass Millie in the harshest way they possibly can. They know that she finds Nathan attractive, so Sara persuades Nathan to sleep with Millie after they drug her drink. Millie awakens in the morning to find that she is no longer a virgin and that Sara recorded her lovemaking session! Millie, on the brink of insanity, visits her psychiatrist in order to help remove these memories and help her cope with her situation. The doctor implants a psychological trigger so that when the words “Carmilla Hyde” are spoken out loud by Millie, she will lose all inhibitions and cease to care. This trigger opens up a doorway however, as Millie no longer finds herself the bookish young girl who likes to read but instead she is the slutty and adventurous Carmilla Hyde! As this new personality begins to take hold, will Millie cease to exist and what will Carmilla Hyde do to those who have hurt poor Millie in the past?
With a very slick atmosphere Carmilla Hyde is a very professional production that takes you through a classic case of revenge from the female perspective. With the look of a decent budget, but with the narrative focus on sexuality, the film takes a best of both worlds mentality as it tries to woo the audience over with its polish but manipulates us through its blatant and intriguing look at sex as a weapon. The character of Carmilla Hyde is ultimately the sexually charged version of Millie that has likely always lived inside of herself, but was never able to fully develop or mature due to a traumatic event that happened in the early part of her life. While the director has this character confront her own sexuality and the repression that has come with it due to her childhood baggage, I think that he asks for us to question our own sexual hangups by confronting us with it. The film is an interesting mix of ideas all gathered in the guise of Genre Cinema. Showcasing an air of intelligence and a promising story that hopefully engages with a mass audience, it is a mix of ideas that ultimately ends up working.
Although it does deal with a great deal of sexual concepts and ideas, this is of course a genre film. Whether you see it as a horror film or a thriller, it certainly plays well to a more mainstream audience as well. Throughout the film, the music interchanges between rock music and a great deal of incidental music in the vein of Hitchcock. So much so that at a point or two I found myself a bit annoyed with the cues, which may have been a bit overdone. That is more of a pet peeve than anything, as it is not something that affects the movie for me. The overall visual aesthetic of the film is very well done however, with really strong photography in every scene and excellent use of framing. I have already made mention of the film’s polish, but it really is an excellent looking feature. The performances as well deserve to be mentioned, as every member of the cast really executes their role very well. You essentially have to point out Anni Linder, who plays Millie/Carmilla, as she absolutely dominates the film by creating these very diverse but understandable characters inside of one body. She manages to actually make both of these characters relateable and does so without going over the top. A very brave and exciting performance from the young actress, who I hope to see more of!
It is not a perfect feature, but on the whole it is a choice independent Australian production that shows a great deal of imagination. If you are given the opportunity to check it out at some point, take the dive. It’s an engaging but deceptively smart little film! You can read more about it as well as check out the trailer via the official site: