CARMILLA (2019) Reviews and overview

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Carmilla is a 2019 British romantic mystery feature film about an adolescent young woman’s sexual awakening when a strange visitor comes into her life.

Written and directed by Emily Harris, based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 Gothic novella [read online here], the movie stars Hannah Rae, Devrim Lingnau, Tobias Menzies, Greg Wise, Jessica Raine (The Woman in Black), Colin Blumenau, Daniel Tuite and Lorna Gayle. Produced by Lizzie Brown and Emily Precious.

Isolated from the outside world, fifteen-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae) lives in seclusion on a vast country estate with her father and strict governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine). Late one evening, a mysterious carriage crash brings a young girl (Devrim Lingnau) into their home to recuperate. Lara immediately becomes enchanted by this strange visitor who arouses her curiosity and awakens her burgeoning sapphic desires…

“More biting, more blood, more sweaty, seething Sapphism…more horror! Less of the insects… why all the shots of creepy-crawlies? Yes, the film should have been creepy… a few bug shots do not constitute creepiness! ‘Less is more’ is a mantra that many filmmakers – wisely – follow…unfortunately, in this unusual case…a wee bit ‘more’ would have paid dividends.” CGiii

“Lingnau and Rae create plenty of heat in their scenes together, nicely balanced by the chill of Raine’s performance – although her character never quite feels fully-fledged. A haunting final image only serves to further suggest that a stronger embrace of the film’s supernatural elements would have given it a lot more grip.” Eye for Film

“The theme of oneness is very prevalent in this film, as well as many other LGBTQ+ movies and stories. The scene where Lara and Carmilla become blood sisters is incredibly important in this regard. There are also multiple shots that take advantage of reflections in the water and windows, showing the two girls literally becoming one.” Film and stuff

Carmilla is a boldly beautiful and thought-provoking film. It may be slow and melodramatic in places, but you can’t help but become fully invested in this world […] With three very strong leading performances, a sweeping score by Philip Selway and exquisite cinematography, Carmilla is a film which you won’t forget in a hurry. Please do seek it out.” Filmotomy

“DoP Michael Wood makes glorious use of a summery English scenery and candlelit interiors for the beguiling sapphic ‘love story’  that certainly has its moments delicately evoked by the infatuated duo, but Harris fails to breathe life into this rather wan and brooding Gothic thriller.” Filmuforia

Carmilla is heavy on atmosphere. Scenes illuminated by candlelight, people moving and acting in that awkward, stilted and self-conscious way that we expect of Victorian-era characters, and religious hysteria taking over at the first hint of weirdness. Harris uses frequent cutaways to the various beasties living in the undergrowth – worms and slugs and maggots […] For all this window-dressing however, the film generally feels airless, hokey and a little silly.” Quiet Earth

Carmilla might look and sound like gothic horror, but in Harris’s hands, it’s more romance than horror. Even when Carmilla turns towards the violence necessary to restore the patriarchy, Harris turns her camera away, leaving the combination of offscreen sound and a brief, revelatory shot to tell viewers everything they need or want to know about the outcome…” Screen Anarchy

“The film’s blend of superstitious brooding, sapphic romance and sexual awakening should attract modest interest —otherworldly love stories, subversive accounts of forbidden longing and timely tales of female subjugation are rarely out of fashion — but this restrained affair could ultimately use a bit more blood in its veins.” Screen Daily

“Carmilla’s peak action is quick, unceremonious, and, worst of all, easy. While the film wants to infer its events have dramatically impacted characters, its actions and images point to more inconsequential conclusions. While the journey was fun, the film ultimately leaves audiences on a stagnant note.” What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie?


Carmilla premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2019 and will be released in Film Movement’s virtual cinema on July 17, 2020.

Cast and characters:

Tobias Menzies … Doctor
Jessica Raine … Miss Fontaine
Greg Wise … Mr Bauer
Hannah Rae … Lara
Colin Blumenau … Old Man
Daniel Tuite … Paul the Stableman
Devrim Lingnau … Carmilla
Lorna Gayle … Margaret

Other film adaptations of Carmilla

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