Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Carmilla (Joseph Sheridan le Fanu)

Joseph Sheridan le Fanu
Open Roads Media
Fiction, Fantasy/Horror
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Living alone with her father and servants at a castle deep in the Styrian hinterlands, a young English woman longs for company. As if delivered by Providence, a girl just about her age literally tumbles into their lives, thrown from a runaway carriage. Deemed too sickly to continue her journey, the girl's mother leaves Carmilla in the castle's care, promising to return for her in three months. There's something both charming and inscrutable about the frail young lady and the way she constantly evades questions about her origins... not to mention her peculiar bond, bordering on obsession, with the castle girl. Soon, a strange plague darkens the countryside, peasant girls falling deathly ill after ghostly encounters - sicknesses recalling the long tradition of the vampire. Is Carmilla another victim, or something more sinister?

REVIEW: Originally published in 1871, this short tale of obsession and horror is considered a major influence on Bram Stoker's later, yet far more famous, novel, Dracula. Carmilla, too, is both charming and terrifying by turns, a monster who toys with her victims in a most diabolical manner. She also displays the traditional vampiric sex appeal, this time directed toward her own gender (which I'm sure raised some turn-of-the-century eyebrows, and may explain why it remains relatively obscure today while Dracula can't get rewritten, revisited, or re-filmed enough.) The story establishes a suitably Gothic atmosphere, and though it drags now and again, I couldn't help thinking Bram Stoker drug things out worse. The wrap-up feels a little anti-climactic and rushed, costing it a full fourth star. Otherwise, this is a nicely chilling exploration of vampire lore.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury) - My Review
Coraline (Neil Gaiman) - My Review
Dracula (Bram Stoker) - My Review

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