Carmilla 2020: Where Are All the Vampires?

Carmilla, written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, is one of vampire fiction’s earliest tales and predates Dracula by almost thirty years. Along with a poem written by Heinrich August Ossenfelder—which tells of a vampire threatening to drink the blood of a pious maiden and corrupt her views of Christianity—Carmilla was one of the first of its kind to introduce the concept of erotism around vampires, however problematic, and explore the bond that develops between the alluring creatures of the night and the victims they feast upon.

Despite holding a place in vampire fiction longer than the infamous Count Dracula and setting a precedent for decades of vampire films and stories following in her wake, Carmilla has yet to take a substantial bite out of popular culture the way Bram Stoker‘s creation has. Emily Harris’ take on the classic vampire attempts to rectify that and presents a moody and dreamlike atmosphere faithful to the novella it’s adapted from—mostly. While the novella was a product of its time and tones down the themes of lesbian attraction and romance, the 2020 film elevates homosexuality to the forefront of the story but strips it almost entirely of its vampiric roots.

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