Carmilla Hyde (2010)
By: Rip on August 20, 2010  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Poster Art
Director: David De Vries
Starring: Anni Lindner, Nina Pearce, Georgii Speakman, Cameron Hall
Screenplay: David De Vries
Country: Australia
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Millie (Anni Lindner) is a shy, twenty-something student of literature who keeps very much to herself and, from all indication, takes a strong interest in the 'dark side' of the psyche. The walls of her bedroom, where she seemingly spends much of her time, are adorned with artwork ranging from religious iconography to paintings and posters of images such as the character of 'Carmilla', the vampiress from the famed novel of the same name by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Some might label her a 'Goth', though she doesn't really dress in such a fashion, but is very obviously a repressed young woman, who readily admits to being fascinated by the true nature of evil.

Sara (Nina Pearce) is Millie's friend and flat-mate, who is lazy and can't pay the rent, but seems to have plenty of money for all sorts of club drugs which her and her pals Britt (Georgii Speakman) and Nathan (Cameron Hall) seem to be forever indulging in, whilst lazing around the house doing nothing. Well, except having sex with each other. Britt wants to move in to the spare room, which is fine by Sara, but not by Millie. The bitchy Britt thinks Millie a geek and hatches a plan to bring her out of the proverbial shell by plying her with alcohol, slipping her some date drugs and having Nathan (who is fascinated with Millie) bed her. Britt's cruel little scheme all goes according to plan… sort of.

Come the next day, the virginal Millie is mortified when she discovers blood in her bed, and upon checking her email account, a video of herself having wild sex with Nathan, even though she remembers nothing of the night before. Highly distressed, she seeks help from a Dr Charles Webster (Sam Tripodi), a psychologist of some note, who also happens to specialize in therapy through hypnosis. Placing Millie under, Dr Webster proceeds to unlock Millie's past, as well as all her true desires, and in the process, awakens her alter ego. Enter: Carmilla Hyde. And then the fun begins…

This South Australian production from director Dave De Vries is a refreshing independent debut feature that, hopefully, will see him garner a lot more work in the future. A comic book author and artist for some 20 years, De Vries has done very well here for his first time out of the gate. He overcomes budgetary constraints (the film cost around $AU15,000 to make) and a shooting schedule of only 17 days with limited locations, plenty of close-ups, sharp dialogue and even sharper editing. Framed in the panoramic aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and apparently the first feature film anywhere in the world to be shot on the state-of-the-art Sony EX 1 Digital camera, the movie is also quite something to look at, with beautiful resolution and detail. The original soundtrack by Glen Wagland is a nice moody one, and also includes songs by some great Adelaide bands, such as The Vampire Project, The Mark Of Cain, etc. It probably could have done with just a little less of the incidental music, but that's just my view and only a minor quibble.

Ultimately, what really makes Carmilla Hyde work are the solid and quite naturalistic performances from the mostly youngish cast, in particular lead player, Anni Lindner. A stage actor with only a couple of minor roles in other films, this is Lindner's first lead role in a feature and she's simply terrific. Very striking in appearance, Lindner is in possession of a pair of amazing eyes that really work to her advantage in playing this type of character. At once meek and awkward, then sexy and dangerous, the film really wouldn't work without her, or at least an actress of her type, whose experience originates in theatre. Director De Vries himself has said Lindner was always his only choice for the role, even claiming it was hers before he'd put pen to paper. And it's not too difficult to see why. It's her film all the way and she absolutely owns it.

Carmilla Hyde is a neat, urban twist on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as a smart, sexy and unpredictable tale of revenge. Whilst a little rough around the edges, this is the type of psychological thriller that we rarely get to see emerge from this country and it's a very welcome one indeed. It's an engaging and confident debut feature that, unfortunately, has yet to find an official release. After having the privilege of seeing this film for myself, I don't think director Dave De Vries' day in the sun is too far off.

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