Published in 1872 by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 20 years before Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, ‘Carmilla’ is a gothic novel told from the point of view of a young woman named Laura, who becomes the target of affection for a female vampire, Carmilla Karnstein. Since its publication, it has been adapted numerous times, but the most recent adaptation, a YouTube mini-series, is something that has really taken the internet by storm. The web series, aptly titled ‘Carmilla’, was released in August this year, and since its release it has exploded, with the series raking in over 1 million views overall during its rise in popularity. The mini-series is portrayed as a video blog, kept by university student Laura Hollis. Each episode is broadcasted as a ‘segment’ of her video diary, lasting from roughly 2 to 4 minutes each time, which brings a sort of ‘can’t-stop-watching’ feel to the show, as many fans will tell you.
The series maintains a certain degree of accuracy in terms of the original story, however much of it has been modernised to fit into the 21st century – in begins by introducing us to Laura, who is perplexed by the array of strange and mysterious happenings that begin to occur after the arrival of her new roommate, Carmilla. Laura expresses her fears and worries to her audience through her live video broadcast, and the story begins to unfold further when Carmilla begins to exhibit certain vampire-esque characteristics, although at first Laura is adamant that the red liquid she sees Carmilla drinking so often is just a strawberry smoothie. Things unravel further from this point, with more characters being introduced and more secrets being revealed (but I won’t include any spoilers, so that you can all savour the feeling of being surprised by the twists and turns!)
Along with encompassing a fascinating supernatural element, the series is also fantastic in regards to LGBTQIA* representation. Carmilla and Laura are both presented as being openly interested in women, along with Danny Lawrence, a friend of Laura’s who we meet around episode 7 and we soon learn also has a Sapphic streak within her. The show also has a character named LaFontaine, who identifies as genderqueer and uses ‘they/them’ pronouns – this in particular has meant a lot to fans of the show, as LaFontaine is, for a lot of us, the first genderqueer character that we have seen in a widespread media production like this, and having that kind of representation is important, not only for people who benefit from seeing themselves reflected in the shows they watch, but also for people who may not be very informed about these issues and who may need a way of learning that doesn’t feel too commanding or formal.
The actors are also a major part of the show’s success – the chemistry between Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) and Laura (Elise Bauman) is electric, and they manage to portray so many emotions and evoke strong feelings within the fans watching, despite the episode lengths being a little restrictive.
The show as a whole is entertaining and very well put-together, especially when you take into consideration the fact that it’s all filmed in front of one camera in one room, and the show’s producers don’t have a very large budget with which to make the show. They’ve done a brilliant job, regardless of the fact that ‘Carmilla’ isn’t a glitzy television show, and they certainly deserve the recognition and praise they’ve been receiving in these past few months.
5/5 – It’s got lesbian vampires and spooky principals and weird occurrences, what more could you want?