Richard De Jong
May 18, 2014
Based on the first book in a best-selling series of young adult novels by Richelle Mead, the movie Vampire Academy touts a seemingly winning pedigree, with a screenplay by Daniel Waters (who wrote Heathers) and helmed by brother Mark Waters (who directed Mean Girls) and starring Zoey Deutch (Lea Thompson's daughter).
The bloodlines are there, but the progeny is more mutt than show dog. The movie is a discombobulated mixture of genres, a coming of age, horror, supernatural, dramedy with a soupçon of whodunnit.
It's possible to successfully blend all those elements together, but the film needs an internal consistency or the audience is buffeted as they struggle to coalesce the conflicting tones.
For example, when we are introduced to the Strigoi, (the bad seeds in the Vampire Academy mythology), they are portrayed as evil incarnate soulless beings who strike true terror in the hearts of our heroines. Near the end of the film - Spoiler Alert - the newly minted Strigoi, (Sarah Hyland, who has been the shy, awkward friend), even with her blood-rimmed eyes, looks comical and not maniacal.
Filmmakers, please commit to one or the other.
A talented cast including veterans like Gabriel Byrne and Joely Richardson are underutilized. It pains me to see Cameron Monaghan, who is mesmerizingly raw in TV's Shameless, not be given a more substantial role.
The story, buried under all the cross currents, is appealing, especially if you are a scholar of various filmic Vampire mythologies. In her novels, Mead creates three types of vamps.
Zoey Deutch portrays Rose Hathaway, a Dhampir (a half-vampire/half-human). Her lot in life is as a guardian of Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), a Moroi (all vamp, but not malevolent). Their mortal enemies are the aforementioned Strigoi. Though for most of the film, the majority of the painful barbs are cast by the mean girls and boys at Saint Vladamir's Academy.
If you are a fan of the Vampire Academy books, you probably were the first in line when the movie opened in February. Alas, based on its paltry box office, don't hold your breath for the Vampire Academy sequel based on Frost Bite. For those of you that have waited for the Blu-ray or digital download, proceed with caution.
If you are new to the Vampire Academy's brand of bloodsuckers, then you should consider going directly to the Special Features - before watching the movie - and playing the Alternate Opening, which provides a succinct primer on the three basic Vampire groups.
I can understand the reticence to begin a film with so much exposition, but as an Academy newbie, I would have preferred the head start the Alternate Opening furnishes.
I'm not a big fan of deleted scenes because, not surprisingly, they often seem disjointed from the film and rarely offer any insight or entertainment value. Though, you might sample "Party Flashback" to fill in Ms. Karp's backstory.
Finally, Richelle Mead graciously gives her views on the transfer of her words onto the big screen.
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company
Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Dominic Sherwood, Olga Kurylenko, Sarah Hyland, Cameron Monaghan, Sami Gayle, Ashley Charles, Claire Foy, Joely Richardson
Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English SDH and Spanish