Vampire Academy is the latest in a string of teen novels finding their way to the big screen. Over the past few years film audiences have been witness to the emergence of a new trend geared at adapting so called “young adult lit” books into movies. Popular franchises include the Twilight series, based on Stephanie Meyer’s novels as well as the Hunger Games trilogy penned by author Suzanne Collins. Among the not so successful flicks include 2013’s The Mortal Instruments, which was adapted from a collection of fantasy novels written by Cassandra Clare and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. The next teen novel series scheduled to make the transition to film is Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy.
Vampire Academy is based on the fantasy/paranormal romance series of novels written by Richelle Mead. Essentially the film revolves around the lead character, Rose Hathaway, a half vampire/half human teenager whose primary duty is to protect her best friend Lissa, a vampire with special powers who also holds the distinction (or curse depending upon your point of view) of being the last remaining descendant of the royal Dragomir bloodline. Indeed blood is an important element throughout Vampire Academy. As the film’s tag line states, “Blood is family. Blood is pain. And blood is death”. Now that’s a sentiment so poetic and profound it could’ve come straight out of a Hallmark card.
In order to fully comprehend or at least make an attempt to follow what passes as a storyline in Vampire Academy it’s essential that viewers have a firm grasp on the different types of beings populating this cinematic landscape. Humans are largely relegated to playing minor, but nonetheless essential, roles within this imaginary world. They serve primarily as voluntary “feeders” who, amid a spa/hospital like setting, provide the thirsty vampires with the blood they need to survive. The vamp school, formally known as St. Vladimir’s, is also home to the Dhampirs, who are equal parts human and
vampire. Added to the mix are the Moroi, a race of peaceful “good” vampires. Then there are the “bad” vampires known as Strigoi who resemble the conventional vampires of days gone by. These particular undead hooligans are depicted as posing a constant threat to their more socially acceptable Moroi counterparts. Keep in mind, however, that each Moroi has the ability to turn to the dark side and become a Strigoi themselves. Is all this expository information perfectly clear? Because if you find yourself confused at this point once you actually see this horribly silly film you’ll be at a complete loss as to what going on.
To put it simply the film is a mess… and an incredibly muddled and confusing one at that. Add to all of this is the fact that thrown in amidst some relatively typical vampire jargon are new elements such as water, spirit, and fire users, a mind power known as compulsion, shadow kisses, psychic abilities, lust charms, a queen named Tatiana, plenty of martial arts combat, and hefty bodyguards called guardians. To make matters even worse the film’s dialogue is utterly laughable (unintentionally so). Examples of the inane chatter featured throughout this flick are abundant such as during a scene in which the school’s headmistress Kirova (played by Olga Kurylenko) is unwittingly sedated. Moments before she lapses into unconsciousness, her character muses in a hushed tone, “I could’ve been a model.”
Rose, the lead character is played by Zoey Deutch. This actress’ entire performance can best be described as a poor impression of Ellen Page’s character in the movie Juno. Other cast members include Lucy Fry, Sarah Hyland (best known for her role on TV’s Modern Family), Sami Gayle (also from TV, this time the cop drama Blue Bloods), as well as film veterans Gabriel Byrne and Joely Richardson. Vampire Academy was directed by Mark Waters whose previous films
include Mean Girls and Freaky Friday.
Unfortunately this film is awash in bad acting, a muddled script, silly attempts at humour, lame pop culture references, and thrown in for good measure there’s even a timely condemnation concerning teen bullying. By including a romantic storyline in its so called plot the producers appear to be aiming to sink their teeth (pardon the pun) into the same market of fans who were obsessed with the Twilight trilogy and its Edward/Bella/ Jacob love triangle. Indeed both franchises succeed at making over the old time worn stereotype of a haggard looking Dracula character. The famed horror persona undergoes a radical re-imagining and emerges as a new and modern 21st century version of vampire. In this new form the blood suckers are no longer portrayed as being sullen looking creatures, clad in black capes, sleeping in coffins, and doomed to wander the shadows alone for all eternity. This new breed of vampires are cool, hip, and sexy teenagers who party and know how to have a good time.
Unless you’re an 11 or 12 year old girl who’s obsessed with Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy novels, this film adaptation is a complete waste of time. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy, nor is it scary enough to appeal to horror fans. Although Vampire Academy is taken from the first novel in the series and ends with an obvious reference to the possibility of an upcoming sequel let’s hope the filmmakers show some mercy and realize that audiences who sat through this turkey have already suffered enough.
Vampire Academy was released on February 7th.