I am the Vampire Princess, when a vampire movie comes out into the theatres I have no choice but to see it. It’s a moral (amoral?) obligation for me, that means I even had to see all the twilights on the silver screen and did so. I find myself continually amazed at how a studio is completely incapable of understanding source material or the gem they have with a vampire property. The trailers for this film put that lack of understanding on a silver platter. watching the clips that were designed to make you want to see this film – I mean thats what a trailer is for right – told you there was a producer selling it as Clueless with Fangs. There was another one selling it as Buffy. Another selling it as City of Bones at school and with fangs. When there is that lack of understanding from a producer and film editor level it tells you what to expect all the while telling you not to see a movie. Even the posters fail to sell the film – “They suck at school?” REALLY?
So here we are, Vampire Academy based on the acclaimed YA series by Richelle Mead. Per usual folks, I have not read the book series. Unlike usual, I will be doing so. I need to know what I Was supposed to be getting, rather than what I got. Daniel Waters, elder brother of the director Mark Waters. I actually like the writing filmography of Daniel. Heathers, Hudson Hawk, Batman Returns and Demolition Man. The thing here is, none of them are really that good. They all show a distinct lack of subtlety and upon thinking of it further a hate for teenagers. You can tell he loathes them in how he writes their dialogue and gives them their personalities. This may be a trait shared by his brother Mark, who gave us Mean Girls, Freaky Friday (2003), and Mr. Poppers Penguins. Both of these men have a habitual way of treating the teen girl. So why were they given the writing and directing?
That probably can lay on Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Best known for delivering some of the cheapest films that appear to have a high production value. If you think of the Scream movies, Prophecy (all six of them), Dracula 2000, and so many others like it their fingerprints are on it. They like to pander to the audience and assume the worst of the intelligence level of the modern movie goer. This isn’t to say they don’t have a gem or two out there, but the reality is they don’t respect the art of movie making and it shows with each successive film.
What we were supposed to get, apparently, was a story of two best friends. Teenage girls with responsibilities that really no teen should have laid upon them. One, the heir Lissa Dragomir to a vampiric empire and the other, Rose Hathaway, sworn to protect her. They’ve been running from this destiny for some time and are finally caught and brought back into the fold of a prep school with fangs. Reacclimation to school life doesn’t go well as Lissa begins to discover the limits of her powers and drags Rose along with her. The entire time still dealing with all the lovely teenage angst that high school brings with it.
The script is a painful mess of cliches and badly written language. I can’t lay all the blame on the actors for how it turned out. I can lay some of it though. Lucy Fry (Lissa) just can’t act. Then they gave her fangs which she never learned to speak around. Gabriel Byrne, seems to want to drain the scenery as he chews it rather than blood. It’s like he didn’t care and it shows in the performance. Going through it none of the performances deliver more than hollow schlock of people too young and too inexperienced to really give the movie any real weight. The closest to a good performance is Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures) as Rose. She is at least somewhat capable of trying to emote. Sadly the lines she’s given and the direction she is given hampers any weight she might have been able to bring.
The only thing going for it is the fact that the vampires have fangs and the sets are somewhat beautiful. Vampires with fangs is under rated these days, and the design of the fangs is somewhat traditional. Most people don’t spend time on fang details but they are as important as any other character when dealing with vampire fiction. They can look ridiculous, they can impair speech, they can be threatening or they can be beautiful. These fall somewhere between the ridiculous and the beautiful. An apparent one size fits all approach was used which made the fangs look bad in some mouths and moderately ok in others.
Goddess I wanted to like this. I really did. I cannot in good conscience say this film is anything but a hot mess. It should have been better and probably could have. Even the pop cover of Bela Lugosi’s Dead, while interesting, came across wrong.
I need, the world needs, a good vampire story again. I worry about Dracula Year Zero/Dracula Untold later this year.
Time to get to work on mine and order the books for this one. In the meanwhile, two more reviews coming later this week. 2014 has not been good so far with no signs on the horizon of change.