I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, they don’t make enough horror movies for children. I’m not saying that film makers need to start churning out fright-fests to terrify nippers but, actually, no, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Vampire Academy is not aimed at kids dying of a bit of blood sucking terror so much as it is more for the tween Twilight crowd. However, it is so goofy that most moody teenagers will give it a pass, leaving only some undiscerning under tens to find anything entertaining about it. Needless to say I quite enjoyed it.
Rose and Lissa are two teenage girls attending St Vladimir’s Academy, the Vampire Academy, an Oregon set school which only seems to have hot teenage students. There are no small kids here so I presume its some kind of sixth form centre but instead of a dining room they have willing victims who want to have an adolecent vampire sucking on them in the middle of the night for some reason. Oh, they don’t kill them it’s fine, because the main vampires here, the Moroi, don’t kill at all (I know, boring) or else they turn into villainous Strigoi. These nasty pieces of work (well for a kid’s film) aren’t allowed to attend the school due to there tendency to murder everyone on sight. Plus their red eyes clash would with the school uniform. The third type of vampire are the Dhampir which are half vampire/half human and who’s job it is to protect the Moroi who are a pretty wish washy bunch and can’t protect themselves. Think of the members of the Royal family who didn’t join the armed forces and you’ll get the idea.
Rose is a Dhampir who protects Lissa , as they have developed a magical bond which means they must always be together and are best mates too. This is lucky because Lissa, who is also a princess and third in line to the Moroi throne or something, is a waif-thin bit of stick and bones who is relentlessly fainting and getting kidnapped. Rose, on the other hand, is well into getting into a fight even if she mostly gets the crap beaten out of her. Rose, who essentially is the hero, is meant to be smart, sharp and spunky, however she comes across as smug, stupid and annoying. I don’t think this is Zoey Deutch’s fault as she puts her all into the role, but the script is so packed full of not even slightly amusing put-downs and reams of unnecessary exposition that she ends up having to gabber on at a breakneck speed to get all the dialogue out. Its relentless. Lucy Fry, as Lissa, however isn’t as annoying partly because although the princess is meant to be some kind of superior royal beauty she plays it much lighter and sillier, more like a daft reject from Made in Chelsea.
The most interesting thing about the film is the bond between the two girls, with Rose frequently being able to see through Lissa’s eyes, helpful when she needs to rescue the princess, but also useful for seeing her chatting up boys. Yep, this film is very much in the Twilight zone with lusting after boys being a factor. Lissa likes Christian, a drip of a sub-Robert Pattinson complete with English accent and brooding paleness. Rose, meanwhile, fancies both Lissa’s brother, a Prince Harry type slut and the head fighting instructor/security chap Dimitri, who’s about 20 years too old for her. However, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of staid loving looks as Rose starts tearing off clothes the moment she is alone with either of these fellas. Not sure how this works for a kiddy audience but all the mushy stuff is played much sillier than the Twilight films, and thank god as that could really drag this venture down. The characters do take the piss out of Twilight throughout the film although setting it in a similar woody mountainous region of America seems like they want to have their cake and eat it.
Fortunately, the tone of the film is so light and the actual story is a solid one that after a while you actually start succumbing to its charms. The central mystery is fairly compelling, helped by the structure the film takes. The girls haven’t just begun at the academy but have spent the last year on the run from it. We start with Rose and Lissa hiding out in some hotel room, its a bit like the beginning of Salam’s Lot with its protagonists on the run from the vampires. We are introduced to the school upon their capture and unwilling return, so everything is already in place and we have to catch up. The academy itself isn’t particularly interesting, just some old big gothic mansion that looks like an early concept for Hogwarts, rejected for being to dull. In fact a lot of the production design is pretty flat, the great hall, is just a big hall with a stage, the underground jails are overly lit and boring. The visual effects are even poorer. The environment extension look like a first pass, with no depth or interesting atmospherical effects added to them to make it sit into the footage better. The cg wolf things are the worst though. Apparently they filmed with real life trained wolves but the director wasn’t pleased with their performances (these are trained wolves: isn’t that impressive enough? Some people huh?) so he had them replaced with these dreadful, badly realised lumps of cg that can’t even walk convincingly. I like when they switch to “attack-mode” their glowing eyes go from blue to red. But that’s about it. If you’re gonna switch out some live action from a film(I had to do a similar thing on the, admittedly easier to do, helicopters in Zero Dark Thirty) then make sure you make the film look better not worse.
Of course being a modern film it sets itself up for the next movie (its based on a seven book run) so not everything is resolved. However, as is the world of the box office lottery, Vampire Academy made a paltry seven million dollars at US cinemas so don’t expect to see the sequel anytime soon or indeed ever. But it has some good ideas and some good actors (Sarah Hyland as the main duo’s even-goofier-than-they-are friend Natalie is fun) and some not so good ones (Olga Kurylenko has the head mistress is just awful, but in a bafflingly fascinating way). The film is essentially a mix of Twilight and Harry Potter but stupider than the latter and sillier than the former. But its kinda fun if you’re small or can’t find the remote to turn it off.