A film review by Craig J. Koban October 24, 2014



2014, PG-13, 104 mins.


Zoey Deutch as Rose Hathaway  /  Lucy Fry as Lissa Dragomir  /  Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri Belikov  /  Gabriel Byrne as Victor Dashkov  /  Sarah Hyland as Natalie Dashkov  /  Olga Kurylenko as Kirova  /  Joely Richardson as Queen Tatiana

Directed by Mark Waters  /  Written by Daniel Waters  /  Based on the novel by Richelle Mead

Okay…here’s one for you:  

How could a film from the director of MEAN GIRLS and the writer of HEATHERS be not only one of the worst films of 2014, but is also the single worst young adult themed movie of recent memory? 

Well, VAMPIRE ACADEMY is a rare breed of multiple cinematic sinner.  There’s ample talent behind the scenes here (director Mark Waters made the aforementioned MEAN GIRLS and his brother, Daniel, wrote the scathingly hilarious HEATHERS way, way back in the 1980’s), but there’s not a scintilla of their natural talent on display here in adapting Richelle Mead's 2007 novel of the same name (there’s a total of six books in the literary series).  There have been multiple attempts on Hollywood’s part to duplicate the ravenous fan following of the TWILIGHT series (some have sorta worked, whereas many have – pardon the pun – sorta sucked).  Amazingly, VAMPIRE ACADEMY is so wrongheaded, so lazily conceived, so insipidly acted, and so incoherent and disinteresting on a world building level that it makes Stephanie Meyers’ tales of bloodsuckers and werewolves feel positively Shakespearean by comparison.  There has never – and I mean never ­– been a blander movie about undead creatures than VAMPIRE ACADEMY. 

Even when the film bores us to death with its inexcusably longwinded expository scenes that weakly attempt to explain the whole minutia of its vampire-heavy world, VAMPIRE ACADEMY sure as hell thinks it’s a lot more sly, sophisticated, and crafty on a level of wink-wink satire than it really is.  Days later, I’m still taking great pains to remember what the film was actually about, but I’ll try my best to recap here.  The film contains three levels of vampires: There’s the Moroi vamps that are able to live harmoniously with other human beings; there’s Dhampirs, the bodyguard-like vampires that protect the Moroi; finally, there’s the nefarious Strigoi, a monstrous group of vampires that essentially are the de facto villains of this universe.  

Are you bored yet?  I am. 



One Moroi vampire in particular, Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) shares a psychic connection with her Dhampir guardian, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch, daughter of actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch).  Both of these vampires have been on the run for two years after they escaped St. Vincent Vladimir Academy (a school for, yes, Vampires) in Montana.  Early in the film the pair are captured and promptly returned to the school, which pretty much remains an unhinged environment for any vampire to exist in.  As Lissa and Rose attempt to come to grips with their dicey situation and learn all of the mysteries of the Strigoi, Rose finds herself clinging to a local man from the school named Dimitri Belikov (Danila Kozlovsky) when she’s not subsisting on the blood of Rose, who offers it to her in a semi-erotic (at least as far as a PG-13 film will allow) fashion.  Lissa is important, though, as she’s a Moroi princess that might be the heir to the throne of Queen Tatiana (Joely Richardson), which means that keeping her safe from the Strigoi is of primary importance. 

VAMPIRE ACADEMY’s attempts at trying to establish the particulars of its universe border on tedious and tortuous and the film takes seemingly forever to get to some semblance of an actual narrative.  It would be easy to simplistically label the film as a lame brained hodgepodge of TWILIGHT and MEAN GIRLS, but the film feels more like an egregious combination of the former and HARRY POTTER.  In its attempts at downright mimicry of those popular franchises, though, VAMPIRE ACADEMY doesn’t seem to have the foggiest clue of what type of tone to maintain or what kind of narrative it wants to tell.  The only thing that distinguishes it from the TWILIGHT films is that it appears even more haphazardly constructed than anything Meyers envisioned.  At least she seemed to have a sense of an overarching mythology and story trajectory, whereas VAMPIRE ACADEMY has a disagreeable level of aimlessness. 

And…oh…oh…this film sure thinks it’s subversively funny.  VAMPIRE ACADEMY attempts, I think, to take a satirical – ahem! – bite out of the teen comedy the young adult fantasy genre in equal measure (it even manages a verbal shot at TWILIGHT’s “sparkling vampires" for good measure), but the whole film is so schizophrenic in maintaining a consistent vibe that it often comes off unintentionally as a laughable parody itself.  And the lines that some of the young actors here are forced to elicit will make even the most stilted and forced dialogue passages between Edward Cullen and Bella Swan feel borderline poetic.  Such would-be uproarious phrases like “Queen bee.  More like Queen b-otch” or “Sweet sassy molassy” made me frankly mortified that Daniel Waters even thought they were acceptable for a feature film.  Another example of ineptly flavorless dialogue: (Teen vamp 1): “Bite me!”  (Teen Vamp 2): “You wish, blood whore.”  These exchanges made my ears bleed. 

The performances – some from unknown actors and some from established ones – are uniformly embarrassing.  Zoey Deutch does have a natural screen presence and has a bitchy spunk to her, but she never makes Rose a figure even remotely worthy of our rooting interest, seeing as she’s established with such annoying personality quirks that you want to slap them right off her face.  Her “love interest” in Danila Kozlovsky is so charmless and one-note in his performance that he makes Robert Pattinson’s wooden and stoic vampire look like he has a frenzied case of multiple personality disorder.  Hell, even stalwart and dependable actors like Richardson and Gabriel Byrne show up in meager supporting turns and appear like they lost a wager that forced them into the film.  

The only saving grace to VAMPIRE ACADEMY would have been its vamp-on-vamp action, but it’s hilariously mismanaged from a perspective of basic fight choreography and cohesive editing (there are even sequences that manage to throw in the most wretched looking CGI werewolves that I can recall into the mix for the final kick to the qualitative gonads).  For a film that’s about supernatural creatures, VAMPIRE ACADEMY is utterly and feebly bereft of any discernable movie magic.  It achieves the impossible of being even duller and more disposable than any of the worst entries in the TWILIGHT franchise in its ironic attempts to both copy and send-up that series.  Leaving the screening I felt soulless and empty, but those feelings gave way to panic-stricken anger when I later read that the producers of this film are trying a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a sequel, seeing as this film was such a flop that no Hollywood studio would touch financing a sequel with a ten-foot pole.  

The campaign hit over a million bucks in 30 days.  

My faith in humanity has been crushed. 

  H O M E