104 Min. | Action – Crime – Fantasy | July 2014
IMDB Rating: 5.6
Director: Mark Waters
Staring: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky
Vampire Academy Review: In a world sparkled into submission by the Twilight phenomenon, it’s hard to take yet another vampire high-school fantasy seriously. That could be one reason why the movie version of Vampire Academy – based on a best-selling series of novels by Richelle Mead – has been met with such overwhelming critical derision. Critics have blasted the film for being lazy, riddled with clichés, and overstuffed – only the last of which is strictly true. Actually, Mark Waters’ film is a fun watch, featuring offbeat characters and relationships so interesting that you might find yourself wanting them to have more screen-time, not less. Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir: a half-human/half-vampire girl born to be a Guardian to the Moroi – a race of peaceful, magical and mortal vampires. Rose shares a psychic bond with her best friend Lissa (Lucy Fry), a Moroi princess who’s the last of her particular bloodline.
Rose’s task is to protect Lissa from the Strigoi: immortal, blood-hungry vampires with neither soul nor depth of feeling. But the Strigoi have nothing on the vagaries of high school: Rose and Lissa must deal with nasty pranks and clique politics, even as the conspiracy against Lissa gains a strength that suggests it might go deeper than anyone suspects. Amidst the rush and rage of high school, we’ll meet Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky), Dhampir extraordinaire, Natalie, the geeky daughter of Victor, a friend of Lissa’s family, and Christian (Dominic Sherwood), a brooding young man whose Moroi parents chose to turn themselves into Strigoi by taking innocent lives. Not to mention Mia (Sami Gayle), the catty girl who has it out for Lisa and the film’s biggest ‘stars’: Olga Kurylenko as batty headmistress Kirova and Joely Richardson as Moroi queen Tatiana.
The cast is mostly competent, with Deutch the clear stand-out. Carrying the entire, occasionally unwieldy film on her shoulders, she’s hugely likable and natural on screen. Her compatriots fare less well, with Fry in particular feeling rather awkward and hamstrung in her part. Hyland, meanwhile, has quite a bit of fun subverting any expectations audiences might have of her based on her sassy airhead role in Modern Family. Byrne plays it straight, if a little tortured, while Kurylenko and Richardson seem to have wandered in from a high-camp pantomime. Vampire Academy is very far from high art, it’s too messily stitched together for that, bursting at the seams from a slightly nonsensical plot that often threatens to overwhelm the characters and their relationships. But it’s also quite far from the travesty that most critics have suggested it is. There’s something smarter and more enjoyable at work here, even if it sometimes gets buried beneath the machinations of its own script.