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What’s the most annoying thing about Vampire Academy? Is it that it’s one of those innocuously synthetic cliques-from-hell youth flicks that offer a rolling barrage of remarks instead of scenes with actual dramatic momentum? (Teen vampire girl: ”Bite me!” Other teen vampire girl: ”You wish, blood whore!” Headmistress: ”I am so glad you’re not at each other’s throats!”) Is it that the film features an even more arbitrary version of the kind of lumpy pulp plotting that was the worst aspect of the Twilight movies? No, the most annoying thing about Vampire Academy is that simply to watch this featherweight horror soap opera of mean-but-not-too-mean bloodsucking ingenues, you have to absorb an entire franchise cosmology — it’s popcorn escapism as homework.
In this adaptation of the first of Richelle Mead’s YA novels, Rose (Zoey Deutch), whose snark is worse than her bite, is one of the Dhampir, a race of half-human, half-vampire noble guardians. Her BFF, Lissa (Lucy Fry), is one of the Moroi, who are peaceful, mortal vampires of royal blood. (Just writing those two sentences made me want to sleep for a thousand years.) And then there are the Strigoi, who are what we used to call?you know, vampires. Nasty and hardcore. With blood smeared across their cheeks and fangs. Wastrels of the night who can be killed only by a silver stake driven through their hearts.
Zoey Deutch, the daughter of Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch (talk about having ’80s nostalgia in your blood!), is a spunky little actress who knows how to make the bitchery pop. And Lucy Fry, an Aussie in blonde ringlets who manages to look pouty and neurasthenic at the same time, brings her reluctant-princess role a quality of warped romance. But the material is mostly wan in the extreme. Set at a Gothic boarding school called St. Vladimir’s, Vampire Academy is basically Twilight meets Harry Potter, with a tone that looks over its shoulder to the linked high-school bitch-kitsch pedigrees of its screenwriter, Daniel Waters (Heathers), and director, Mark Waters (Mean Girls), who are brothers. The movie is all random cutting remarks, hand-to-hand fight scenes that seem particularly pointless in a film where everyone is supernatural, and a story that barely pretends to matter. If you’re not at the bull’s-eye center of the target audience, a movie like this one can suck the life out of you. C