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Vampire Academy
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A.K.A. "Bloorayne--The Early Years"
1 stars

I don't want to sound like a critic or anything but can we all agree that if a movie is going to specifically poke fun at another film for its artistic shortcomings, it should at least have the decency to be exponentially better than the target of its snippiness? I bring this up because on at least two occasions during the course of the teen bloodsucker epic "Vampire Academy," the film interrupts the proceedings to take a couple of swings at that other youth-oriented vampire franchise of note--the "Twilight" saga--even though it barely lives up to (and certainly never exceeds) the perilously low artistic bar set by that series. For all of the failures of the "Twilight" films--and they were legion--I could usually at least figure out more or less what was going on at any given moment and my feelings towards them tended to veer between boredom and incredulity but never quite extended into outright hatred. "Vampire Academy," on the other hand, is the absolute pits--a smug, stupid and borderline incoherent (at least until it fully crosses the border) travesty that takes a potentially amusing idea--the cross-breeding of the vast vampiric mythology of something like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with the private school snippiness of "Gossip Girl"--and squanders it so completely that viewers will be left scratching their heads and wondering how it all could have gone so completely wrong.

According to the tortured mythology of the story, most of which is dumped on viewers in great and indigestible chunks of exposition that make the opening of "Dune" seem streamlined by comparison, there are three different types of vampires living among us. There are the Moroi, who are relatively peaceful and benign as blood-drinking hellbeasts go--they are kind and peaceful and have magic powers that allow them to control the four basic elements via silly CGI imagery. (Alas, the fifth element was apparently off shooting "Resident Evil 6" and wisely took a pass.) Then there are the Strigoi, who are the bad seed vampires who are all about wearing black and killing indiscriminately and satisfying their thirst for blood (or as I like to call them, vampires). Finally, there are Dhampirs, who are half-human, half-vampire creations that can walk in daylight, eat like normal people and are sworn to protect the Moroi from Strigoi attacks because hey, even vampires who control the elements sometimes need an ass-kicking bodyguard in a pinch.

Our heroine is Rose (Zoey Deutch), a sass-talking Dhampir who not only fearlessly protecting best friend and Moroi princess Lissa (Lucy Fry) from Strigoi attacks but also shares both a psychic bond with her pal and is willing to offer her own neck for the occasional sip when she gets a bit peckish. Until recently, the two had been students at St. Vladimir's, a boarding school from elite young vampires inexplicably located in Montana, until a sense of looming danger inspired them to flee its confines. As the story opens, the school finally tracks them down and returns them to its hallowed halls but while negotiating the usual nasty cliques and clueless boys, Rose begins to sense that there is a greater danger out there bent on harming Lissa and she has to figure out who at the school is behind it.

Besides the Strigori, the suspects include an aging vampire nobleman (Gabriel Byrne, whose presence presumably means that the producers couldn't make Jeremy Irons' quote), the haughty queen of all vampires (Joley Richardson with an accent as questionable as everything else on display), the nobleman's frumpy daughter (Sarah Hyland, buried under makeup that utterly fails to convince that she is a plain Jane), campus mean girl Mia (Sami Gayle) and the school's evil headmistress (Olga Kurylenko, who I like to think decided to sign on for this project after consulting with Terrence Malick on the set of "To the Wonder" and mistaking his enigmatic grunt as a recommendation to take the part). How it all turns out is something I will leave for you to discover but I doubt that I am spoiling too much of the proceedings if I mention that it all comes to a head during what can only be described as vampire prom.

Look, I don't have a problem with putting together vampirism and teen angst--I still consider "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of the television medium and I will personally thrash anyone with the temerity to suggest otherwise. My problem with "Vampire Academy"--well, one of them--is that it does absolutely nothing with that premise. Perhaps the series of YA novels by Richelle Meade that inspired the film do a better job of suggesting what everyday life at St. Vladimir's would be like but there is none of that here--there are plenty of scenes featuring the students roaming the hallways but only one brief moment when we actually see them in class and that appears to be Cluttered Exposition 101. There are a couple of clever ideas--a glimpse of a educational film along the lines of what used to be shown in health class and a cafeteria where the sustenance is provided by humans voluntarily feeding their obsession, so to speak--but they are few and far between.

Instead, viewers are treated to a schizoid narrative that cannot decide if it wants to be serious or satirical and lurches from scene to scene between the two modes while failing at both. The comedy basically consists of Rose delivering an unceasing array of snarky commentary that makes her come across like Juno the Vampire Slayer, a notion further underscored by Deutch's odd resemblance to Ellen Page. Again, this might have worked under optimum circumstances but doesn't here thanks to the astonishingly weak writing on display--it gets so bad that the phrase "Sweet sassy molassy is not the worst line on display--the staggeringly unpleasant and unlikable depiction of Rose, who is far more loathsome than any of the vampires she is battling, and a performance from Deutch that is like nails on a chalkboard every time she opens her mouth. As for the more serious-minded moments, all they add to the proceedings is a lot of confusion, some poorly staged action scenes and the sight of good actors like Byrne and Richardson humiliating themselves for reasons that escape me.

What makes "Vampire Academy" even more irritating is that it was written by Daniel Waters, who wrote the teen classic "Heathers" (and co-wrote the vastly underrated and absolutely hilarious "Hudson Hawk") and directed by his brother Mark, who previously helmed "Mean Girls." Clearly these are guys who know their way around making a smart teen-oriented comedy but the results here are so dire that it seems impossible that they even saw "Heathers" or "Mean Girls," let alone had anything to do with creating them. Daniel tries to recreate the snarky glories of "Heathers" but outside of a couple of fleeting lines (such as the suggestion that someone will one day be appearing in "amateur blood-whore porn"), the vapid verbosity on display lacks the bite of that earlier masterwork. (BTW--that "lacks the bite" quip is funnier than anything in the film proper.) For his part, Mark hits upon the usual touchstones of the teen film genre, such as a trip to the mall and the big climactic prom, but fails to put any sort of real comedic spin to the proceedings. Oh, and whichever Waters brother came upon the idea of scoring the end credits to a cover of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" deserves to be thrown in movie jail for a long time for desecrating the memories of both the legendary actor and the infinitely better vampire film "The Hunger," which used the tune during its memorable opening sequence.

Like its characters, "Vampire Academy" bites, sucks and is dead on the inside right from the get-go. There may well be worse movies on the horizon in 2014 but it is hard to believe that there will be one as irritating as this one. This is one of those misbegotten films where things clearly started going wrong right from the start but no one in a position of power had the nerve to pull the plug before things got too far out of hand. Based on the chaotic nature of the final product, it seems as if there were a number of ill-advised attempts to "improve" it before the producers just gave up and tossed it into theaters at a time when hardly anyone would notice it in the hopes of soaking up a few quick bucks before being consigned to an afterlife of lesser slumber parties and weekends on Comedy Central. The one good thing about it is that it is so terrible that I suspect that there is little chance that we will be seeing the sequel that is laboriously set up in the final scene in our lifetimes or even our afterlifetimes

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25823&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/09/14 13:20:11
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User Comments

2/12/14 Deez Nutz Abdolutely amazing f'ing cinema 5 stars
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  07-Feb-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-May-2014


  DVD: 20-May-2014

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