CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT
***1/2 (out of 5)
October 23, 2009
John C. Reilly as LARTEN CREPSLEY
Josh Hutcherson as STEVE
Chris Massoglia as DARREN SHAN
Jessica Carlson as REBECCA
Michael Cerveris as MR. TINY
Ray Stevenson as MURLAUGH
Directed by: Paul Weitz
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The first trailers for “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” had me intrigued the moment I saw them. It wasn’t that I was excited to see another vampire movie because Lord knows, we’ve had plenty of them to choose from over the years. What caught my eye was the look and feel of the film. It was like a community haunted house, with all the Halloween decorations and spooky lighting.
I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. I have been ever since I was a kid going to said community haunted houses.
I was a little nervous going into the screening simply because I didn’t know what to make of the film. I had never read Darren Shan’s original books, but I was aware that it was a popular series for young adults. And compared to other young adult books turned movies lately (e.g., “Inkheart,” “City of Ember” and yes even the much loved “Twilight” series), this looked like one that I could get behind.
The story follows sixteen year old Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) as he visits a freak show that comes to town and is eventually made into a half-vampire by Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly), one of the main acts. Darren must leave his family to live with Crepsley and his band of freaks while his best friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson) is being courted by a group of evil vampires.
Before seeing this film, you need to know that much of it is a set-up for future movies in the series. There are a lot of characters introduced, though few are given a big storyline. Having briefly talked to some people who have read the books, I understand that the many different freaks have their own stories coming up, which I look forward to if the film does well.
John C. Reilly is the real glue that holds this movie together. His performance sets the tone for the entire film: creepy yet tongue in cheek. “The Vampire’s Assistant” isn’t as much an attempt to be another horror/comedy film like “Zombieland” as it is a movie with teeth aimed at the teenage and tweenage crowd.
Don’t let the dreaded “tween” word scare you away. “The Vampire’s Assistant” has enough darkness and monster action to make it appealing to an older crowd and balance out the teen angst and coming-of-age feel. This isn’t just “Hannah Montana” with fangs. It’s a pretty solid interpretation of a what a good young adult novel should be: a story that teenagers can relate to that isn’t childish and also not a weighty grown-up book.
Having seen more than my fair share of the shows and made-for-TV movies on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, I respect “The Vampire’s Assistant” for delivering something that fits in that market but also works as a creepy Halloween movie. Like I said, it has the atmosphere of a family-friendly haunted house, and it’s something you can see with your kids.
The bottom line is that “The Vampire’s Assistant” beats the pants off of “Twilight” as a cool teenage vampire movie, and I consider that to be totally awesome.
Aside for trying to have the longest name for a movie this year, “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” also has one of the coolest credit sequences I’ve seen all year. Sure, that doesn’t say anything about the plot or characters, but like the direct-to-DVD film “Trick ‘r Treat,” this movie really got me in the Halloween spirit. (And yes, the pun was intended.)