Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books are surprisingly good. Based on the cheesy title, I didn’t expect a series of engrossing, well-written novels. When I learned Mark Waters of Mean Girls fame was directing the film adaptation and working with screenwriter Daniel Waters of Heathers. I thought that despite the terrible tag line: “they suck at school,” the movie would also defy expectations. I was wrong. Vampire Academy is the poster child for the book being better than the movie. And not just a little better. I’m talking Transformers to Gobots, Empire Strikes Back to The Phantom Menace, AC/DC to Winger…you get the idea.
When did I get this startling realization? About two seconds into the film. It hit me full-on with an over-the-top wire stunt. Having the vampires get knocked into the air is a nice effect. Having the vampires launched with more force than a packet of Mentos from a bottle of Diet Coke? Too much. Though the ridiculous effects won’t distract you from understanding the plot. Thanks to the never-ending voice-over, the entire synopsis is recited before the opening credits finish. This continues throughout the film and includes details not revealed until the end of the book.
The narrator Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), tells us everything up front. She’s a Dhampir, a half-human, half-vampire sworn to protect her best friend Lissa (Lucy Fry) who is one of the Moroi, a race of peaceful, living vampires of royal blood. Their enemies are the Strigoi, your typical, blood-thirsty über vamps with martial arts skills right out of the box (now with kung fu grip!).
The voice-over could function as a Cliffs Notes for the novel though it doesn’t make for a visually entertaining movie. It’s almost as bad as the exposition driven-dialogue the characters spout whenever they open their mouths. This could be an inventive tactic to distract the audience from the low-budget look of the film. I’ve seen Disney Channel Halloween specials with better effects. From the bad contacts to the blood that looks like melted crayon, and CGI dogs so cartoonish I was surprised they didn’t sing.
The end result is a hastily slapped together mess of snarky quips and lazy effects. Any substance from the novel has been omitted, altered or lost as the film fast-forwards from one plot point to the next. Those lucky enough to make it to the end will only be further disappointed by the over-confident attempt to set-up a sequel (doubt that will happen) and the teeny-bopper cover of Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” If you are remotely interested in seeing this, do yourself a favor and read the book instead. Reread it if you have to. And everyone else? Hang some garlic, stay indoors and pray no one invites this movie into your home.
Vampire Academy releases May 20th on DVD & Blu-Ray