Review: Vampire Academy (2014)

Directed by: Mark Waters | 105 minutes | action, horror, fantasy, comedy | Actors: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Dominic Sherwood, Olga Kurylenko, Sarah Hyland, Cameron Monaghan, Sami Gayle, Ashley Charles, Claire Foy, Joely Richardson, Dominique Tipper, Edward Holcroft, Bronté Norman-Terrell, Chris Mason, Ben Peel

“Twilight” haters rejoice! There is one movie that can annoy you even more than the popular vampire series. “Vampire Academy” is based on the first book in Richelle Mead’s bestselling series, directed by Mark “Mean Girls” Waters and written by his older brother Daniel (“Heathers”, “Batman Returns”). Sounds promising, but unfortunately “Vampire Academy” has not turned out what it could have been.

In these “Harry Potter” meets “Mean Girls Who Can’t Stand the Sunlight,” we follow two friends, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). Seventeen-year-old Rose is a Damphir, a half-human / half-vampire. Her royal friend is a Moroi, a mortal vampire endowed with magical powers. The spunky Rose is her bodyguard, at least, she was trained for this until two years ago. Not exactly a luxury, because the Strigoi, yet another sub-race, are evil in its purest form and have provided it on all Moroi, including Princess Lissa. Before Rose could complete her education, however, the ladies ran away from their St. Vladimir’s Academy boarding school (the reason for this is gradually becoming apparent) and since then they have lived a life like normal teenagers do. Well… every now and then Lissa has to fill up with blood at Rose’s, but otherwise everything is very normal. Apart from the telepathic band that allows Rose to read Lissa’s mind. As the “Vampire Academy” begins, the pair are tracked down by Dimitri Belikov, Rose’s trainer, and taken back to boarding school.

Like the book, “Vampire Academy” consists of a jumble of terms and complicated plot lines. By means of flashbacks and sometimes even literal explanations by the characters, the ignorant viewer is brought up to date. You will regularly feel like you are watching a second part instead of what should be the start of a franchise, because a certain amount of background knowledge is already expected from the viewer. This will be less problematic for fans of the book series, but it is rather confusing for the layman. In addition, as the film progresses it does not seem to be really worthwhile investing in history, because “Vampire Academy” remains a jumble of a film. It makes a difference that it is entertaining at times, otherwise it would be a long ride. And that doesn’t mean the obligatory “Twilight” references or other pop culture remarks (“What’s a hashtag?” An unworldly vampire asks Rose once they get back to St. Vladimir’s). The friendship between Lissa and Rose is the beating heart of the film and that makes the film worthwhile, especially for the target group.

Zoey Deutch succeeds in convincingly presenting her sarcastic one-liners. As an actress she does not immediately make a overwhelming impression, but she will be remembered for this role. Gabriel Byrne, Olga Kurylenko and Joely Richardson are the most famous actors who have hardly any noteworthy supporting roles. The movie probably would have worked better as a TV series, because in “Vampire Academy” everything feels rushed. A little more tension, a little sharper humor and a less messy scenario would have been welcome.

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