After a rough start, Vampire Academy finds its footing into the second act with characters one could care about and dialogue that is sharp and actually quite funny if not only merely amusing. However, the star of this picture, and somebody I hope can find bigger and more wide ranging projects, is Zoey Deutch who is incredible and could be the saving grace.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Horror, Comedy
Anchor Bay | PG13 – 104 min. – $39.99 | May 20, 2014
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Thanks to the worldwide success of the Twilight Saga followed by The Hunger Games, it seems every studio bought up any and all of the Young Adult novels that could be procured with The Weinstein Company putting their money on and releasing Vampire Academy, a cheeky fantasy-horror-comedy in the same vein as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” sans quotable dialogue and an interesting plotline.
One of the problems is from the get-go as it felt like I was entering the second movie of a trilogy and I had missed the first one as we find our two leads, guardian-in-training Rose Hathaway (ZOEY DEUTCH) and vampiress Lissa Dragomir (LUCY FRY) who are on the run after escaping from St. Vladimir’s Academy, sarcastically referred by Rose as “Vampire Academy”. Since Lissa needs to feed, Rose allows her to drink from her, providing an intimate connection where Rose is often times able to see and feel what Lissa does both in dreams and in real life.
When Rose spots some spies out the window, the pair plans to make a move but after some half-hearted fighting, she and Lissa are eventually captured by the head guardian honcho, Dimitri (DANILA KOZLOVSKI) and taken back to St. Vladimir where they are scolded by the headmistress (OLGA KURYLENKO) though before she can expel Rose for her actions, she’s taken under compulsion by Lissa and thus saving her blood bestie, albeit hardly a new ability as done ad-nauseam in other shows like “The Vampire Diaries”.
As Lissa and Rose try to reestablish themselves in high school and all that goes with it, Lissa finds her former boyfriend now going with a skank (SAMI GAYLE) and she, along with somebody else, has it out for her. There’s also your typical high school drama with a boy liking a girl, persistent nasty rumors and innuendos involving Rose and Lissa’s blood sharing, etc.
And we are also introduced to Victor Sashkov (GABRIEL BYRNE), a prince suffering from a degenerative disease that prevents him from being king but despite his illness, he still looks after Lissa and Rose, even coming to their defense on occasion. Along with Victor, Rose and Lissa are befriended by Victor’s daughter, Natalie (SARAH HYLAND), a mousy kind of girl, socially shy.
Vampire Academy is an uneven fantasy-comedy especially going in. Aside from entering into the film with already established characters (as I said, it feels like going into the second movie of a trilogy), and while the first 30-minutes or so were full of choppy exposition, as the film found its groove, I found myself kind of enjoying it with a lot of the comedy hitting its mark and characters I could actually care about.
The cast is also relatively impressive. Lucy Fry and Zoey Deutch especially shine bright and are the only reasons the movie works as well as it does, them and some fun comedy that could’ve been taken straight out of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. For her part, Deutch is a delight and hopefully in spite of Vampire Academy’s poor box office performance ($15.4 million worldwide) she finds her footing, and the right project, as she’s a star in the making.
The supporting players are OK but limited. Along with Gabriel Byrne, Olga Kurylenko appears almost in a cameo role while Joely Richardson gets the rare “special appearance by” credit for her two scenes that could’ve been played by anybody, of course perhaps there was a grander plan for her in the third second teased at the end (one reason NOT to do them unless you know the audience will be there like the Marvel movies). Sarah Hyland, Danila Kozlovsky, and Dominic Sherwood are all well cast in their roles.
Directed by Mark Waters, and adapted by brother Daniel (Batman Returns, Demolition Man), who was an odd choice considering his background that included Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Ghosts of Girfriends Past and most famously, Mean Girls (which might’ve been what got him the gig), Vampire Academy actually isn’t a bad flick full of fun and biting (pun intended) comedy and drama to go along with a plot that actually gets kind of interesting by the third act.
Having never read the book, least of all even heard of it, I don’t know close the adaptation is, but taken on its own without the history, I actually kind of dug this film despite some flaws early on. If you’re in the mood for some teen vampire comedy along the lines of “Buffy” and the overwrought drama of Twilight and “Vampire Diaries”, then Vampire Academy might be for you; if not, you might want to stay far away…
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
The features on this disc is very limited with only A Conversation with Author Richelle Mead (2:51; HD) where she chats up on the origin of her book and seeing it transitioned to feature film; some Deleted Scenes (4:18; HD) and an Alternate Opening (1:20; HD).
Previews – Scream 4, Dark Skies
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Vampire Academy sinks its teeth into Blu-ray shown in its original 2.39 widescreen theatrical presentation and given a decent 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture here, while nothing astounding, does at least have sharp detail levels, colors appear to be well balanced and fairly bright, and blacks as well as other darker elements are stark and show no signs of artifacts or pixilation.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track included here may not be the best I’ve heard, but it gets the job done. Dialogue sounds clear throughout and any action elements make good use of the front and rear channels with the latter also used for ambient noises and/or the score and soundtrack.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, after a rough start, Vampire Academy finds its footing into the second act with characters one could care about and dialogue that is sharp and actually quite funny if not only merely amusing. However, the star of this picture, and somebody I hope can find bigger and more wide ranging projects, is Zoey Deutch who is incredible and could be the saving grace. The Blu-ray released by Anchor Bay has good audio and video transfers but the bonus material is far too limited.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.