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Movie Review: Cirque du Freak – The Vampire’s Assistant

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What are you going to do? The undead are hot these days, especially when you soften the edges and target them at a younger set. You can't deny the Twilight craze, no matter how much the fanatical fan base hurts the film in the process. So, what is someone to do if they want to get a piece of the pie? Well, find another series to adapt. Enter the Cirque du Freak series. It spans a dozen books and centers on a variety of other-worldly critters and freaks (primarily vampires), and targets young adults, specifically the male demographic. Let the girls have Twilight, the boys have their own vampire war to deal with.

The Vampire's Assistant takes parts of the first three books in the series and re-imagines them into a new story that reflects the originals but is not a direct adaptation. This has fans in something of an uproar, but was bound to happen. Anytime a novel/series is adapted to the big screen, fans of the source are going to want a direct adaptation. I do not blame them — there is nothing worse than seeing a film of a favorite book get twisted by those who do not respect said source.

However, there needs to be an understanding that adaptation is exactly that. It is not going to be the exact same thing as the book. Different mediums have different rules and conventions that need to be obeyed. In any case, do not expect to see the book(s) on screen when you go and see The Vampire's Assistant in theaters. For the record, I have not read any of the books to know what differences there really are.

This film centers on a couple of high school boys, best friends from opposite sides of the track, who inadvertently become embroiled in a war between two vampire factions. All right, let's back up a little bit; we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Darren (Chris Massoglia) and Steve (Josh Hutcherson) have been friends for a long time. They could not be more opposite. Darren is bright and has a good future ahead of him while Steve comes from a broken home and is more interested with cutting class than bettering himself. To further characterize these kids, Darren has a lifelong fascination with spiders and Steve is preoccupied with vampires. Hmm, I wonder if these facts will play a role later on?

The two find a flier for a one-night-only freak show. Intrigued, Darren and Steve head off to the old, rundown side of town where the show is to take place in an old abandoned theater. Here they find a collection of freaks, the likes of which they have never seen before. They see a bearded woman, a snake boy, a monkey girl, and a vampire with a gigantic spider. What? A vampire with a giant spider, you say?

After the show, Darren sneaks back to see the spider and ends up hiding in the closet while Steve confronts the vampire about being, well, a vampire. Our vampire goes by the name of Crepsley (John C. Reilly) and is the head of the non-killing vampire faction.

We also meet a big bald guy named Mr. Tiny. He is not a vampire, but has some working for him all from the "kill for the sake of the kill" vampires. He is very interested in both Darren and Steve, not to mention looking to kick off a war between the vampire factions.

Now, if that seems a little disjointed, the movie plays that way early on. I enjoyed it, but it is so disjointed through the first half to two thirds that while I enjoyed some of it, it was often hard to tell how everyone was getting around. It was like they became unstuck from space/time and could just be wherever they wanted or needed to be.

Anyway, the movie is fun, if insubstantial. It really is the story of brother versus brother with the vampire war as a back drop. Darren and Steve have reached a crossroads in their relationship and it is becoming manifest in their vampiric choices.

The best thing about the movie has to be John C. Reilly as Crepsley the vampire. The man is a well-rounded performer and he really brings some charisma to the role. He holds your attention and seems completely at home as a vampire. Fortunately, he makes up for the charismatic black hole that is Chris Massoglia's Darren. This guy expresses no wonder or amazement as this new world is revealed to him. Frankly, I would have preferred to have seen Josh Hutcherson, who plays Steve, in the Darren role. Hutcherson is a good young actor who may have brought more emotion and wonder to the central role.

Bottom line. However you want to look at it, The Vampire Diaries is a mediocre film. There is some entertainment value to be had and I am curious to see where a sequel could take it. However, it could have been better. Better editing early on would have gone a long way toward helping it. Still, it is worth taking a peek for those into this sort of thing. Otherwise, an eventual rental should not be out of the question.

Mildly Recommended.

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