ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir (half-human/vampire) guardian-in-training. Guardians are those that protect the Moroi (peaceful, mortal vampires). For a time, Rose and her Moroi best friend Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) had escaped from their vampire boarding school, St. Vladimir’s Academy, but they are soon found and taken back by Dhampir guardian Dimitri Belikov (Danila Kozlovsky).

Back at the academy, Rose restarts her guardian training under her mentor Dimitri in order to prepare herself for the impending threat from the Strigoi (bloodthirsty, undead vampires).

Okay, did you get all that? I’m not repeating it.

When I first I heard about this movie, my obvious initial reaction was just another teeny-bop vampire movie that takes another giant dump on the mythology. Bram Stoker would be so proud. Nevertheless, I went and saw this, by myself ’cause my sister wasn’t able to make it on time (it was at one of those dine-in theaters that close admittance once the movie begins). I managed to survive and I gotta say, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.

Whoa! Hold on. I didn’t say it was good.

Vampire Academy comes from the director of Mean Girls and the writer of Heathers (brothers Mark and Daniel Waters). Heathers was a fun, dark film but Daniel really hasn’t done much since. Mean Girls wasn’t horrible, but not really good either. With dialogue like, “You mean the Queen Beeyotch!”, this film is pretty much Mean Girls and Heathers with fangs.

To be fair, this film doesn’t even come close to take itself as seriously as that “other” vampire series that shall not be named. It even manages to take a few potshots at Stephenie Myer’s magnum opus, albeit in a rather unclever and obvious manner. The problem is the Waters brothers wanna have their cake and eat it too by making fun of vampire adaptations like Twilight, only to later on fall prey to the same film tropes that they were making fun of to begin with.

The film’s greatest failure though is essentially “preaching to the choir” with the book’s faithful. I’m clearly not the target demographic for this film, but whether I was or not, the film seemed to play out as if it was solely made for those that have read the series, with really no effort in drawing an interest in those that haven’t. Unlike The Hunger Games, which was so well made that I ended up reading the books after seeing the first film in the series, Vampire Academy made no effort to do the same. I just sat in my seat, trying to figure out who exactly were a Dhampir or Moroi or a Strigoi.

Well, until I stopped caring.

Also, the film clearly appears to have gone strictly by the first book of what is a six-part series, meaning it leaves a lot of loose ends left to be answered in future films. Being that this is February, The Lego Movie is definitely gonna win this weekend’s box office and the fact that there were only five other people with me in the theater on a Friday night, I have a feeling this won’t make as much money as the studio would like. Whether those open-ended questions get answered depends on how much money this brings in. We may get another The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (to be fair, I didn’t have to struggle as much here as I did with that film). I can at least say it brought in $5.50, though.

To it’s credit, Zoey Duetch is a very likeable lead. I haven’t seen her in anything prior to this film, and it took me a while into the film before I realized she kinda has a bit of an Ellen Page vibe to her with all the sassy sarcasm she whips out throughout the movie. Sarah Hyland (best know from TV’s Modern Family) is easily the second most interesting character as a nerdy vampire that wants to desperately fit in. Aside from those two, the remaining characters were all just flat, one-note type of roles that didn’t amount to much. Sure, it was nice to see Gabriel Byrne back onscreen. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen him in anything, but he’s basically doing the typical “veteran presence” kind of role that has a fairly predictable conclusion.

I’ll also give it credit for one good laugh that it was able to get out of me. It’s during a scene involving a Red Cross type blood donation drive where vampire “patients” go to human donors in hospital beds and suck their blood for sustenance. It would’ve been nice to get more somewhat witty moments like that, but – you know – they had to make room for the love triangle involving one that looked an awfully lot like a certain member of the Cullen clan.

Vampire Academy wants to be that hip, outsider, “Hey, look. We’re not like Twilight.” vampire film. However, it ends up committing the same sins Twilight did, making it a hypocrite. Duetch shows she can be a presence worth having onscreen, and I got a few chuckles here and there. Overall, though, having not read the book, I walked into this movie as an outsider and left the same way I came in.

I give Vampire Academy a C- (★★).

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