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Film Review: 'Vampire Academy'

Alex Reed |
February 9, 2014 | 6:38 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

"Vampire Academy," a vampire movie that doesn't suck! (The Weinstein Company)
"Vampire Academy," a vampire movie that doesn't suck! (The Weinstein Company)
Let me preface this review by saying that I very much enjoyed “Vampire Academy.” It’s clever, action-packed and thoroughly entertaining.

That being said, “Vampire Academy” is based on a best-selling young adult book series by Richelle Mead. And as is the case with many, if not all, young adult book adaptations, the makers bit off more than they could chew in trying to condense a several hundred page book into a 2 hour movie.

This proves problematic because while it’s nearly impossible to perfectly adapt a book to film, fans expect something pretty close. As a fan of this series, I hoped for the best, but as someone who has seen her share of atrocious adaptations, I expected the worst. For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.

For those who have not read the book, here’s what you should know: “Vampire Academy” is set in world where there are 3 types of vampires, with varying degrees of vampirism. There are the Moroi, who are full-blooded (pun intended), mortal vampires. They are harmed but not killed by the sun and they don’t kill people when they drink blood. There are also the Dhampirs, who are half human, half vampire. They devote their lives to being guardians for the Moroi, protecting them from any and all danger, including the third type of vampire, the Strigoi. These vampires have bright red eyes and are out for the kill, always. In order to become an undead Strigoi, a Dhampir or a Moroi would have to kill someone else by drinking all their blood.

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The story is told from the perspective of Rose Hathaway, a dhampir who has sworn to always protect the life of her best friend, Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir, who is a royal Moroi and the last in her family. The two of them go to school at St. Vladimir’s (or “Vampire Academy,” as it’s jokingly referred to), where dhampirs are trained to be guardians and the Moroi hone their power to manipulate the elements (fire, water, air or earth).

Given the nature of story, immortal creatures of the night and whatnot, director Mark Waters could have taken one of two approaches. He could have made a movie that played primarily into the supernatural, suspenseful elements. But, Waters, of “Mean Girls” fame, took a different approach. Chock-full of clever pop culture references and snarky wisecracks, this is a bona fide teen movie. And one that chooses not to take itself too seriously.

Much of the film is narrated by Zoey Deutch, who was nothing short of perfection as Rose, the fiercely loyal and witty spitfire. She juggles acknowledging the film’s compliance with teen movie stereotypes and poking fun at them. When Rose takes Lissa to the feeders, humans who volunteer to have their blood drank by Moroi, she refers to it as “the obligatory cafeteria scene,” no doubt a nod to the iconic scene from waters’ “Mean Girls.”

The targeted teen movie crowd can also appreciate the soundtrack put together for this movie. From an awesome cover by CHVRCHES to Katy Perry and Sky Ferreira, the music fits perfectly and you’ll be listening to it for days afterwards.

And it wouldn’t be the teen movie it sought to be without romance. Lissa and Rose’s flirtation with danger pales in comparison to their interaction with their respective, insanely good-looking love interests. If you get nothing else out of seeing this movie, you will get the immense pleasure of staring at former model Dominic Sherwood and Russian dreamboat Danila Kozlovksy for 2 hours. Did I mention that they both have accents?

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For all intents and purposes, the story told in the book lines up with the one told in the movie. My one recommendation would be that if you plan to read the books, read them all before seeing the movie. There is some unnecessary foreshadowing and the ending spoils a big plot point from the third book. Beyond that, there are minor discrepancies that may frustrate fans of the book series, but overall, the film can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of whether or not they read the book.

Reach Staff Reporter Alex Reed here.



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