I really need to get into this Young Adult Fiction game. These guys are making bank, selling millions of books, and everything is a copy of a ripoff of a pretty terrible original idea. According to wikipedia, which is never wrong, Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series, “had no experience as a writer of any kind and had never even written a short story before Twilight.” Incredible. We can do it, you guys! Someone who definitely did it is Richelle Mead. She is the author and creator of the Vampire Academy series, a blatant mishmash of Twilight, Harry Potter, and Gossip Girl. Get that money, Richelle.
I don’t want to give excuses but I went to see Vampire Academy because of the creative team behind it, brothers Mark and Daniel Waters. Mark directed Mean Girls and Daniel wrote Heathers(and Demolition Man!) What a team. But what they had to contend with is the Vampire Academy mythology. Shit is complicated. Three(!) varieties of vampire. You got your cool, laid back, chill vampires that apparently just want to get jobs and live chill lives. Then you have these 30 Days of Night/Blade II looking jerks, who run around with red, infected eyes and generally seem like rude, dirty people. I couldn’t tell if they were full on monsters so in thrall to their bloodlust that they had lost all sense of decorum, or if they actually have some plan besides ambush and kill. Some of them can talk, but it is of the wheezing, “You shall die…” variety. While I expected them to be the main villains of the piece, they actually only exist on the fringe of the plot for some boo scare attacks and to be cannon fodder. Apparently you can choose to be this kind of vampire, like how some people aligned with Voldemort in Harry Potter though I don’t know why. Voldemort had some swanky safehouses. These guys live in bushes and caves and their eyes look just terrible! The third type of vampire is not even really a vampire, more of a glorified security guard, who just protect the more chill vampires from the crazy ones. These three types of vampires have specific names that I cannot bring myself to type. I am so sorry.
The main character is Rose Hathaway, who is played by Zoey Deutch, who is, fun fact, Lea Thompson’s daughter. Bury us old people in the ground because the new generation is here to replace us. She is pretty good, just the right kind of detached, take no shit kind of girl. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t follow the instructions of a single adult for the entire movie. Do you, Rose/Zoey! Rose has a thing for her combat training instructor Dimitri, and it was pretty much the only relationship I cared about. There is this red headed guy (Rose calls him Duckie at one point) who keeps trying to get with Rose but she knows what is up. And what is up is Dimitri and his ten year age difference.
I looked up the plot of the book series when I got home and it looks like they tried to cram about 5 books into one movie. It shows. Rose is BFFs with Lissa, who might be Queen of the vampires one day, but first she has to declare a major, I think? Rose and Lissa start out the movie having run away from the Vampire Academy because of some car accident that killed Lissa’s parents. Oh man this car accident. You guys, these cars couldn’t have been going over 15 miles an hour, tops! Right before they collide it cuts to black and pans up on flipped cars and broken glass like they were doing some Twisted Metal shit. Hilarious. After this crash is shown, it is then repeatedly mentioned for the next half hour, just in case you forgot about the crash. Oh man, the crash. Remember the crash? The crash. Oh shit, damn. But maybe they were talking about when Crash won best picture and how it was a travesty? I bet that’s it.
Rose and Lissa have a very similar dynamic to Blair and Serena from Gossip Girl, right down to the hair color. This did not occur to me until AFTER I got home from the movie, so I’m pretty disappointed in myself. Despite weighing about 95 lbs, Rose is supposed to be Lissa’s bodyguard, or at least will be in future after she graduates from Vampire Academy. Lissa gets to be queen and you have to go to school to get a degree in bouncing? Weak sauce, Rose. Tell Lissa to outsource and you get a degree in one of the sciences.
Oh man, the magic in this movie. I can imagine Mead’s “A-ha” moment when she said, “Vampires, but they can do magic! Where is my pen? Honey, have you seen my pen? What? I can’t hear you. Stop vacuuming and talk to me….My pen. I’m looking for my pen…..Which drawer? The one we keep the stamps in?….Hmm, I don’t see it. Oh, here are those scissors you were looking fo-OH MY PEN!”
Team Waters were given next to no budget for the magic in this movie, which consists of a scene where wind powers are demonstrated on a row of pinwheels and some guys display their fire abilities by making gun fingers at candles. You did what you could with what they gave you, Team Waters! Oh wait, one guy does get set on fire at one point for calling someone a slut. Down with slut shaming! There is also a water effect at one point that is so bad Rose breaks the fourth wall.
Rose doesn’t get to do any magic, because she’s too busy brewing up sexual chemistry with Dimitri while they “train”. Late in the film Dimitri and Rose are bewitched into almost fucking in order to distract them from a larger dastardly plot. This leads to the great line from Dimitri as he rips off Rose’s clothes and says, “Nice dress, let’s burn it”, and tosses it into a fire. This scene was very real and true.
Despite having more exposition(and hidden exposition) than I usually will tolerate, I kinda liked this movie. Team Waters was clearly fighting an uphill battle of low budgets and derivative source material but they carried off most of it. When Vampire Academy puts the mythology aside and focuses on the high school drama the younger cast members get a little spring in their step. No one in the cast seems completely comfortable with the silly supernatural elements that make no sense, but everyone knows how to deal with high school drama. At a few points no one even talks about being a vampire or having powers and they go to the mall and buy dresses for the dance. When one character bared her fangs near the end of the movie and got punched in the face I thought for a second, “Oh shit, this chick is a vampi- oh wait, I knew that. She punched her because she is a bitch. Being a vampire had nothing to do with it.” VA has a bunch of scenes where characters call each other “blood whores” and spread rumors about blood sucking threesomes and that shit was fun and interesting. When characters start talking about destiny and healing abilities I would lose interest. Obviously I still miss Gossip Girl a lot.
Heck, I would say that your tolerance for teen dramas will determine whether you will even make it through this whole movie. The pan of the film at Grantland points out that Vampire Academy would have been better served on tv, and I agree. Give us a whole season of Rose and Dimitri burning holes in their loins. Take your time with your apparent vampire war that is set up for a sequel that will never happen now. I hope some of these guys find work after this movie. I’m sure Zoey Deutch will be fine, and the guy who plays Dimitri has a bright future of getting thrown out a window by Jason Statham.