dir. Mark Waters
Release Date: Feb 07, 14
If your movie isn’t good, it’s unlikely that adding mythical creatures to the proceedings will aid it in any meaningful way. Such is the case with Vampire Academy, a painfully dull and too-clever-by-half take on the high school movie that’s more caustic than catchy. It’s the film equivalent of those high school kids who fancied themselves the mad prophets of the halogen hallways, decrying how corrupt and awful all the “normal” people are while coming off as total dicks all the while. In this case, though, the “normal people” aren’t just the in-crowd in the film. Vampire Academy also calls out Twilight (and, for that matter, E.L. James), because nothing says “hip and edgy and alternative” like contextualizing yourself based on the things you hate.
Vampire Academy is an entire movie born from that snarky mentality, and it shows in the unlikability of virtually every onscreen character. This particularly applies to Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), audience proxy and entry point into the film’s universe, one where Dhampir (protectors) are born to take care of Moroi (good vampires, for the most part) and train to protect the Moroi from the Strigoi (evil, soulless, not even remotely sexy vampires) at a remote, largely conservative school. If you can’t keep the names straight, you’d hardly be blamed; Vampire Academy spends the vast majority of its runtime volleying mythology at the audience, mythology that barely registers given its status as secondary to writer Daniel Waters’ nonstop parade of pseudo-arch barbs.
Waters has written some great screenplays before (Heathers, Demolition Man), but Vampire Academy gives The Adventures of Ford Fairlane a run for its money as his very worst. The film mistakes pithy commentary on its own action for character development, and perhaps more detrimentally, sees Rose and Lissa (Lucy Fry, as the vampire princess Rose was born to protect) as the misunderstood heroes of a dull, soulless high school. The two frequently come off as callous; before film’s end, Lissa will go on a consequence-free memory erasure spree in order to destroy the life of a weaselly mean girl and Rose will repeatedly treat a nerd girl who falls in with the duo as a pesky subordinate. (A note on that mean girl bit: for a movie that tries to condemn slut-shaming in a climactic speech, Vampire Academy sure sees to it that the violently insecure girl who exchanges sex for affection is reduced to nothing in emphatic fashion before film’s end.)
When the film isn’t stepping on its own strange moral compass at every turn (a mix of platitudes about destiny and high schoolers being nice to each other), it’s mostly just a bore. Since both involved Waters (Mark Waters, of Mean Girls fame, directs) have no handle on the tone, the film just goes through its paces, through Rose’s creepy romantic fixation on a markedly older Dhampir and Lissa’s realization that being part of the in-crowd doesn’t solve everything and more sinister administrative underpinnings alike. Though based on a beloved young adult novel, Vampire Academy is a film that comes off like its protagonists: emptily railing against anything the “cool people” are thought to like while hypocritically beating home a lesson about relativism. To conclude with a shameful bit of wordplay, Vampire Academy is pretty much toothless.