Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009)
Freak is Bleak
When I was a teenager back in the 80s we had vampire movies but unlike to today's vampire movies they obeyed by the rules; vampires came out at night, had fangs, bit necks and did not dig crosses. But times have changed and since my teen years vampires have been defanged and instead of being dangerous blood sucking creatures of the night have now become more akin to super heroes who battle bad vampires rather than killing the innocent. Whilst new audiences may enjoy the defanging of vampires it does little for me and so it probably comes as little surprise when I say "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" did little for me especially as this feels like a movie who's only purpose is to pave the way for a sequel.
Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) is a decent student, he gets good grades, relatively popular and obeys his parents except where it come to his friendship with Steve (Josh Hutcherson - Journey to the Center of the Earth) who is a bit of a rebel. Sneaking out one night to see a freak show which has arrived in town leads to a series of surprising events as they encounter a vampire and Steve begs to be changed. But it isn't Steve who ends up changed, nope he ends up in hospital in a coma after being bitten by a deadly spider and Darren cuts a deal with vampire Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly - Step Brothers) to save Steve in return for him becoming his assistant and a half vampire. But that is just the start of a lot of trouble as Mr. Tiny (Michael Cerveris) wants Darren and will use Steve to get him.
Now in fairness "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is a movie which targets young teens, those who would find the likes of "Twilight" too sappy and as such I am not in its target audience. It also feels like it is targeting an audience of children who have read the series of books which it is based upon, in a similar way to how the "Harry Potter" movies tapped into those hooked on the books. Now there is nothing wrong with that and I am sure younger audiences who liked the books probably enjoyed the movie, it certainly does have its moments of entertainment especially when it focuses on the quirkiness of the freaks from those who can regenerate limbs to Salma Hayek as a bearded mystic. But for anyone who is not in the target demographic it is a dull experience which goes nowhere.
So here is the thing "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is a movie which seems to have been created as an introduction movie, like most super hero movies which as already mentioned seems to be how modern vampire movies are being portrayed. As such we get an introduction to the various important characters from Darren & Steve to Crepsley and Mr. Tiny whilst hinting at the issues between the various groups of vampires. But other than giving us a minor moment of action it doesn't go anywhere, it just establishes the basics in the hope it is enough to entertain enough people to warrant the first of what probably would be a lot of sequels. It's not enough and long before "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" had ended it had lost my attention only regaining it when it delivered some quirky but average special effect surrounding the ability of freaks.
Part of the problem with "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is that whilst all the cast are capable actors some of them are miscast and others have to deal with dull characters. I like John C. Reilly but he just didn't deliver the quirkiness of his character whilst in Darren Chris Massoglia has one seriously dull character to play who does little to get the audience on his side. And all those recognizable faces such as Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe and Jane Krakowski get very little to do other than being the vehicle for some special effects or comic make-up.
What this all boils down to is that I hope "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is entertaining for its target audience of young teens and those who like the books it is based upon. But for anyone else it is just another defanged vampire movie which feels more like an intro movie for a super hero than anything else.
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