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For a film that takes thinly veiled sideswipes at teen saga ‘Twilight’, Mark Waters’ ‘Vampire Academy’, also a novel-to-movie adaptation, is quite the hypocrite. Moviemakers often parlay vampirism as an excuse for soft porn (owing, as popularized by Stephenie Meyer, to vampires’ inexhaustible libido) and like 2012’s ‘Vamps’ starring Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter, ‘Vampire Academy’ uses blood-sucking creatures as mere scaffolding for a high school-set who’s-dating-who plotline, with exposed throats and PG-rated making out to get pulses jumping. While ‘Twilight’ brutalized the soul-sucking vampire’s bite, this movie likens it to climax.
‘New York Times’’ bestselling author Richelle Mead’s world is peopled by three vampire types: the Moroi, the Strigoi and the Dhampir. Protagonist Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir, a vampire-human half-breed who is training to be the guardian of Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir (Lucy Fry), heir to the throne of the Moroi (magic-proficient vampires who control fire, earth, air and water).
These vampires are the real deal: they don’t sleep in coffins or shirk sunlight and they don’t – God forbid – sparkle like a certain storybook counterpart, Rose narrates in a wry voice-over that sounds uncannily like Ellen Page in 2007’s ‘Juno’. Runaways from the Hogwarts-y St. Vladimir’s academy, Rose and Lissa are accosted outside their hideaway by “guardians” from the school, led by Dimitri Belikov (played by Danila Koslovsky, a Jack Black look-alike but with biceps).
Once the truants are back in class, Lissa sets about reclaiming her once lofty rung on the social ladder now occupied by Mia Rinaldi (Sami Gayle), who is dating her ex-boyfriend. None of the high school-corridor repartee – the type where someone calls someone else “blood whore” – contains any of the bite of director Mark Waters’ ‘Mean Girls’. Meanwhile, Rose hones her stamina and karate kicks to protect Lissa under the tutelage of the hunky Belikov. Rose and Lissa share a one-way telepathic bond which, when extraneously activated, causes Rose to swoon into a yellow-eyed vertigo and become horrified spectator to Lissa’s secret rapprochement with a sexy Strigoi male Christian Ozera (Dominic Sherwood), a blood-thirsty, animalistic breed of vampire.
As Lissa’s mumsy-though-smart-mouthed minder, Rose, who doesn’t appear to have friends of her own, rushes around campus ensuring her hapless best friend doesn’t fraternize with the vixenish vamps of Mia’s ilk.
Princess Lissa’s manufactured British accent (an effort to inject “royal” into an otherwise flat-as-a-crépe character) and the Russian names at a school in rural Montana aren’t the only implausibilities. The whirlwind proceedings (much ado about nothing and too fast to glean who’s doing what and why) become exhausting even before Lissa starts receiving death threats scrawled in what appears to be smudged red lipstick on her wall with “beware” misspelt, and a disemboweled fox is hung outside her door by an ailing vampire who wants to steal her healing powers. When a vampire film doesn’t even have the budget to make blood look believable – to say nothing of the CGI effects – it’s time to leave the movie theatre.
Zoey Deutch’s whip-smart comic timing as Rose Hathaway is the sole buttress in an otherwise crumbling debacle. After nearly ramming her friend Natalie (Sarah Hyland) in a dark corridor at night after mistaking her for a Strigoi, Rose fumes, “What were you thinking? Trust me, you do not want to have to get a nose job in Montana!”
Deutch is a bright buttercup amidst weeds, but this isn’t the only reason for the film’s somewhat parodic quality. While there is no nudity but cleavage-baring aplenty, the notion intrudes that you’re watching “American Pie” draped in “Harry Potter” costuming – particularly when Rose, for no reason at all, is overcome with lust for her teacher, Belikov because of a cursed love pendant, despite that Lissa is in mortal peril.
While the somewhat niche-y vampire genre has always been love-it-or-hate-it, films like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” made it entertaining; but in the case of Vampire Academy there isn’t much choice between the two.