Movie Review: 'Vampire Academy' (2014)

Rising star Zoey Deutch charges this adaptation of the first installment in the best-selling book series of the same name. Were it not for Deutch's entertaining spin on the sharp tongued Rose, the film would have slipped into a state of insurmountable slumber. Directed by “Mean Girls” helmer Mark Waters and with a script by “Heathers” writer Daniel Waters, the stage is set for a smart-mouthed teen excursion.

What throws off the atmosphere is that it feels like an attempt at satire, instead of a true interpretation of its source material. "Vampire Academy," tells the tale of Rose (Deutch), a human/vampire hybrid whose job in life is to protect her best friend Lissa, a mortal vampire. That central storyline serves as the backdrop to a sort of spoof on the entire vampire genre.

The script’s constant pop culture references and teen-girl lamentations are bountiful, cheerily laden throughout its duration. While the dialogue whisks by, the same cannot be said of the storyline's tempo. It trudges forward with selective bits of revelations and ghoulish twists. The mystery’s conclusion and the culprit are relatively obvious from the outset.

As an overall film, "Vampire Academy" lacks cohesion. It’s a series of moments, occurrences, and awkward jokes. There's not enough time spent developing any plotline to the point it grows into something worth caring about. The character of Lissa (Lucy Fry) is especially underdeveloped. The movie tells us we should care about her but never gives the audience a reason to.

The overarching mystery seems to drop out of focus and then veer into the spotlight. That inconsistency is similarly felt on a visual level as the cinematography loops into rich clarity and then spirals into a frigidness that lacks any warmth. The special effects are decent, though the constant morphing of eye color is heavily reminiscent of the “Twilight” movies.

The central relationship between the girls, fails to resonate as Fry and Deutch cannot quite capture the buddy chemistry for a relationship of the written depth. Amongst the novices, Deutch makes the strongest impression leaving the others to appear rather flat in comparison.

She also holds her own against veterans like Gabriel Byrne and Olga Kurylenko, who are both wasted in a limited screen capacity. As well cast as Deutch, Byrne, Kurylenko and Sarah Hyland are in their roles, the same cannot be said for the rest of the ensemble.

“Vampire Academy” tries to draw blood as it takes shots at “Twilight” and other vampiric offshoots, failing to be taken as a serious adaptation or stand-alone movie in its own right. One can’t help wonder how much dialogue could’ve been available had all of its verbal jabs been eliminated, in favor of actual plot and character development.

There was a lot of untapped potential in this foray. Laughable moments, such as Rose stepping out to protect the seemingly more powerful Lissa, cause the movie to ring hollow as anything more than fantasy fluff. "Vampire Academy" does not suck. It has some redeeming factors. Unfortunately its life force is too compromised for them to be fully realized. Rating: 6/10

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