Hello, everyone! Have you ever started watching a movie and had to pause for a few moments and really wonder “how did I get here?” That’s how I felt watching the spectacularly ridiculous Vampire Academy, a movie made for fourteen year olds that is too sarcastic, too racy, and too complicated for any fourteen year old to want to watch it. I arrived at Vampire Academy by the way of the 2013 remake of Evil Dead. It was midnight, I was tired, and Evil Dead was making me queasy. Thus, I decided to watch Vampire Academy and spent the next 104 minutes in various states of disbelief and annoyance. The main question that kept popping through my head: “How did this get made?”
Synopsis: Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, which means she is the guardian of Lissa, her best friend and the princess of the Morois, who are not your “typical” vampires (except they are). For reasons she can’t remember, Rose takes Lissa away from St. Vladimir’s, the vampire academy, and into the real world, but they are soon captured by the school’s guardians and returned to the school. Lissa is bullied by a Moroi named Mia, who starts rumors that Lissa fed on Rose while they were in the human world. Most Moroi have to declare their magic and specialize, but Lissa is still undeclared, which starts even more rumors and leaves the Moroi worried that she is unable to ascend to the throne. Amidst all the tension, an unknown villain starts leaving dead animals for Lissa as a threat. Rose, her mentor Dmitri, her friend Mason, and Lissa’s crush Christian must find out who is threatening Lissa and stop them before they ruin her chances of succession forever.
You might think that there is plenty of material already in that synopsis for a 1h44 min movie, but I cut out about 50 percent of superfluous plot to write that. Having never read the Vampire Academy books that the movie is based on, the Moroi, Dhampir, and Strigoi (the evil vampires) mythology was entirely unfamiliar to me. Luckily, the movie explained all of that in five incoherent minutes and then just kept running with it. I think that the writers of this movie assumed that the movie would appeal to a wide audience base like Twilight or Harry Potter, but they assumed wrong. I spent most of the movie confused about the mythology and annoyed when “big” reveals happened because not only were they predictable, but they carried no real significance.
Now I’ll talk about the specifics of what made Vampire Academy so weird. One would think think that the movie would be a slam dunk with teen audiences. It has all of the required ingredients: a YA novel about vampires with “edgy” romance, sassy female leads, and even a “satirical” spin on the YA Fic genre. The Vampire Academy book series was a best-seller, which makes me think that the problem was the adapted script. The best word I can use to describe it is strange. YA books target girls at age 12 and up, but to me, the script seemed more appropriate for adults. Rose is frequently called a blood whore because she let Lissa feed off of her; the comments directed at her are all of a sexual nature, and at one point a boy even mentions blood porn, which I guess is some fictional genre of vampire porn that I never wanted to know about. There’s lots of swearing and sexual comments and lines about losing one’s virginity and teen stuff like that. There are also weird one-liners, like references to Gladiator and Jimmy Carter that I’m not sure many thirteen year olds would understand. I feel like the script was going for a “it’s so mean it’s funny” vibe like Mean Girls, but I felt like it missed the mark because at most points it was just mean. I can see many a parent of a thirteen year old girl taking their daughter to see this movie and then cringing through every line.
There were some funny moments, mainly between Rose and her mentor Dmitri, but that brings me to the next problem of the movie: the romances. You might be thinking that mentor – mentee romance is inherently sketchy. Gold star for you. Yes, it’s true, one of the several romances is between Rose, a 17 year old girl, and her 30 year old mentor. The movie at least toned down the relationship that was in the book, so nothing ever happens between the two except a kiss on the cheek. But damn if some scenes, like the one where Dmitri playfully pins Rose to the ground during training and lingers way too long, weren’t sketchy as hell. Why do YA novels keep writing romances between teenage girls and adult men? Teen girls do look to characters in these novels to show them how to live the “ideal” high school life. What these books are saying is that a component of the ideal high school life is dating your teacher.
The rest of the romances in the movie were lackluster. It was like Oprah took over the story and said “you get a love interest and you get a love interest and you get a love interest” to every character. Rose has not only Dmitri, but also Mason, her friendzoned guy, and Jesse, a random hook-up. Lissa has Christian, the “bad boy” who is not so bad and not very interesting except as the voiceless model in Taylor Swift’s “Style” music video. Then there’s Aaron, some other random guy who we’re supposed to be interested in but who I kept remembering as the pretentious hottie in Kingsman. Dumb teen moves can be saved if they have compelling romances, but Vampire Academy struck out on all of them.
The last problem of Vampire Academy is the pacing. Pages and pages and pages of exposition are explained in 30 second scenes with barely 5 seconds for the audience to recover before the movie jumps to an entirely different subject. We learn that Lissa’s parents and brother died in a horrible car accident in the very first scene and are whisked away from the trauma, seconds later, to a scene where Lissa and Rose are joking about Jimmy Carter. How am I supposed to be invested in Lissa’s tragic backstory if I have no time to reflect on it? Other major plot points, like the bully Mia’s backstory, Lissa’s royal history, and the explanation of the Strigois, are explained at a rapid pace that left my head spinning. I know this movie wasn’t intended only for fans of the series, but it definitely came off that way. Every scene had me like:
The creators of Vampire Academy had the perfect ingredients for a teen smash hit, but they failed in execution. From the rapid pace to the bizarre script, the movie was a disaster. A mix of boring and weird romances were the final nail in the movie’s coffin. Hollywood, I beg you, learn a lesson from this box office bomb and stop with the vampire movies. They suck.
Hold up. The director of “Mean Girls” and the writer of “Heathers” made this movie? But….it was so bad. How could the creators of two awesome movies make such a trainwreck? Oh, the folly of it all.