Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant: Movie Review (2009)

10/25/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Jeremy Wilkinson

Movie Review

"Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant"

Directed by Paul Weitz, written by Weitz and Brian Helgeland, 109 minutes, rated PG-13.

“Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” is the latest vampire flick aimed at the teenage crowd. The movie (which is based off of the novels by Darren Shan) tries to hit big with its target audience, but will most likely get lost in the shuffle. It has an uneven entertainment value and has to compete with the other big name movies due out this season.

Chris Massoglia plays Darren, a 16-year-old, all around good guy who happens to love spiders. His best friend is Steve (Josh Hutcherson), a rebellious boy who loves vampires. The two find out that a traveling freak show called the “Cirque du Freak” is in their town. Being the scamp he is, Steve wants to go check out the freaks and convinces Darren to go along for the ride.

Crepsley (John C. Reilly) is one of the freaks in the troupe whose act consists of doing tricks with a blue and red spider named Madam Octa. Crepsley also happens to be a vampire.

During the vampire’s act, Darren becomes fascinated with the eight-legged creature and steals it after the show. Steve finds out about this and accidentally lets the spider out while trying to look at her. In a panic, he attempts to kill her. In retaliation, she bites him. Her bite releases a poison, which sends him into a coma.

Darren seeks out Crepsley and asks for the antidote. The vampire offers the boy a trade: become a half-vampire and do whatever chores Crepsley needs done. In return, Steve will get the antidote to the spider’s venom and Darren will be protected from the mysterious Mr. Tiny, who, for reasons of his own, has taken an interest in the fate of the boy. Darren accepts and becomes Crepsley’s assistant.

“The Vampire’s Assistant” uses its own modified vampire mythos, but avoids a large information dump to let the audience know how to kill them, what they can do, etc. The powers of the vampires are revealed gradually enough that it feels more organic than it does in some other movies.

John C. Reilly does a good job as the vampire, better than one might expect if they’ve only seen Reilly in movies like “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers.” Massoglia is likable as the protagonist and Hutcherson does a serviceable job as Steve. Sometimes it seems like Hutcherson is over acting a bit, but it doesn’t stand out enough to ruin the experience. Michael Cerveris plays the antagonistic Mr. Tiny with enough flair to keep him from being a dull villain. Willem Defoe, Ken Watanabe, and Salma Hayek also bring their talents to the film. They play secondary characters and despite being big names, do not overshadow the main characters.

The major problems with this film stem from the questionable editing techniques that are used. There are scenes where pieces of information seem to be missing and it comes off as a patchwork effort. Thankfully, this is mostly confined to scenes in the first third of the movie, but the effect is jarring enough to bring you out of the film.

This film is not one of the best out there. It has some holes in logic due to poor editing and while the acting is fine, the movie won’t be winning any Academy Awards. But, this movie is aimed at teenagers between 13 and 17 years old and will probably resonate well with that group. It’s entertaining enough, even though it doesn’t redefine the genre.

Grade: C

View the trailer here.

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