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Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

Digital Two Stars
The trailers for Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant didn't do much to grab me, although they did show some style and suggest that they could offer something a little more than the average film, I was thinking the same thoughts as I did for Twilight - taking a strong creature from Hollywood and neutering them, reworking the mythology to a point that just wasn't appealing.

However on reflection they didn't do that, and the changes actually turned out to be not too bad, and as for the film? Well it delivered a rather pleasurable romp.

Plot.pngThe story of Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant comes from the series of novels Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com). They tell the story of a strange circus that arrives in town, a circus of freaks where the freaks are very real. here's the woman who can regenerate parts of her body, the ancient vampire of amazing speed, the...wait a moment, an ancient vampire?

Two friends are drawn to the circus for different reasons, one is captivated by the flute seduced poisonous spider while the other knows full well who the ancient vampire is and wants to confront him and become one of them.

The vampire rejects the boy who wants to be turned, laughing at his preposterous ideas of vampires, meanwhile the boy interested in the spider steals it and takes it home.

At some point the spider escapes, bites the boy who wanted to be turned and places him in a coma, slowly dying. The other boy goes to the vampire and apologies, pleading to save his friend, he agrees but only if he will be turned and become the Vampire's assistant.

He agrees, is turned and his friend saved, but when he wakes from his coma he feels betrayed, he wanted to be turned, not his friend who ridiculed the idea. When a mysterious bald man appears in his life he is offered revenge and the man begins to shape him to become the nemesis of his newly turned ex-friend in the hopes of starting a war with the vampires.

TheFilm.pngCirqueduFreakVampiresAssistant.jpgThe trailer and the early hype does make you feel as though this is a very light-hearted romp, although there are undertones of something deeper, something a little richer in story, it certainly appears to be darker than the teenage novel tag would suggest.

Except it doesn't deliver that darker tone and seems to be very much pitched at the standard teenage demographic and below. While that's not a bad thing, it does limit a story that is trying to be so much more, where people get hurt, die, and the darkness of the world creeps in.

Still it is an enjoyable story, but it just doesn't deliver everything that it could do, or perhaps should do.

I always believe a key to a good film is that it stays with you, and you remember aspects of the story afterwards, mulling on them perhaps and returning to them. One of the interesting things about this film is that come the time to write this review I struggled to remember key sequences and it felt as though the film had washed over me and left.

That is a shame as the story itself promised quite a bit, building an idea much like the Russian Watch trilogy, two groups of vampires committed to peace with some key architects trying to maintain and upset the balance of this peace by using and manipulating others to their needs.

It lays out a great story and potential for a lot more from future films, but this first one just doesn't deliver enough to provide a solid foundation on which to build.

One key aspect where it fails I think is the building of the evil character, manipulating others events and people in the background. We see he's doing this, but there's little in the way to build the dread and fear of what he's trying to accomplish. I didn't feel as concerned as I know I should have been about the character succeeding in his plan, as much as the other characters seemed to be.

This is something that happens throughout the film, where the film fails to build on the weight and meaning behind decisions and plot turns to show how important things are.

I did find the changes made to vampires here a little hard to take at times, the addition of lightning speed seems a little odd for example, but all in all the are kept rather interesting and close to the original myth.

Other creatures around them are explored a little less, and perhaps the success of the film would have meant more of them, but we get to see a few key characters reveal a little of what they can do and what they are.

There's a great surprise appearance from Willem Dafoe who performs a rather camp and classy turn as an old vampire, but the lead vampire character of John C. Reilly's has a tough job to win the audience over.

His character is a very dour one so it's not the easiest to play. He does it with no emotion nor regard for people, even the young man brought on to be his trainee vampire gets little from him, but you can imagine that's how the oldest vampire alive would behave. Yet it does make it difficult for the audience to connect with him and his performance is rather wooden and cold.

Picture.pngiTouch Screen
The picture does looks a little dark at times on the iTouch and the reflective screen proves a little difficult to follow some of these darker sequences, even in a darkened room.

Audio.pngiTouch Stereo
There's nothing that particularly stands out about the audio, it delivers a stereo track and I didn't feel anything special or different about the track.

Overall.pngIt's a shame about Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, because you can tell there's a strong and epic story to be had here, and probably in the novels there is. However in the film version it struggles to get through to the bigger story and sticks to a lighter tale.

It's almost as if the studio were trying to cover two bases with the film and deliver something to appeal to two different audiences, seeing which would work the best and then continuing the film in that vein. However this has compromised the film, and while it delivers some light entertainment, I never felt it went far enough to capture my attention.

Buy from Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's AssistantiTunes UK or Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's AssistantiTunes US
UK IMDB Film Details



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