“Vampire Academy” is something of a pioneer in the oversaturated young adult adaptation field. Using nothing but a derivative rag bag assortment of tropes and gimmicks from other, better works, it manages to achieve a near-perfect awfulness that almost guarantees it a picture in the dictionary next to the definition of ‘nadir’.
Based on the successful series of novels by Richelle Meade, “Vampire Academy” introduces us to a world caught halfway between “Twilight” and “Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets” and wearing a mismatched outfit of borrowed clothes from “Mean Girls” and “Clueless”.
Kind of/ sort of / not really hidden from human civilization, a vast vampiric society exists, populated by a variety of fangtasmagorical sub-species including Dhampirs (half-human/ half vampires), Moroi (privileged, “peaceful” mortal vampires) and Strigoi (violent immortal vampires) ruled over by a vampire Queen. When Moroi Princess Lissa (Lucy Fry) and her trainee guardian Dhampir Rose (Zoey Deutch) are tracked down after running away from school, they are immediately returned to the St Vladimir’s Academy where, along with the usual school shenanigans of crushes, playground politics and studies, they must contend with attempted kidnappings, threats written in blood and powerful magical factions vying for control and dominance as the film bumbles its way to a limp and predictable sub-Scooby Denouement.
I watched this hoping for a bit of campy fun and although there is some of that to be found, it’s buried under so much profoundly awful filmmaking that it’s not worth the bother. Structurally, the film is all over the place, opening with the clumsiest and most unsubtle exposition scene ever committed to celluloid before stumbling into a whole mess of high school movie clichés with magical vampire tropes crowbarred in wherever makes sense (and often where it doesn’t). Any attempts at subtlety or satire fall flat on their face or come off as so goofy, you’ll laugh at the film when you are simply tutting at the stupidity of it all. The shenanigans which go on at the school beggar belief, even for something as rooted in the fantastical as this is. St Vladimir’s Academy is so ridiculously unruly, even the girls from St Trinian’s would be giving this rabble a hefty dose of disapproving side eye.
You can almost see the scenes and events which would work well and make sense in a novel but don’t translate to movies derailing the narrative at almost every turn and although I haven’t read the novel, I’m surprised that screenwriter Daniel Waters (“Hudson Hawk”, “Batman Returns”, “Demolition Man”) has made such a ham-fisted job of it. At least the abysmal dialogue is matched by truly jaw-droppingly dreadful performances, for which Director Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”) must take some of the blame. Not even Gabriel Byrne, Olga Kurylenko, Joely Richardson or even “Modern Family”’s Sarah Hyland manage to escape unscathed from their cartoonish and randomly motivated characters. However it’s the two leads who suffer/ do the most damage here with Zoey Deutch saddled with a ton of paper-over-the-cracks voiceover exposition in the style of a barely adequate “Juno” tribute act and Lucy Fry delivering hands down the worst ‘we’ve all learned something’ speech ever to cap off a performance so wooden that she could have been sharpened to a point and thrust through the heart of the troublesome strigoi.
Irredeemably unoriginal and cheaply, sloppily executed, this is bargain basement stuff through and through. Amongst all the imitation and plagiarism, there is one thing this film can lay a unique claim to: it’s the only thing that’s not ‘a better love story than “Twilight”’.