What do you get if you cross Mean Girls with vampires? The answer is Mark Waters’ latest directorial endeavour, Vampire Academy. Based on the bestselling book series by Richelle Mead, Mean Girls director Waters takes all the usual high school dramas – best friends, bitchy girls and unconventional romances – and shakes it up with a little bloodlust. The result is an ultimately light-weight movie that replaces depth with a fun plot, an entertaining script and a spunky lead, without which the film would flounder lifelessly.
Rose Hathaway, played with unlimited sassiness by Zoey Deutch, is a Dhampir, a half-human/half vampire tasked with protecting her best friend Lissa, who’s part of a race of peaceful, mortal vampires residing at St Vladimir’s Academy, Montana. Whilst battling the outside threat of ferocious, immortal Vampires known as the Strigoi, Rose and Lissa also have to contend with a school of judgemental and snarky vamp-brats. The duo, with the help of nerdy school-mate Natalie (Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland) and a couple of other brave allies, must battle both known and unknown entities, as they attempt to seek out the enemy and save each other’s lives.
Whilst it lacks the depth needed to make it a real winner, Vampire Academy still manages to be an entertaining comedy-fantasy, aimed at the same YA market that the book series has been so popular with. The plot never digs particularly deep into the history of St. Vladimir’s, or indeed any of the main characters, but there just isn’t the time to give each character the introduction they deserve. This is where adapting a book can often go adrift. In order for Waters to get to the action, all backstories are sacrificed, leaving the film wanting. Despite this, there’s a sense of fun and comedy that never strays too far, even when the film treads on darker territory, and it’s not afraid of poking fun at popular culture’s notions of vampires.
Perhaps not as funny or clever as Mean Girls, Vampire Academy has plenty of witty one-liners that raise a smile, almost every single one uttered by Zoey Deutch’s Rose. Deutch propels the film forward with a natural flair for sarcasm and sparkling on-screen charisma. Unfortunately for Lucy Fry, who plays best-friend Lissa Dragomir, Deutch eclipses her fellow cast members. Sarah Hyland gives a valiant effort as the stereotypical ‘loser’ but her lack of screen time in the first half of the film means you never invest enough in her character to care when she becomes a key player towards the end.
Many of the cast are wasted with a similar lack of screen time. Olga Kurylenko and Sami Gayle in particular have so much to offer but are never given the chance to excel, whereas Joely Richardson is a mere bit part, barely worth featuring. Seeing how successfully The CW have adapted The Vampire Diaries, which is now onto its sixth series, Vampire Academy might have been better suited to the TV medium, where it would’ve been given more space to breathe.
Sadly for Vampire Academy, it follows in the footsteps of the likes of the Twilight Saga, a film series that’s monopolised the teen vamp genre, not leaving much room for a film that boldly tries to better it. Thankfully Vampire Academy is significantly superior to Twilight, having traded in the cringing lines and awkward cast with a more promising set of actors and a plot that reaches into dark and ancient tales. For fans of Mean Girls, The Vampire Diaries and other supernatural shows such as Teen Wolf, Vampire Academy is 105 minutes of light and comedic fantasy fare. Bitchy girls may reign supreme, but they don’t always live to tell the tale, even less when it’s a school full of vampires!
Vampire Academy is available on DVD from 14th July.