CC2K

The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

April Fool’s Week 2015: Vampire Academy Sucks Blood…Doesn’t Suck

Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief


It’s been a while since I’ve sat behind the keyboard and penned something for CC2K. If I had to write anything for my brief triumphant return, I’m glad it’s an April Fool’s piece! I’ve reviewed my fair share of terrible dreck for CC2K’s infamous April Fool’s week, from the lyrical ear-stabbing that is the music of Poison, to the death by jellybeans plot point of Three Ninjas. However, I was shocked and dismayed when I received my April Fool’s piece this year. I mean, this is my triumphant return, shouldn’t I get something better than…better than….a movie I like!

 

I was “tortured” with the 2014 adaptation of Richelle Mead’s book, Vampire Academy, a movie that came and went with a whimper last February. How could a movie with a script by Heathers scribe, Daniel Waters, and directed by the man who made Mean Girls, Mark Waters, considered one of the worst films of all time? Last year, I told people they needed to watch more movies. (Apparently too many people skipped the misogynistic Tusk or the truly atrocious They Came Together…movies that are FAR WORSE than this). And rewatching my DVD copy last night – because, in a world where you can buy the Smurf movies on Blu-ray, but not this – just keeps reminding me this is an unsung, although flawed, gem of a film.

Let me give some background on my history with YA (young adult) adaptations. I generally detest them! I don’t read the source novels, so analyze strictly from the films themselves. As evidenced by the films that are Twilight and Divergent (to name two big ones), they’re often poorly written, and mock female empowerment by giving us a “strong” heroine and leaving her at the mercy of controlling men. Even the best ones, like the popular Hunger Games films, feel the need to create bizarre love triangles, ultimately deflating the female character’s power. There are exceptions to the rule. Good YA movies out there…which are usually the ones that bomb and thus aren’t given the franchise potential of opening up in future sequels (Beautiful Creatures, anyone?). I knew Vampire Academy would be one that bombed, and most of that stemmed from the February release date, the time reserved for movies doomed to failure.

I should get to the plot, because the plot is one heavy flaw against this movie…there’s a lot of it. The film starts by introducing us to Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and her best friend Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). Both have run away from school, Lissa suffers from nightmares, and she starts drinking blood out of Rose’s shoulder. That’s because Lissa is a vampire, the princess next in line to the vampire (here called Moroi) throne. Rose is a Dhampir, a half-human/half vamp guardian, tasked with protecting the royalty from the Strigoi, the stereotypical evil vamps. All of this comes through in a complex voice-over, so it takes at least two viewings to understand the hierarchy here, and that’s a problem because too much exposition often feels like all background and no plot. It isn’t until the 20-minute mark, once Rose and Lissa make it back to St. Vladimir’s that the main narrative unfolds, and even then there’s always additional explanation and history.

This is why sequels are often crucial to the narrative flow of some of these books. An author can stand to cram all this history into a 300-page novel. From the way Vampire Academy desperately wants to squeeze every last bit of detail in there, it’s evident the crew knew they wouldn’t get the chance to explain as time unfolds. And, unfortunately, it leaves a lot of exposition heavy dialogue sequences and what can feel like several floating plot points. Outside of the whole Rose/Lissa friendship, there’s a couple floating romances for each of the girls, Rose’s desire to figure out what happened to a past teacher, and issues regarding the fluctuating vampire government that are barely hinted at. Oh, and because the film ended at just this origin story, the “Hey, we’re definitely gonna get a sequel” ending has the makings of a “To Be Continued….” addendum to a cancelled television series.

However, there’s just as much to enjoy as to castigate. Zoey Deutch is a great leading lady, and her catty, witty repartee is on par with Winona Ryder’s Veronica Sawyer in Heathers. (How this movie could have benefitted from an R-rating!) She’s spunky and tough, which people should be happy can be found in a YA movie.

Furthermore, in the YA canon where love conquers all, this movie actually has…gasp SEX! Yes, it’s shocking how, for all these movies’ talk of a love that last forever, no one ever thinks to do the nasty. Vampire Academy is all about grinding on others, culminating in a sequence where Rose, while under a love spell, strips down and jumps on Liam Neeson clone Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky) with “Gerononimo” like exclamation of “Sweet sassy molassy!” (A phrase that’s entered my lexicon, by the way.) There’s also a pretty saucy line comparing vampirism and losing one’s virginity that had me saying “This is a YA movie?!”

And because this is a vampire movie, the movie isn’t afraid to get a little Sapphic. This is where the R-rating would have worked because the script is desperately afraid to say that those who are bitten receive sexual gratification from the process, although it’s apparent on their faces. Rose and Lissa endure rumors involving Rose being a “blood whore” and having some type of inappropriate relationship with her best friend, on top of other moments where the penetration of the fangs implies sexual penetration.

Sweet sassy molassy this is an enjoyable movie for me. I can’t talk trash about it! Call it a guilty pleasure, although I don’t see anything guilty about enjoying it. It’s a shame that this couldn’t get enough support for a sequel, but heinous YA films like the barely scene Mortal Instruments got greenlit for additional installments. Hopefully Zoey Deutch gets to make more movies because she’s a spitfire and is worthy of it. I hate to disappoint those expecting an epic rant, but this April Fool’s Day, be bold…watch Vampire Academy!

Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief

Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.

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