‘Vampire’s Assistant’ a bloody good time

October 29th, 2009

Movies like “Twilight” have changed the perception of vampires to a more romantic style, but “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” took a much more refreshing approach.

“The Vampire’s Assistant” revolves around an ordinary 16-year-old boy named Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia), who, when we first meet him, seems to be living a life that is too structured and ordinary.

Eventually, Darren and his best friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson) – a boy obsessed with vampires who also hates the idea of living a “normal” life – hear of a strange event that is coming to town: The Cirque du Freak.

The Cirque du Freak turns out to be a literal circus, which has traveled the world for over 500 years, full of strange oddities; including a bearded lady (Salma Hayek) and a gigantic ringmaster (Ken Watanabe).

But when the strange Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) comes to the stage, Steve recognizes him as a vampire he once read about from the 1800s.

This recognition sparks the rest of the film, as Darren is ultimately chosen by Crepsley to become a vampire’s assistant and has to choose a side in a quickly-approaching war between the vampires and the vicious and merciless Vampaneze.

But as if this was not enough for Darren, he must also fake his own death, fall in love, learn the secrets of being part-vampire, and decide just who his real friends are in this strange new world of the supernatural. The film, based on the popular book series by Darren Shaun, is surprisingly fresh and engaging.

It was the most entertaining vampire movie since “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and it didn’t even try to rely on steamy, overboard romances like “New Moon” and “True Blood” or excessive blood and guts – both traits that have seemingly become conventional with most vampire-oriented cinema.

The most enjoyable element of this movie was the casting. Instead of selling out and hiring an A-list cast to carry the film, director Paul Weitz chose to bring many character actors.

These actors will doubtlessly be familiar to most audience members for their many supporting roles – including John C. Reilly, Ray Stevenson, Willem Defoe and Ken Watanabe.

John C. Reilly is entertaining to watch as Larten Crepsley, the menacing-yet-sardonic vampire who wants to stay neutral amid the inevitability of a war between the vampires and the vampaneze.

He just wants to live in peace and not get involved – which ultimately makes the character even more appealing as we see his transformation into a heroic character.

Crepsley is definitely the best character in the film, with all the quirks and instances of a delightful sense of humor.

One of the biggest aspects that made this film a success came from the explosive and epic musical score composed by Stephen Trask. Never before have I seen a film that so perfectly influences its audience with just its score. 

The film ends with the expectation that there will be a sequel.

It could be interesting to see how the characters develop additional layers and if the series will fully transcend into a “Twilight”-like phenomenon. It has all the components, but it needs time to mature.