Rental Review: Vampires and Freaks, Oh My

Facing a dull Sunday afternoon, I went to the rental place and browsed the shelves, winding up with Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.

I wasn’t expecting anything at all from the Vampire’s Assistant movie, having read a summary of the movie and then a summary of the books. I thought, if anything, it would be an entertaining bubblegum movie with too many special effects, poor characterization and lame vampires.

I was wrong. It was a funny, quirky, macabre and well-made film, and though it certainly had plenty of special effects, what made the movie actually work was the characters and the dark humor.

You probably remember the ads for this movie, which featured a wild-haired John C. Reilly (as vampire Larton Crepsley) being asked by Chris Massoglia (as ordinary high school kid-turned-vampire Darren Shan) whether he could turn into a bat.

Reilly replies "No! That’s bull."

This is pretty representative of the movie. Gone are the pretty-boy angstpires who wear black and whine all day about how awful being a member of the undead is. (With apologies to Angel, which parodied this almost as much as it used the convention; this comment is directed at you, Twilight.)

Instead, you have Crepsley, dressed in a bright red suit, performing in a freak show with a freaky spider and rolling his eyes at Shan’s attempt to scare him away by forming his fingers into a cross. Crepsley is 200 years old, which makes him blunt and eccentric, and not very willing to take crap from anyone, including his young protege Shan.

Oh, and he’s dating a girl with a beard. Because she’s played by Salma Hayek, though, it’s kind of understandable.

The movie is helped immensely by a supporting cast of freaks (literally; they’re in a freak show), including a startlingly normal snake boy (apart from the green skin and all), a gigantically tall man with a huge head and a girl who can regenerate cut-off limbs. They’re portrayed as freaks with bizarre habits, but they’re also portrayed as normal human beings who bicker and fall in love, and who have hopes and dreams just like anyone else. Every single one of these minor characters has ten times the personality of any character in the Twilight movies.

It’s a strange movie, and it’s admittedly not a great movie, but it is a solid, entertaining and very good movie, and who could ask for more than that? I would recommend it to people who don’t mind being creeped out a bit even as they laugh.

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