Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is the story of Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) – a teenage boy who is made a half vampire (which means he can go out in daylight) by Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly). Darren does this in return for the antidote to save his friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson), who was bitten by a poisonous spider. Shan then joins the Cirque Du Freak with his new mentor, and the adventures begin!
The film is based on the Darren Shan saga of books and encompasses the first three. Visually, the film is a treat. The Cirque’s permanent base of operations looks like a Louisiana swamp mixed with a Tim Burton-inspired campsite. The visual effects are incredibly detailed, down to the makeup tide mark under Willem Dafoe (Gavner Purl)’s chin… To cover his abnormally pale vampire skin. Also noteworthy is the cross section shot of Shan’s grave as Crepsley digs down to rescue him from his coffin. The characters are likeable, except perhaps, the two leading boys who only seem to have one note, but we can forgive that as Reilly, Wanatambe and Hayek are so charming. Plus, Patrick Fugit makes an appearance as Evra the snake boy and it is always nice to see him on screen, even though he has never fully lived up to his Almost Famous potential.
The story, in book form, is surely more gripping than that of the film. The film is all about secrets, but sadly it keeps many of them from its audience, instead, hinting at prophecies and wars, which are undoubtedly feted to follow in the next film (that is, if there is one). In fact, the whole film appears to be gearing up to a sequel, and many things, like the Vampinese, are left unexplained.
This is no True Blood, it is, after all, based on a kids book. But nor is it Twilight and filled with angsty, heavy souled teens. The Vampire’s Assistant struggles to find a middle ground between the two, and does not always succeed. That said, if you are a fan of the books, or of John C. Reilly, or want to look at a beautifully realised film, then it is worth a look.
PS: The film also reminded me how much I enjoy the music of Nick Cave FTW.