Vampires in cinema are perfect because of their constant struggle through death and immortality. Some great movies have been made on blood suckers, like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark,” to show how tormented these creatures truly are. “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” is not a classic like those previously mentioned, but it is a modest take on vampires.
“Cirque” follows Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) an above average high school student, with a loving family that expects perfection from their son. His vampire obsessed best friend Steve (Josh Hutherson) comes from a completely different background, and after the two get into trouble for skipping class and breaking lights, Darren’s parents ban him from seeing Steve. While the two attempt to remain “secret friends” they are given a flyer for a freak show by a mysterious man. In an abandoned movie theater, the boys watch a group of freaks with amazing talents, and Darren is entranced by their vampire leader Larten Crepsley’s (Reilly), spider. As the freak show ends, Darren steals the spider from Crepsley, and Darren is saved by an odd man named Mr. Tiny (Michael Cerveris) who warns him to stay away from the freaks. Steve is bitten by the spider, and Darren must give up his life and become a vampire in order to save him.
Reilly takes a break from playing a moron and proves yet again that he is a good actor. His witty dialogue is the highlight of this film, and he makes up for the weak supporting cast. I cannot say that Massoglia is bad, but he seemed out of place in this role. Although he is not a strong actor, he manages to stay charming throughout the film. Hutcherson plays a basic teenage tough guy who constantly cries throughout the film. Cerveris is goofy as the weird bald man Mr. Tiny, but lack of character development ruined his role. The rest of the cast is very poor unfortunately, but Willem Dafoe makes a great guest appearance.
I have not read the “Cirque du Freak” books, but I have heard nothing but good things about them. The story is fun, and the dark comedy gave it a unique feeling. Unfortunately, “Cirque” compresses too many characters and happenings into one film. By doing this the movie seems completely uneven and ruins any suspense. The end was uneventful, and it sets up a sequel that is probably not going to happen because of its horrible opening at the box office.
Director Paul Weitz showed a great deal of polish in this film, but it felt too forced. The dark comedy is usually funny, but it seemed like they made a movie for kids which is too mature for its intended market. The special effects are good for most of the movie, and the freak show segments were very entertaining. The cinematography was nothing you have not seen numerous times, and when they tried to be artistic it seemed out of place. The one part I truly enjoyed was the over the top lighting. Even though the story made little sense at times, I could always count on the background lights to let me have an idea of what was going on.
The score by Stephen Trask was solid for a film made for a younger crowd. Its cryptic nature was appropriate for a film that revolved around dying to become a vampire, but the unbearable licensed soundtrack drove me crazy.
Overall, this is not a bad movie by any means, but if it does not get sequels, this is a waste of film. The end was a little forced and left way too many questions unanswered. Unless you’re a fan of the books, or an 11-year-old boy that enjoys monster movies, save your money and rent this when it comes out on DVD.