Lately, I found myself reflecting on how I am slowly but surely transitioning into an older age group in terms of Hollywood demographics. When I see all these adverts for young adult films (and most big blockbusters in general) all I feel is just complete disinterest. I was worried that I am getting too old to “get” these movies, but watching Mark Waters’ Vampire Academy I realized that it’s simply not true. A good movie is a good movie, regardless of who it’s targeting.
Of course Vampire Academy is not targeting me, but more likely teenage girls, however the film is smart enough to transcend age and the trappings of its sub genre. I know Three Reasons is usually reserved to classics, but I really liked this film, that’s why I decided to bring it up here. I’m also afraid that it will remain buried underneath all the young adult film releases we get these days, although it’s clearly a cut above all those in my view. I liked it for a number of reasons, but I tried to narrow it down to three. Enjoy!
Reason I: A Kick Ass Zoey Deutch
I know that it looks like she’s getting her ass kicked in that picture above, but trust me: This woman is a bad ass! This is Zoey Deutch‘s second leading role, the first one in a theatrical release and she kills it. She is funny, charming and sweet: Marry me? I just fell in love with her character. She plays Rose Hathaway, a Dhampir, which basically means that she is half human, half vampire. A Dhampir is destined to be the protector or personal bodyguard of the Moroi, which are basically “nice” vampires.
I don’t care much for plot or fantasy stuff, but what was great was how she managed to make her character sympathetic and relatable. Yes, it helps that she’s very hot, but that’s not all. She has a great attitude. She is strong, determined and independent. She knows exactly what she wants and knows how to get it, which of course makes her even sexier. At the same time she is also a young woman. She has feelings. She has a crush on her instructor. She likes pretty dresses and jewelry and stuff.
To get balance and get both sides of her personality right was a great challenge, but she managed to make it work. Of course that’s also a tribute to Daniel Waters‘ (Mark’s brother) writing. Actually, I should also mention Richelle Mead, who is the writer of the novel this film was based on: This is exactly the kind of female characters we need. Rose can look out for herself. She doesn’t really need a man, but that doesn’t mean that she is a lesbian or a feminist. She’s just herself and I thought she was perfect.
Reason II: A Great Sense of Humor
As I said Zoey Deutch is quite hilarious. The writing is very punchy and consistently funny throughout. It’s no surprise that this is the same director of Mean Girls and the writer of 80s cult film Heathers. This is certainly a return to form for both. It’s not easy to blend comedy with genres such as action, fantasy or horror, but Vampire Academy effortlessly transitions from one genre to another without jarring tonal shifts or anything. It’s a remarkable achievement, but how did they succeed?
In most vampire comedies the humor is very tongue-in-cheek and the jokes are mostly about the vampires, which is tiring and not really that funny in my opinion. In this film the humor came from Rose and her snarky and sarcastic remarks. There was also a lot situational humor. As a result the jokes never felt forced or tired, because they came from the characters and their interactions and were worked into the narrative organically. I’m totally over analyzing this: This is a funny flick, that’s all you need to know!
Reason III: A Humanistic Look at Vampires
Speaking of over analyzing stuff. The main reason why this film works is, because it treats vampires and all the other mythical creatures as if they were normal humans basically. Sure they have superpowers and all that, but after a while you forget that you are watching supernatural beings. I was drawn into this film because it has some great characters, namely Rose, and although this is far from a character study, I appreciate that it’s really about high school kids more than it is about vampires.
The characters actually reminded me a lot of the teenagers in Gregg Araki films, namely Kaboom (2010). The film is also not afraid of exploring some mature themes, not only sexuality, but even religion. As much as I dread the PG-13 rating, this film does a great job of working around that curse as much as it possibly can. Ultimately, it is more effective than so many R rated films, which just throw in R rated content because they can, but I digress.
Vampire Academy has a very complicated plot, which sometimes gets a bit convoluted and unnecessarily intricate. But since I was fully invested in the main character I didn’t care all that much. Some of the other characters are not fleshed out as well and I certainly can’t remember all the names, but most of them are still memorable. I like that everyone took the film seriously and committed to their roles and what they required even if it was silly sometimes. Definitely seek this one out. I can’t wait to re-watch it!