Review: ‘Vampire Academy,’ starring Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry

The young-adult-supernatural-world movie adaptation game has been floundering for a while, hasn’t it? Twilight ended and every movie studio tried to snap up as many properties as possible, and not any of them—The Host, Beautiful Creatures, or The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones—has panned out. And you can add Vampire Academy to that list now, too, since the movie is an incoherent mess that deserves to be seen by no one.

Maybe I’m biased—I think the TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the best example of this genre, probably because it predated all the gaudiness of Twilight and was a far more visceral experience. And maybe I’m also biased because I’m disappointed in brothers Mark (who directed Mean Girls) and Daniel (who wrote Heathers) Waters for even taking the Vampire Academy project. They already had two perfect high school-centered movies under their belts; why try to hit lightning a second time? Because Vampire Academy is not as insightful as Mean Girls nor as dark as Heathers; it doesn’t seem to have a point at all, really, except for getting a bunch of pretty young people one more line on their resumes. Otherwise, this whole thing is a hot-ass mess.

The film (which wasn't screened for critics before its release), based off the first installment in a series of young adult books by Richelle Mead, takes place in our world, but with various elements borrowed from other supernatural books or movies. For example, in Vampire Academy, the vampire world is divided into three groups: the royal Moroi (kind of like the hierarchical structure of Underworld), who have a definitive lifespan, can walk in the sunlight, and drink only the blood humans willingly give. They’re protected by the Dhampir, half-human, half-vampire guardians whose only purpose is to care for the Moroi. And they are tasked with protecting the Moroi specifically from the Strigoi, immortal, bloodthirsty, and violent vampires (basically the personification you’ll recognize most) who want to mess up the royal order.

Amid all this drama live Moroi princess Lissa (Lucy Fry) and her Dhampir guardian Rose (Zoey Deutch), who ran away from their boarding school, St. Vladimir’s Academy in Montana, when Rose thought Lissa was in danger from the Stringoi there. But after a couple of years on the run, they’re found and taken back to school, where they learn Lissa’s one-time popularity is now gone. Instead, there are bitchier, bullying girls on top of the school pyramid now, and Lissa is basically an outsider. So she and Rose are forced to make new friends, such as the nerdy Natalie (Sarah Hyland, of Modern Family), and get new love interests (I mean, obviously).

And what love interests! I guess they’re handsome, if you’re into the generic-teen-model, not-good-with-conversation type. Rose becomes more and more attracted to her mentor, the older Dmitri (Danila Kolovsky), who takes over guarding Lissa as Rose perfects her training. And Lissa strikes up a friendship, and then more, with fellow outsider Christian (Dominic Sherwood), whose parents chose to become Strigoi and were then killed by guardians. It’s public knowledge, and not something that endears him to his classmates … or to Rose.

And that dislike between Rose and Christian, therefore causing a rift between Rose and Lissa, is just one of the film’s many, many subplots. Too many. There’s Lissa worrying about which magical specialty she should choose (because vampires can do magic, apparently); the bullying she receives at the hands of other classmates and how she harms herself in response; how she gets drawn into the relationship between Natalie and her dying father (played by a he-should-be-embarrassed-by-himself Gabriel Byrne); and her concern about not acting appropriately for her princess status. And then there’s also Rose’s issues, which include her distrust of Christian; her concern about Lissa and why dead animals start appearing in her room; her uncontrollable attraction for Dmitri; and her ability to read Lissa’s mind.

And that’s not even everything that’s going on; I just forgot some stuff. Because it’s impossible not to forget some stuff in a movie this jam-packed with stupidity and silliness.

To be fair, the movie might be somewhat self-aware, but I’m only guessing that because of Deutch’s performance, which is witty, sarcastic, and appropriate for all this foolishness. Fry does little more than pout and pose—the same goes for the male leads, actually—but Deutch really chews the scenery in a good way. But is there really that much to command? The script, unlike that of the Waters’ Bros. previous Mean Girls and Heathers, doesn’t really give us a strong sense of how these girls would actually communicate; it’s just like Gossip Girls with the insult “blood whore” thrown in. Similarly problematic and with little explanation is how the Dhampir are just totally cool with basically being babysitting slaves for the Moroi their whole lives. Vampire society has been around for hundreds of years, but are still using an antiquated royal structure? I don’t know. It’s all just so … generic.

And that’s the thing—everything about Vampire Academy feels interchangeable, from its convoluted mythology to its Abercrombie model-like actors, from its overly pop culture-referencing dialogue to its final bad guy reveal. Another young-adult adaptation bites the dust.  

Rating: 0.5 out of 5 Guttenbergs