I can best describe the setting of Vampire Academy in Harry Potter terms. The actual Academy itself – St. Vladimir’s Academy – is like Hogwarts. There are the royals who are called the Moroi (purebloods), half human/half vampires called Dhampir (‘mudbloods’) and the evil Strigoi (like those from the house of Slytherin). The royals conform to the characteristics of common vampire folklore – they can’t bear sunlight, they survive on blood etc. The half-vampires are immune to these weaknesses because they are part human. The Strigoi are generally evil and up to no good.
The story of the film centers around Rose, a dhampir, training at the academy to become a guardian of the Moroi like many of her kind. In her care is Princess Vasilissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), a Moroi who is all the more important because she is the last of her line. Vasilissa, her parents, brother and Rose are in a tragic accident; only Lissa and Rose survive and discover afterwards that they have formed a very close, psychic bond. For reasons unclear soon after the accident, Rose takes Lissa away from the Academy and protects her while they are in hiding. They are discovered a year later by Guardians who were sent to find them and brought back to the Academy. They try to assimilate into Academy life again but nothing is as it seems and strange things beginning happening.
There were a lot of murmurs in the room about how Bram Stoker would be turning in his grave. I’m not quite sure I understand the grumbling. Bram Stoker wrote his vision of vampire fantasy and this happens to be a light-hearted, teenage version of the very broad, ever-evolving folklore. Definitely nothing to get purist about. That said, the big issue with the film is that you can never shake the feeling that you’re watching a TV movie which is strange considering the lead, young actress Zoey Deutch, totally owns her role as the quick-witted, sharp-tongued apprentice-Guardian Rose. They used to call such characters ‘spunky’ until the word became outdated. I don’t know of a better replacement. Gabriel Byrne and Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland play father and daughter, Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) plays the not-quite-sure-what-her-problem-is stern headmistress and Joely Richardson makes occasional appearances as the Queen who isn’t quite impressed with Princess Vasilissa. For the ladies, there is the brooding vampire Christian Ozera (Dominic Sherwood) who reminded one viewer at our screening of Robert Pattinson. Mission accomplished I guess.
Final Analysis: Vampire Academy is a much much lighter film than the very serious Twilight series and is probably a better pick for you if your relationship with vampire stories is casual. It was written and directed by the team behind Mean Girls so there are high school hi-jinks, teenage angst and lots of quips and smartass one-liners amidst vampire mythology. The end leaves room for a sequel and I found myself interested in what the next story could hold.
My Advice: Don’t expect high art from this one. Pretty girl kicks ass and teaches a few vampires a lesson along the way – based on that, decide if you want to make a trek to the theatre to check it out.