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Movie Reviews this week looks at the enjoyable teen fantasy Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. Regardless of the strange title of this movie, it follows in the vein of Twilight, as a few teen fantasy movies have tried to emulate since the massive success of Twilight and it’s sequel New Moon.
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant stars Chris Massoglia as Darren Shan, a well meaning, high achieving teenager, pleasing his parents, and doing well at school, however his best friend Steve played by Josh Hutcherson (Robin William’s son in RV) is regarded as bad company for Darren notably by his parents, and he is given an ultimatum after getting in trouble on account of Steve, to never see him again. As with any typical teenager feeling the need to rebel (there is a funny sequence where his father tells him, what is expected of him, college, job, family, repeatedly in that order, until Darren sees himself repeating those words to his own child).
While the two friends are hanging out, a mysterious limo drives by and out of it comes a flyer for a circus show, entitled Cirque Du Freak, hence the title of the movie, Steve as typical as the antagonist in a movie challenges Darren to come with him and attend it. It turns out Steve has a fascination for vampires, while Darren on the other hand has a fascination for spiders. On attending the Cirque Du Freak show, where a parade of circus freaks are shown for the audience’s amusement, notably a woman who can regenerate limbs, Corma Limbs played by Jane Krakowski (absolutely hilarious in 30 Rock), and Evra the snake boy, played amusingly by Patrick Fugit, as well as a monkey girl, Rebecca played by the adorable Jessica Carlson, there is a lovely scene where Darren asks her what her “freakishness” is, and she states bluntly she is a monkey girl, pauses for effect and states she has a tail, and stares at him for any hint at ridicule.
While watching one of the performances of a certain Larten Crepsley played charmingly by John C. Reilley (Step Brothers), Steve recognises him from one of his vampire books, and assures Darren he is a vampire, interestingly Larten overhears the two boys and gives them a warning not to spread mindless gossip. Darren on the other hand is fascinated by Larten’s spider, and after the show, breaks into his room and steals it; but not before finding Steve pleading with Larten to make him a vampire whilst hidden in the same room. Larten and his friend Gavner Purl played by Willem Dafoe (Spiderman) refuses, and after Larten tests his blood, he quickly spits it out and says Steve has bad blood. It turns out that there are two types of vampires, that have chosen different paths, the Vampaneze who prefer feeding and killing humans, and the others who do not, but prefer to hypnotize them, then feed on them.
Darren takes Larten’s spider, and the next day at school, while Steve assumes he is talking to his locker, Steve opens Darren’s bag and reveals the spider, which eventually bites Steve. With Steve facing imminent death, Darren goes back to the Cirque Du Freak and asks Larten if he has an antidote for the spider’s bite.
A mysterious character called Mr Tiny played by Michael Cerveris (he has one of those faces that seem strangely familiar but not quite sure where), who has the power to bring people back to life, has been looking forward for a conflict between the Vampaneze and the others for sometime, and he sees it in the destiny of the two boys, he would like Darren to join the Vampaneze, but Larten on finding about this, realises that there might be more to the boy than meets the eye, he tests his blood, and agrees to make him a half-vampire, i.e. being able to go out in the sun, and do his errands for him, however Larten’s girlfriend Madame Truska played by Salma Hayek (From Dusk Till Dawn [for a second recalling From Dusk Till Dawn one would expect her to be one of the vampires, but here she is a member of the Cirque Du Freak as a fortune-telling bearded lady]), urges Larten not to turn Darren into a vampire, after having a premonition. Darren initially reluctant finally agrees to this in order to save his friend’s life. Larten then tells him he can no longer stay with his family and so he must die (or at least give the impression he is dead).
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is an enjoyable fantasy movie with numerous characters that should be developed even more in a sequel or two, and even though the name might emit tales of horror it is a more a teen romantic fantasy than anything else.
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write by Thomas Kyles