Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

Horror plays out like an action thrill-ride that that would bomb as an SNL sketch

Oct 28, 2009 at 12:00 am

Hollywood is committed to adapting tween lit involving wizards or vampires, regardless of quality, popularity or even sanity. Based on the allegedly popular Cirque du Freak books, which no one older than 16 has ever heard of, Vampire's Assistant serves as sort of anti-Twilight, more concerned with the pure wish-fulfillment kicks of supernatural powers than the romance of forbidden and eternal love. Aimed at young guys, the film dabbles in satire and gross-out creepiness, really wants to be an action thrill-ride, yet plays like a bad sketch in the last half hour of SNL

It's almost impossible not to giggle at John C. Reilly, with his bulbous clown nose, crazy rat's nest of candy-apple locks, flitting about in a floor-length duster attempting undead chic. Reilly is a 200-year-old bloodsucker named Larten Crepsley, who, along with his trained fluorescent tarantula, stars in a traveling freak show that also includes Ken Watanabe as Mr. Tall, Jane Krakowski as a gal who can detach her limbs, and Salma Hayek as the requisite bearded lady. 

This geek parade gets crashed by preppy teen Darren, who's goaded by his bad boy friend into sneaking backstage and ends up becoming a "half vampire" with cool new vamp abilities, which he mainly uses to run Crepsley's errands. Darren finds his new macabre half-life pretty cool, even if the only datable babe around has a monkey tail. More bloodthirsty ghouls turn up, and things get even sillier. 

It's fun at first; Reilly's a hoot; so's Willem Dafoe in a goofy Vincent Price mustache. If the movie were a proper spoof, it'd work, but its scares and thrills produce giggles and groans. If only the lead actor, Chris Massoglia, weren't so dreadful: This kid couldn't act dead in a morgue. Vampire's Assistant cost a pretty penny too; director Paul Weitz had the keys to Hollywood handed to him after American Pie, but one more turd like this and they'll change the locks.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].