In the spirit of its subject matter, Vampire Academy desperately wants to be a hot mess. Meshing genres, blurring the lines of good taste and injecting a steady stream of bitchiness, it wants to be a zany, ultra modern commentary on both vampire and high school culture, but it has absolutely nothing new or valuable to say about either of those topics. So, it’s just a mess, probably because it lacks even the slightest hint of self-awareness.
Think about anything a film could do wrong. Seriously, anything. Just pick one element. A heavy-handed speech on morality that comes out of nowhere and is delivered by a character that’s not particularly moral? A screenplay filled with CW-like pop culture references that are tired and pointless? A main character who’s accidentally and aggressively unlikeable? Yeah, let’s analyze that last one.
Her name is Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), and she is, without question, one of the most insufferable characters we’ll see on film this year. She hates everything. She complains about everything. She reflects on every situation with obvious and unfunny zingers. She’s a half-human, half-vampire student tasked with protecting classmate and best friend Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). She spends the duration of the movie proving how good she is at that job, but against all odds, she’s even better at torpedoing any momentum Vampire Academy has every time she opens her mouth. So, of course, director Mark Waters asks her to open her trap all the time.
She’s used constantly, at the expense of every single other character, all of whom we don’t get to know very well. Sometime Rose is a narrator. Sometimes she just dominates the plot and the on-screen conversation. She’s a crutch. She’s a mouthpiece to explain, in really overt and melodramatic language, exactly what’s going on. Want to know about the intricate caste and bloodline systems within Vampire Academy that are actually quite interesting? Rose will rob them of their depth with her explanation. Want to know how to feel about a character? Rose will tell you why they suck so much and then offer a few self-surviving, painfully unaware comments about hating high school drama. Death, taxes and dumb Rose Hathaway comments.
If it sounds like I’ve unfairly ganged up on poor Zoey Deutch, you’re right. I have. It’s actually not her fault. She’s a talented young actress who will go on to make far better movies than this. She’s not the reason Rose Hathaway sucks so much. A screenplay that’s painfully unaware of how high schoolers (or human beings) actually behave is partly responsible. A director who seems to have no connection to the material whatsoever is partly responsible. An idiotic tone choice that’s more than exaggeration but less than caricature is partly responsible. A movie this bad is the product of thousands of bad choices.
Vampire Academy has no understanding of its characters. It’s not relatable, genuinely funny or socially progressive. It lacks common sense, momentum and heart. But it has no idea. It fires off jokes like it’s in the middle of a terrible late night monologue. It preaches about high school behavior as if its principal characters don’t embody those same negative qualities. It’s a complete waste of time, talent and energy that’s blissfully unaware of how bad it is.
Director Mark Waters gave us Mean Girls. Screenwriter Daniel Waters gave us Heathers. Years after their initial releases, both of those films are still remembered very fondly. A year from now, Vampire Academy, however, will be completely forgotten. For the sake of everyone involved who is capable of so much more, that’s a good thing.