Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: John C. Reilly, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia, Jessica Carlson, Salma Hayek
Director: Paul Weitz
Series: Cirque du Freak Movie #1
Release Date: 23 October 2009
Length: 109 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“Things get freaky fast for 16-year-old Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) when his friend (Josh Hutcherson) takes him to a circus that’s chockfull of sideshow oddities. There, he meets vampire Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) and receives a life-changing bite on the neck. As the newest member of the mysterious Cirque du Freak troupe, Darren keeps company with Madame Truska (Salma Hayek) and sparks a war between the vampires and their rivals.” — Netflix.com
I found this movie surprisingly enjoyable. I was not expecting this movie to be anything special or even very memorable so I was delighted to be proved wrong. This movie is based on the first 3 books in the popular Cirque du Freak series and I am excited to see what the movie sequels will look like. Two boys unexpectedly encounter a real vampire and Darren (Chris Massoglia) will ultimately become the vampire’s assistant in order to save his best friend’s life. His best friend, Steve (Josh Hutcherson) believes that Darren stole his dream and actively pursues becoming a vampire himself. It takes some time for Darren to realize that the Vampires and Vampenese are on the verge of war. The Vampires believe in just taking a little bit of blood, enough to survive, and leaving their prey alive. The Vampenese hunt, eat and kill.
I thought that acting was very good in this movie. Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) is a typical teenage boy who slowly comes to understand that life is not as easy or as clear cut as he previously believed. He comes to realize that, in saving his friend’s life, he has hurt his family and the rest of the people in his life because they now believe that he is dead. He also must learn that, although the people he lives with look different on the outside, they are normal people too. His friend, Steve, played by Josh Hutcherson, is a bit more of a flat character. He comes from a poor background and Darren is his only friend, but he also hates Darren as Darren has everything that he has ever wanted. You don’t quite hate him, but you definitely realize that he has made some poor decisions that he will probably regret later on. John C. Reilly steals the show as the flamboyant and unpredictable vampire Larten Crepsley. You never know quite what to expect from him and I loved seeing a very atypical vampire in a movie. All of the freaks in the circus were also very interesting and well cast. I think that everyone did a fine job in their roles and hopefully will choose to reprise them in the upcoming movies.
The one big downfall of this movie for me was some of the cinematography and filming choices. There were some fairly intense battle sequences between the vampires, but the screen was so dark that I could not see anything that was happening. I could tell fighting was still going on as there are grunts and groans, but you cannot identify the characters or see what they are doing. Perhaps it was easier to see things in the theatre, but my home was not dark enough to be able to distinguish anything.
If you are looking for an intense, slightly dark and scary movie for your teen boys, this is a great choice. There are lessons to be learned and repercussions to every choice that is made in this movie. A sleeper hit for me.
This movies contains vampires so there is blood drinking, fighting, coffins, killing people and other creepy vampire-related activities. People die and some are brought back to life in other forms. There are poisonous spiders, bearded ladies, weird little robed guys with sharp teeth, monkey tails, lizard skin and and other crazy (and sometimes a little grotesque) people in the circus. There is also a bit of strong language at times. Recommended for viewers ages 13 and up.