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Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009) Print E-mail
Monday, 22 February 2010
Image"The Vampire's Assistant" or "Cirque Du Freak" of some combination thereof, really not quite clear, is yet another fantasy film about magical beings and myths.  While, the premise of the film shows promise, sadly we will probably never know what is supposed to unfold.  Or maybe it is all for the best.

"The Vampire's Assistant" is a prequel, and a very lame one at that.  It provides a fundamental background to characters that are to play an importance in something yet unknown, most likely a war between two species.  All this background information is meaningless without knowing what the future connection is.  Many times in filmmaking, it is annoying when a prequel comes out after the main event has already been released.  However, in the case of this film, it should have been released after the main event and not before.  That is assuming that the studio will actually continue the saga after the bombing of this one.

Throughout the film the audience is lightly feathered with information about the destiny of two childhood friends that have know been turned into vampires, or something like them.  One is pure and one is evil, go figure.

Darren (Chris Massoglia) is a high school student that is fascinated by spiders and to some degree the freakish nature of some individuals.  His best friend is Steve (Josh Hutcherson), one that is clearly possessed by the dark side, longing to live his life and become a vampire.  When Octa, a gigantic, poisonous spider bits Steve, Darren returns to the freak show to pled with Crespley (John C. Reilly), a vampire, for the antidote.  Crespley strikes a bargain with Darren.  He will turn Darren into a half vampire for running errands for him and he will save his friend.

Darren accepts this deal, not realizing that is going to mean leaving his family forever.  The rest of the film deals with Darren walking around the freak camp and an evil guide trying to steal him away.  Meanwhile, Steve is seduced by the dark side and Darren's immortal enemy is born.  All comes down to the final five minutes of the film, that is so anticlimactic that you will wonder why you sat through two hours of this film.

On the plus side, if the studio were to make a follow-up to this prequel-type film, it could be quite good.  John C. Reilly is unique in this film.  The kid actors need some work, but all in all, the destiny of Darren and Steve could result in a film worth watching.  Sadly, this film is not.  Maybe, just maybe after seeing the main event unfold you could come back to this film.  However, there is no point in watching it now, because it leaves you feeling empty.  Without the main film, those interested can read the novels upon which this film is based to find out what happens next.
"The Vampire's Assistant" comes to Blu-ray with an AVC encode at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  It is seemingly faithful to the original production design.  The film has a vibrant look that matches those of fantasy comic books.  The greens and purples leap from the screen.  Meanwhile, the black levels are deep but constantly crushed.  Shadow delineation is absent for virtually the entirety of the film.  However, the shadow issue fits with the genre of film and is likely not the fault of the transfer.  Edge enhancement is present but hardly an issue.  Other artifacting is not to be found on this transfer.  Night sequences are thankfully not imbued with grain.  Fleshtones remains accurate and details in the foreground are sharp.  Background objects and details are swallowed up by the lack of delineation.  Nevertheless, this is a good transfer that represents the original source material accurately.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  As with the video, this audio is also nicely represented on this Blu-ray, though I do take issues with a couple things.  First, the dialogue, while well prioritized, is a bit on the muddy side of the frequency range, causes several characters' lines to the lose intelligibility.  Some is this is likely due to the diction of the a couple of the actors.  Still, it is distracting when you feel you must rewind in order to make out what the character just said.  That aside, the rear channels receive much to do in this film and the directionality and panning remains fluid throughout.  The LFE channel is stronger than I would have expected and is well received.  Dynamics can briefly explode, but other wise remains in the a neutral range.  I mainly take issue with the film's original sound design.  It is quite uneven.  Some sequences received more treatment than others creating an imbalance.  For example, one scene may be simple but bustling with subtleties and then the film cuts to the next sequence in which it seems like no post-treatment was given.  The latter scene falls flat.  Still, this is a nice audio track with plenty to keep you immersed.

The Blu-ray comes with a decent supplemental package that is tailored toward those that enjoyed the film.  Of course, why would you watch the bonus materials if you didn't?  Heck, why would you have even gotten this disc if you didn't?  The disc is focused around a picture-in-picture commentary through Universal's U-Control section.  While the commentary doesn't run through the entirety of the film it does contain interviews with cast and crew as well as director Weitz.  Next up is a collection of 30 minutes of deleted scenes.  Those hoping that the deleted scenes will make this into an actual complete movie will have to look elsewhere.  "Guide to Becoming a Vampire" contains three production featurettes that could be interesting to fans.  "Tour Du Freak" offers more interviews and set tours.  Lastly, the film is also BD-Live enabled and functions as a pocketBLU disc.

"Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is an incomplete film that tries to capitalize on the fantasy novel adaptation craze.  Ultimately, movie number one bombs.  The video and audio transfer however are enjoyable.  If you are a serious fantasy, vampire movie fan then give it a rent, otherwise skip it.

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