Friday, October 23, 2009

Movie Review: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

This was a fun movie! Went to the first show of the day at my local Regal Cinema. The complex had a lot of people for two reasons. One, the Hawaii International Film Festival was heading into it's last weekend. Two, the State of Hawaii due to budget issues had the public schools out on furlough Friday as well as many state departments. The theater was pretty packed for the first show of the day at noon time.

The movie starts and we see some interesting animations that were eye catching. In particular we see two figures that are treated like puppets that go through a number of events and situations encountering weird items. Once the live action starts we are introduced to two best friends. The good boy Darren (Chris Massoglia)and Steve (Josh Hutcherson)the bad boy. They find a flier inviting them to the Cirque du Freak that has been around for 500 years. In the conversations we learn that Darren has a thing for spiders and Steve has a massive interest in vampires.

At the show we are introduced to Mr Tall (Ken Watanabe) who heads up the Cirque and a number of other freaks like Alexander Ribs (Orlando Jones) who has a waist no bigger than a softball, Madame Truska (Salma Hayek) who not only grows a beard but goes into trances to foretell the future, Evra the Snake Boy (Patrick Fugit) who while looking like and plays with snakes would rather be playing rock music and Lartan Crepsley (John C Reilly) who controls a rare spider thru flute music.

During the show Steve recognizes Crepley as a vampire and afterward begs to become a vampire but is turned down by Crepley saying Steve has bad blood. Steve is very upset at this. Due to an accident, Darren begs Crepley to save the life of his best friend Steve. Crepley agrees but only after Darren agrees to become part vampire to serve Crepley. Being part vampire allows Darren so be out during daylight. Steve later learns that Darren has become part vampire and is furious with him. He felt it should have been him while at the same time not knowing that Steve's deal saved his life.

We learn through Cepley about the Cirque, its inhabitants, and about factions within the world of vampires. He sets up the framework of what vampires can do (ie flit around very fast) and can't (ie turn into bats). Crepley and a few others including Gavner Purl (Willem Dafoe) have figured out how to survive in a non threatening way to the general population while many other vampires live in the old threatening ways. There has been a truce between the two sides. Mr Tiny (Michael Cerveris) wants to see the two sides battle and devises a plan that pits the two sides of the vampire world which now includes having the two best friends go against each other.

The look of the freaks is impressive with their different powers/abilities/mutations. The plot was inventive and the special effects were wonderful. I was particularly impressed with John C Riley. Most of the time he plays a character that gets on my nerves very quickly. As Crepley he plays it smooth as a person who has been around the block a few centuries and really doesn't want to get caught up in other people's affairs. There was comedy, but he didn't come across as a buffoon. The part was wonderfully understated and the comedy was not over the top.

The run time of 108 minutes passed very quickly. It's rated PG-13 due to thematic issues and violence, death and dismemberment include in there.

The ending leaves it open for sequels and I will be looking forward to them as the saga continues. The movie is based on the first three books of a 12 book series. This should give them time to expand on some of the detail of the other freaks and explain why Mr Tiny wants the two sides to battle each other. Hopefully they keep the remaining movies as good as this one.