Rose Hathaway is a dhampir, half-vampire and half-human, who is training to be a guardian at St Vladimir's Academy along with many others like her. There are good and bad vampires in their world: Moroi, who co-exist peacefully among the humans and only take blood from donors, and also possess the ability to control one of the four elements - water, earth, fire or air; and Strigoi, blood-sucking, evil vampires who drink to kill. Rose and other dhampir guardians are trained to protect Moroi and kill Strigoi throughout their education.
Even Gabriel Byrne, who plays aging and dying vampire Victor Dashkov, at one point looks annoyed at the ridiculously dumb high-school drama that is 'Vampire Academy.' Based on the first book in the popular paranormal romance series by Richelle Mead, Byrne's character reveals his irritation when witnessing best friends Rose Hathaway and Lissa Dragomir push, shove and yell over who will stand in front of whom. This is supposed to be a turning point in the plot, but rather than build excitement and feeling for the predicament of the two girls, the filmmakers generate rolling-eyes and frustration. You feel for Byrne's pain and couldn't care less about the girls.
I'm sure in book form — which I admit I have never read — Rose and Lissa's story about a school dedicated to the education and protection of vampire younglings plays out more convincingly and probably better. But when adapted for film by Daniel Waters — shockingly, the same mind that imagined 'Heathers' and co-wrote 'Demolition Man' and 'Batman Returns' — their very well-to-do teenage hardships are a mind-numbing torture of the soul. Or better yet, it sucks the life out of its audience similar to the way blood donors volunteer to feed these hormonally-raging vamps. Lie down on a stretcher with arms out and have your blood slurped for one year, after which your memory is wiped clean of the experience. Then again, that somehow seems more appealing.
Weirdly, the whole blood donor aspect of the school is one of the very rare moments of cleverness, because the joke is on the volunteers being fans of the modern, pop-romanticized vampire. Unfortunately, director Mark Waters — stunningly, the same mind that gave us 'Mean Girls,' 'Freaky Friday' and produced '(500) Days of Summer' — somehow has managed to create something that is decidedly worse and more offensive to the imagination than Edward & Bella's will-they-won't-they melodrama. Since the nonsensically preposterous story is set inside a school that keeps vamp kids out of sight, the movie is essentially a Hogwarts for the literal children of the night with a twinge of Guillermo del Toro's 'Blade II' and several cringe-inducing pop references.
For those unfamiliar with the novel series, the plot is a senselessly complex collection of gibberish that blends a variety of mythos as if it were original or a clever, edgier twist to contemporary fandom. Lissa (a very stiff Lucy Fry) is a Moroi, a gentler and kinder mortal bloodsucker from a royal bloodline. Meanwhile, Rose (an incredibly annoying Zoey Deutch) is supposed to be a dhampir, except she's not in the true folklore sense of the word, meaning half-breed. Instead, she is Lissa's "BFF" and martial-artist, military-style guardian protecting her from the Strigoi — again, not true to myth since these are the undead which feed on the undead. Then, there are some rather confusing social hierarchies that make Lissa's feelings for Christian (Dominic Sherwood) a forbidden no-no. At the same time, we have the swooning romance of Rose and Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky), which is downright gross, not because of anything in the story but because he's like ten years her senior and she's still in high school.
Supposedly, the real focal point of the plot is in uncovering the mystery of who is tormenting and trying to kill Lissa. Is it the popular girl with a chip on her shoulder? Is it the Bond-girl headmistress (Olga Kurylenko)? Or is it . . . Hey, that's the spoiled brat from 'Modern Family' wearing glasses, Sarah Hyland. Well, it doesn't take long to figure out the culprit and have our initial suspicions not surprisingly confirmed. But what can one expect from an absurd, PG-13 rated feature attempting to capitalize on a trend where a ginger Ronald Weasley-lookalike scares vampires and kisses the girl. And seriously! The movie hilariously finishes with an ear-bleeding, electro cover of Bauhaus's goth classic "Bela Lugosi's Dead." At least, the filmmakers accomplish something that comes remotely close to horror and comedy. Too bad they waited until the end credits — the final stake to the heart.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay and The Weinstein Company bring 'Vampire Academy' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Housed inside the standard blue case, the disc commences with a series of skippable trailers before switching to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
'Vampire Academy' opens its pedagogical doors to Blu-ray with an excellent, highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Shot entirely with the use of HD cameras, the digital-to-digital transfer shows sharp, fine lines in nearly every scene, from every strand of hair and stitch in the clothing to each blade of glass and leaf on surrounding trees. Individual bricks on the stone building used for the school can be counted, and the tiniest blemish on the wood furniture and interior design is plain and distinct. The 2.40:1 image displays a generally outstanding balance between contrast and brightness although there are a few moments which appear a tad dull with very slightly murky shadows. The ugly teal-orange color palette allows for plenty of vividly rendered primaries, making this horrible vampire story into a fine-looking flick.
Utterly shocking is this surprisingly enjoyable DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, which brings the school's overall GPA score higher than it deserves. It's all mostly thanks to a rocking selection of popular music that starts banging right from the opening, creating a wide and spacious soundstage. Very well-balanced with excellent channel separation, the front action keeps viewers engaged with convincing off-screen effects and discrete movement. The mid-range is quite extensive with sharp detailing, giving the music and design a lively, exciting presence. All the while, dialogue remains clear and crisp in the center. The biggest surprise comes by way of a powerful low-end that digs decently deep with weighty force, providing the music and action with appreciable depth. (Check out the graph here to see just how low the bass goes. Thanks goes to maxmercy and nube of data-bass.com.)
Just when we thought the contemporary vampire couldn't be any cornier, whineyor dull, Mark Waters and Daniel Waters drive the proverbial stake through the heart of this currently popular tween genre. Frankly, 'Vampire Academy' is horribly boring, needlessly complex, and littered with characters we don't care about. The Blu-ray, on the other hand arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that puts the script to shame. Supplements are very light, but there's no complaining there, making this for fans only.