“Weird doesn’t begin to cover it,” says Rose (Zoey Deutch) minutes into director Mark Waters’s adaptation of Richelle Mead’s young-adult book series, “Vampire Academy.” She’s right; other adjectives would include contrived, ludicrous, cluttered, and derivative.
Like “City of Bones,” this attempt to capture the magic of the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” franchises tries too hard to pack all the back story and borrowings into one film. It doesn’t help that Waters and his screenwriter elder brother, Daniel, chop the narrative into a farrago with less cohesion than a 104-minute trailer.
Luckily, Rose serves as a near-omniscient guide to what’s going on. Not only does she provide wall-to-wall voice-over narration peppered with wisecracks, but she has also achieved a mind-meld with her best friend Lissa (Lucy Fry), future queen of the good vampires, or Moroi, so she can keep track of what Lissa is up to as well. The problem is that Rose’s appeal fades fast; she’s like someone at a party who thinks she’s hip and funny but is really annoying.
They have achieved this bond in part because Rose is Lissa’s Dhampir, her bodyguard against the evil vampires, the Strigoi. However, since the bullies at Xavier’s School, er, St. Vladimir’s Academy for Moroi and Dhampirs seemed worse than the threat of death, the two had been on the lam for a year until forcibly returned by hunky instructor Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky). During that period, to keep Lissa’s blood hunger satisfied (they have “blood donors” at the academy), Rose had offered her own neck for her BFF to suck on, and those scenes have the orgasmic sensuality of a PG-13 “Blue Is the Warmest Color.” So add “blood whore” to their tormentors’ store of insults.
But, as someone points out, there’s more than bullying to worry about, something to do with the school namesake long ago battling his dark side to achieve salvation, and so forth. The real issues, though, include such adolescent anxieties as peer pressure, crushes on teachers, homoerotic sexual attraction, self-destructiveness (there is a blatant cutting allusion), and, of course, shopping. Despite such attractions as Gabriel Byrne as a vampire with a skin disease and a décor that combines Hogwarts with “Suspiria,” the only lesson learned here is that Hollywood needs fresh blood.