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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Review of the film, Vampire Academy

Review of the film, Vampire Academy

Quite literally, the film is set in an academy for vampires, though the theme, obviously, is not restricted to academics. There is a lot of blood, some gore, plenty of blood-drinking and very human like intrigue within the Moroi (peaceful, mortal vampires) and the Strigoi (immortal, evil vampires). The last thing you expect in a horror film is talk-talk-talk, yet there is plenty of it here. Sadly, even after so much verbosity, little is conveyed effectively. If this screen version is true to the published text, either the subject does not lend itself to filming, or the makers f the film have not done justice to the book.

Based on author Richelle Mead’s worldwide bestselling series, Vampire Academy tells the story from the point of view of Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and her Princess friend Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), two 17-year-old girls who attend a hidden boarding school for Moroi and Dhampirs (half-vampire, half-human guardians), called St. Vladamir’s Academy. Lissa first escapes from the Academy, with Rose, but when she is captured and brought back, she struggles to reclaim her status. Meanwhile, Rose trains with her mentor and love-interest, Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky), to guarantee her place as Lissa’s guardian.

Zoey Deutch, now aged 19, comes from a family of actors and musicians, her parents being actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch. Her first leading role was in the independent movie, Mayor Cupcake, where she played real-life mom Lea Thompson's daughter. Here, there is little that showcases her acting abilities, beyond some wisecracking and stunts. A very British Lucy Fry has a strong theatrical background, including four years of physical theatre training and ten years of speech and drama. One can at best speculate that this is talent gone waste. Born in Moscow and trained at the St. Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy, Danila Kozlovsky is one of Russia’s leading actors, on both stage and screen. He won Best Actor for his role in We Are from the Future, in 2008, and other film roles followed: The Target, Sissy, Crime and Weather and Soulless --the highest grossing Russian picture in 2012. Cast as a Russian here, he fills the bill, getting to do a lot of action and one almost steamy sexy scene as well, with Zoey. Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, whose face reminds us of Indian-American actor Tom Alter, struggles with a poorly written part. There is a surprising and even funny twist involving him, with guns blazing, but that comes too late to give him any meat.

Vampire Academy is shot in Charterhouse School, just about an hour’s drive southwest of London. The juxtaposition of the early 19th century architecture of the school with modern technology and modern teenagers is well exploited by director Mark Waters (The House of Yes, Over Heels, Warning: parental Advisory, Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, Just Like Heaven, Mr. Popper’s Penguins). Based on a curious and potentially attractive premise about in-fighting within categories of vampires, the film has only a few moments of excitement and is a let-down. Even the blood-drinking is done so dispassionately that it fails to strike any terror. Writer Daniel Waters (Mark is his brother) is also the executive producer here, but if one goes to see this film expecting anything like Daniel’s earlier efforts (Batman Returns, Demolition Man, Heathers), the disappointment will only get aggravated.

Rating: *1/2

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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