Photo Credit: Universal
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is about two best friends growing apart, once you dig through the layers of Gothic macabre. Darren’s parents are preparing him for a cookie-cutter life—their mantra is “college, job, family.” Steve’s a troublemaker with a drunk mom and an absentee father. The friendship between the two teenagers is already strained when they sneak out of the house—and ride their bikes without helmets!—to attend a freak show.
Going to the show sets in place a chain of events that requires them to take sides in an age-old vampire war over how the undead should feed: Should they kill their victims and drink all of their blood, or should they merely sip and let the humans live? Darren falls on the side of the more humane “vampires”; Steve becomes a partisan of the “vampanese,” who gorge and kill. (This dichotomy grows more complicated when you throw in the confusing “half-vampire,” which Darren becomes when he moves into the freak show’s campground.)
There’s a nice emphasis here on looking beyond a person’s appearance and letting your own freak flag fly—Salma Hayek remains sexy even while sporting a full beard. But the message gets lost amid the supernatural battles. Still, while it will frighten younger children, Cirque du Freak will make for a fine middle-school group outing. If you have to go to chaperone, thank your lucky stars for John C. Reilly, who is pitch-perfect as a vampire who becomes a surrogate father to Darren.
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