Review by Rudy Salvagnini
After that of Twilight, a new vampire saga arrives on the screens to rework and contaminate – with other genres – a centuries-old myth. Also in this case the origin is in a series of successful books, written by Darren Shan – who is also the name of the protagonist of the story – and also in this case the key characters are teenagers looking for their own role in the world. .
Darren is a model boy, but he is sometimes misled by his best friend Steve, who is rather reckless. Together with him, despite the reprimands of his teacher, Darren goes to a mysterious Freak Show just arrived in town. The fact is that Steve is very interested in vampires and Darren in spiders, so a Freak Show – Cirque du Freak – is a must for them. The show is strange: the first to appear is a werewolf who tears off a forearm of a spectator who turns out to be one of the show’s freaks, capable of regenerating the lost limb. The main attraction is Larten performing with Madame Octa, a poisonous spider. Steve is sure that Larten is a vampire. When the police arrive, Steve and Darren flee. The latter takes refuge in the closet of Larten’s dressing room and sees him arguing with a certain Gavner: he learns that there is a bloody fight going on between factions of vampires. The villain is a certain Tiny: Gavner would like Larten to collaborate in the fight against him, but Larten wants to continue doing his show in peace. From his hiding place, Darren sees Steve asking Larten to become a vampire, being rejected because his blood tastes evil. Darren escapes, but momentarily ends up in the clutches of Tiny, who has a mysterious interest in him. Larten’s spider – stolen by Darren – stings Steve. To save him, Darren agrees to become Larten’s helper, a vampire helper: Darren’s adventure in the world of darkness has only just begun.
More than on the sentimental, like the saga of Twilight, this focuses on comedy, on the fairytale side of horror, even though it still ends up in a sort of coming-of-age tale, with two boys on the point of deciding what to do with their lives: one would like to become a vampire and leave everything, because in the end you don’t has nothing; the other has it all, but he doesn’t know what he really wants. The future of respectability that lies ahead for the top of the class Darren is – in the simple triad presented to him with enthusiasm by his father: university, work, family – chilling, but also the nothing that presents itself in front of the reprobate Steve – absent father, drunk mother, education deficient – lacks any appeal. The change therefore takes on the appearance of the supernatural, which intervenes from above to change the course of events and make it interesting.
The fantasy-horror side lacks a little already seen in the atmospheres and situations: between freaks, good vampires, bad vampires and cruel puppeteers of the destinies of others, the story flows without deepening, barely finding time for a quick sentimental interlude between Darren and the ape woman played with ease by Jessica Carlson.
Director Paul Weitz tries to keep a captivating and cheery tone, but when the action begins to take over, he finds himself a little uncomfortable governing it. After all, his background is mainly made up of comedies, starting with American Pie and passing through the sympathetic About a Boy. More in line than that of screenwriter Brian Helgeland who, before moving on to films like Mystic Riverhe was trained in horror, with scripts for Nightmare 4 – The non-awakening, 976 – Call for the devil And Highway to Hellnot to mention the direction of the leaden The sect of the damned. But here, the script is deranged, piling up facts and situations with a certain disorder, introducing characters upon characters who remain without depth even when entrusted to named performers (such as Salma Hayek’s bearded woman and Willem Dafoe’s dapper vampire). Other characters, on the other hand, have sufficient stage presence, even if always in a caricatural and external way: above all, Tiny, classic suave mellifluous, greasy and lethal, played with taste by Michael Cerveris.
Between acrobatic jumps and sganassones, the final confrontation tries to obtain through the special effects – which are good – the pathos that has not been developed with the story. And, as often happens in mileage sagas, the feeling that something is being held back for future developments makes the conclusion a little too interlocutory.
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On MYmovies the complete Dictionary of the films of Laura, Luisa and Morando Morandini
1st adaptation, written by the director with Brian Helgeland, of the long book series Saga by Darren Shan. To save his best friend’s life, teenager Darren is forced to become the assistant (and half-vampire) of a vampire who carries his “Cirque du Freak” around. It is a horror in an explicitly farcical key that has as its underlying theme the acceptance of diversity in every form in which it presents itself or transforms itself. Weitz is inspired, figuratively and soundly, by Tim Burton’s cinema without paying too much attention to the narrative logic that here and there becomes so illogical that it becomes hard to understand. But the macabre of this circus is always protected by the guardian angel of the joke. Universal distributes.