Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

Cirque De Freak
Now that the HARRY POTTER franchise is coming to close (and some would say thankfully), the studios are no doubt looking for something to fill that substantial void. The Narnia stories aren't really doing it, and although they are classic books, they are from a completely different era with a limited appeal to the savvy kids of today.

Ironically, for a nation that has a reputation for not really liking or engaging with children, Britain produces the best children's books and literature, so there is a rich, untapped source for Hollywood to stake its claim on.

Two Irish writers in particular have created some fantastic series of fantasy stories aimed at contemporary teenagers; Eoin Colfer with his Artemis Fowl books and Darren Shan with his slightly darker, "autobiographical" vampire series of trilogies, the first of which have now been combined into a movie, CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT.

Cirque De Freak
Darren is a model straight-A student whose best friend happens to be a bit of a troublemaker. One day they decide to cut school, and a leaflet for Cirque du Freak lands at their feet. Intrigued, they attend the late-night freak show, where the two boys discover one of the acts is a real vampire.

Following a misadventure Darren promises to become the vampire's assistant in order to save his best friend's life. And so the adventure begins.

This is very much an origins story to set up what Universal hopes will be a successful franchise. Very much like the pilot episode of a TV series, it sets up the premise, introduces the characters and creates the environment for the sequels.

Given the quality of the TV shows coming out of the US at the moment I was wondering if there is any solid logic in trying to establish a cinema/DVD franchise of this nature.

The story isn't really self-contained as a movie should be, leaving itself open for the sequel that does rely on the film doing well at the box-office or on DVD.

For example, Philip Pullman's brilliant His Dark Materials trilogy doesn't look like it will be completed any time soon, although the reasons for that is another discussion completely.

Cirque De Freak
On the plus side, this film has a great cast including John C Reilly as the vampire Larten Crepsley, Michael Cerveris (The Observer from Fringe) as the rather nasty Mr Tiny, Ken Watanabe as the circus leader, Salma Hayek as a bearded lady and Willem Dafoe as another vampire.

The original screenplay was by Brian Helgeland (A KNIGHT'S TALE, LA CONFIDENTIAL, MAN ON FIRE) and was co-written and directed by Paul Weitz, who produced the aforementioned GOLDEN COMPASS, and is the brother of Chris Weitz, who has just directed the other big vampire movie coming out soon, NEW MOON from the Twilight Saga. With such a good pedigree it should do well, I'm just not sure who it is going to appeal to, especially as it has to compete with New Moon, although that has the female audience pretty much tied up.

VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT is definitely more of a boy's movie, as the two male leads don't have the same appeal as NEW MOON's. I'm just not sure how much it will appeal to teenage boys, who are probably more interested in seeing JENNIFER'S BODY than Salma Hayek's beard (or at least the one on her face).

The VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT has humour, action, a little romance and plenty of weirdness but probably only enough to appeal to a fairly small demographic (now I'm sounding like a studio suit).

Cirque De Freak Cover
I'd like to see it succeed as it feels like the sequels will have more meat to them, and a lot more action, but I still think it would work better as a TV series, especially given the popularity of True Blood and The Vampire Diaries.

CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT is on general release from Universal on October 23.

Visit the official website:

To celebrate the release of Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant in cinemas October 23, Sci-Fi London has teamed up with Universal Pictures to offer 5 lucky people the chance to win a copy of the Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant book and film soundtrack! Click on the link below to enter the competition, which closes on November 17, 2009.

A Universal Picture © 2009 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

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