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The Vampire's Assistant: The Cirque Du Freak Saga Begins (12A) *

PUBLISHED: 19:00 22 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:07 05 October 2010

(L to R) Crepsley (JOHN C. REILLY) makes a curious proposal to Darren (CHRIS MASSOGLIA) in ?Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire?s Assistant?.  In the fantasy-adventure, one teen will vanish from the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares.

(L to R) Crepsley (JOHN C. REILLY) makes a curious proposal to Darren (CHRIS MASSOGLIA) in ?Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire?s Assistant?. In the fantasy-adventure, one teen will vanish from the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares.

Copyright: © 2009 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

A teacher friend of mine told me she was so disturbed by the Darren Shan series of novels, on which The Vampire s Assistant is based, she squirreled it out of the school library and away from tween eyes. After having sat through this utterly shambolic b

A teacher friend of mine told me she was so disturbed by the Darren Shan series of novels, on which The Vampire's Assistant is based, she squirreled it out of the school library and away from 'tween' eyes.

After having sat through this utterly shambolic big screen adaptation, I wish I could do the same with the movie prints.

The Vampire's Assistant is an amateurish yawn-fest from start to finish. Dull, disjointed, interminably long, with a plot that shows all the imaginative flair and cohesion of a short story scrawled in red ink at the back of an angsty 13-year-old's physics book.

A top-grade pretty boy teenager, Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia), and his bad-boy best buddy Steve (Josh Hutcherson) break a curfew one evening to attend a travelling freak show.

Once there, they are initiated into the mysterious world of Larten Crepsley (John C Reilly), a vampire who invites Darren to join the ranks of the undead and become his assistant.

The pair find themselves caught up in a struggle between two warring factions of vampires, the sadistic Vampanese (who eye up Steve), and the more benevolent lot led by Crepsley.

Frankly, director Paul Weitz pays so little attention to the plot it barely deserves a mention. Characters come and go, including Willem Dafoe and Salma Hayek, with no explanation. It appears to have been hacked to bits in the editing suite, so lacking is it in the basic tenets of storytelling - pace, cohesion, tone. For a major release, it is astonishing.

Throw in a sprinkle of poor acting, cliched dialogue ("It's not who you are, it's what you are") and incredibly ropy special effects, and you have the first one star movie of the year.

Whilst The Vampire's Assistant has earned a 12A certificate for scenes of "intense supernatural violence" its superficial darkness lacks the portentous foreboding of the latter Harry Potter films, for example.

In fact, some scenes are just plain nasty, and jar with the Nickleodeon-lite fantasty adventure tone of much of the film.

We swap the cartoon world of the Cirque Du Freak for a scene in which the corrupted Steve and the leader of the Vampanese murder his seemingly reasonable teacher in his home.

The travelling circus - with its bearded lady, ultra-tall guy, and bloke with a big deformed head, also made me uncomfortable.

Yes, it is a long time since I was a teenage boy, but is giggling away at 'freaks' what passes for entertainment these days?

Darren Chan has apparently written 12 of these bloody books. My bet is this car crash of a film will ensure it is the last one adapted for the big screen.

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