Teenager Darren Shan is an excellent student and the pride and joy of his perfect middle-class family; his best friend is the reckless Steve. When they receive a flyer with an advertisement for a freak show, they sneak to the theater to see the attractions. The ringmaster is a vampire called Larten Crapsey, that has a lethal spider. After the show, Steve tells Darren to go home. However he returns and overhears Steve unsuccessfully trying to convince Larten to transform him into a vampire. Darren steals Larten’s spider which bites Steve later and he seeks out Larten asking for an antidote for his friend. Larten proposes a deal to Darren.
I found this movie pretty much by accident when flicking through the Netflix catalogue. I thought what the heck and started to watch it. My hopes were really not that high. Actually I am not sure I had any hopes at all since I just stumbled on the movie and started to watch it on a whim. What I found was a rather okay and fun movie actually.
The movie is apparently based on popular book series Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan. Unfortunately, in their usual arrogant manner, the Hollywood moguls decided to rip the books appart and mash together book one and two in this movie. It appears the general consensus is, not surprisingly, that the books are better than the movie. Nevertheless, the movie was good enough that I most probably will have a go at reading at least one of the books in the series.
The movie itself then? Actually I liked it more than I expected. It took a little while before it got started but once it got going it was a good teenage magical fantasy adventure. I am actually a bit saddened that it appears there was never any sequels using the other books in the series.
The name Cirque du Freak is well chosen. This is not the usual bunch of people with magical abilities or fangs or some of the other attributes you usually see in magic or supernatural movies. The members of the Cirque are freaks in every sense of the word. I do not think I have seen such a bunch of weird and bisarre creatures before. Heck, the vampire that takes Darrel as his assistant is probably the most normal of the bunch.
The story is quite okay and the acting acceptable. The vampire, Creepsly, felt a bit underwhelming at first but he grew on me. So did Mr. Tiny who I definitely didn’t like at first but found doing quite a good job of playing the evil mastermind towards the end. His sleaziness was downright creepy.
I am sure a lot of the story and character development from the books were left out because there is so much more that could have been done with the story. Darrel befriending the snake man, the brewing romance, Darrels relation with Creapsley and all the other interactions and characters that took place. If the producer had wanted to do a good job he could easily have added another 40 minutes to the movie. A shame he did not.
Bottom line, watching this movie was a pleasant experience. It is perhaps not a blockbuster but a nice little adventure, magic, supernatural and fantasy gem.