I just want to state up front I am not familiar with the Cirque du Freak novels (all 20 plus of them) so when I went into this film it was my first exposure to the story.
The movie really starts when a mysterious limousine drives through a small town and a flyer flies out the passenger window into the hands of two teenagers. The flyer is an ad for a freak show for one night only appearing in the town and all the mysticism you can desire.
The flyer looks like a stencil for a 60’s tye-dye T-shirt and the whole scenario reminded me some of the Roger Corman movie The Seven Faces of Dr Lao (Click HERE for my review). It also reminded me alot of that underrated 80s horror flick Waxwork starring Gremlin’s alum Zach Galligan, which for some reason is a guilty pleasure for me.
The two teens attend the show and are captivated by the mysterious man, Mr Crepsley (John C Reilly) and his rather colorful spider. Then for some reason one of the kids, Darren Shan (also the name of the book’s author), steals the spider. I am still confused to why he did that because it brings the man (a vampire) after him.
Darren also ends up interfering in an age-old war between vampires and vampanese. Bascially both are bloodsuckers (one sect sucks humans dry, one doesn’t). Darren is lucky because Mr Crepsley is one of the ones who don’t.
Oh, what is also strange about “the ones who don’t” is that they do drink human blood just more humanely. (Give me a break!) They drug the human, then they use a sharp fingernail to puncture their victim and then drink. Then a couple hours later the human wakes up and thinks they had a great nap. (It is very silly!)
Oh and vamps can run really, really fast and I guess age somewhat because Crepsley was 20 years old when he was turned and Reilly is no 20 yr old.
Since Darren got involved in the vampire war he has to fake his own death to save his family from the vampires. So to save his family Darren agrees to become a vampire. (well, one in training anyway)
Crepsley lives with the Freak Show so the movie follows Darren’s training, the freaks lives, the beginning of the war and a plot twist.
Cirque du Freak for me was a disappointment. It really felt like I was watching Lemony Snicket mixed with Dr Lao mixed some bad teen superhero movie. Like Lemony Snicket, they crammed way too many ideas into such a short time frame that you kinda got, what? Oh, no! huh? why? You can’t be friggin’ serious. I scratched my head through this whole movie.
They needed to pick one story and do the best damn origin story ever! You have way, way, way too many types of characters, themes and situations in this flick. Holy freakish folklore overload, Batman!
They also needed to pick a better title for the movie. Yes the books are called Cirque Du Freak but why not just call the movie Freak Show or Teen-Vamp or simply The Vampire’s Assistant.
Then there was the very controversial casting of John C Reilly. Yes I know the man has done some serious films before like Boogie Nights and Chicago but all people remember him as is the dumber half of the Will Ferrell-John C Reilly comedy duo. He was Dewey Cox for crying out loud! This isn’t the role that will change our view of him in that light. I would have went with some one a lot more credible especially if he is supposed to be this kid’s mentor.
I liked the movie’s atmosphere, the humor and characters within the Freak Show itself. I got bored really quickly with the main kid and hated it when his story had to be told and mysteries of the Freak Show had to be locked away. I liked Ken Watanabe as the world’s tallest man, Orlando Jones as the man with no stomach and well those psychotic little Jawas.
The movie is so all over the place so it is hard to understand it, let alone describe if I liked it. There was just too much to digest and the execution was amateur at best which is a shame since its directed by Paul Weitz, who directed smart movies like American Pie, About a Boy and American Dreamz. Guess he was trying to take a crack at vampires much like his brother, Chris Weitz, is doing with the Twilight sequel, New Moon.
2.5 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer