As the title of this blog says, I am giving you a Cirque Du Freak review. So, considering I loved the Darren Shan book series, this is going to be…interesting. Be warned, here there be spoiler monsters (for the books and the movie).
First, a little background: Cirque Du Freak was the title of the first book in the epic Darren Shan series for young adults. This series went on for twelve books, with lots of twists, turns and violence. It is the second book in this series that the subtitle of the film is taken from, The Vampire’s Assistant. As much as I hate to admit it, from an advertising standpoint that name makes sense. It draws the audience into the film, lets them know what it’ll be about (i.e, the assistant of a vampire) but also creates enough intrigue to make them curious about it (like how he came to be in that situation in the first place). If they just used Cirque Du Freak on its own, people may start thinking ‘oh, it’s one of those French arty films. Not for me, thanks.’
So anyway, on with the review. I feel I should dedicate a section to some of the alterations made to the film from the original plot. First up, in the books there was a lack of Monkey Girl (and she shall be referred to as such from now on). Monkey Girl (she has a tail, hence Monkey Girl) was introduced as a love interest for Darren, as for some reason they had got rid of Debbie, the black love interest from the books. I suppose in a way it makes sense having a Cirque member as a love interest due to the film’s underlining theme that “It’s not about what you are, it’s about who you are”. Seriously. They actually used that line in the film.
Some of the freaks do look a bit…well…different than you’d expect. For example, the wolfman looks like a wolf, but has the face of a monkey. Which is really bizarre, because I’m guessing that wasn’t intentional. Cormac Limbs is now a woman, called Corma Limbs. Not really sure why they’ve done this, but all I know is she likes breaking off her own fingers (what, is brittle bones and skin part of her freak skill?) and eating them with someone else. As for the little people, they look like Yoda rejects. I half expected Harkat to ask for Darren’s hand to eat with the phrase “Mine! Mine or I help you not!”.
Another of the alterations that they made was blooding Steve way too early. Yes, like the earlier decision it does have a certain degree of sense, in that they need a villain to run from and some cool fight scenes, but it means they’ve completely destroyed any plans they may have had to do a film with mystery based on books 7-9, which were all about discovering that Steve Leonard was the Vampaneze Lord, which this film has now completely derailed. I wonder if they’ll do three films instead of four?
The last blatant one I’m going to cover is the fact that in the books, Darren was never able to flit and had to get around by good old-fashioned walking or relying on Mr. Crepsley to do the flitting for him (to be fair, in Darren’s early training stages he still relies on Crepsley).
Something which I have come to admire is the way they have put the first three books together, while providing a flowing and coherent narrative. Yes, they dropped the Sam Grest plot thread of the second book, but as the film has shown, the story goes on regardless until a new threat appears in the form of pursuing vampaneze, leading up to a tense climax and two or three fight scenes. They haven’t made each book into a little episode and crammed them together like the Lemony Snicket movie did, they’ve taken the plot of all three and formed them into something singular and cohesive.
Sometimes the character’s motives are a bit dubious (although this was true in the books as well), like Steve’s fantastic reaction to being told that the taste of his blood means that he is evil, summed up in the line “You said I have bad blood. I’m not evil. I’ll kill you. I’LL KILL YOU ALL!!!”* Or Darren, who gives up his happy (more or less) life to save someone who isn’t even grateful. You think he’d be annoyed. And that’s something that bugs me. In the end, Steve got what he wanted. While not a vampire, he is damn close. The only thing that separates them is their moral code and their tastes. So why is he still pissed at Darren?
All round, if you take it on its own merits rather than judge it by the books, it is a good film to watch. It is certainly not as bad as some films I’ve seen. It is funny in places (like the Little Person, Harkat using puppy dog eyes on somebody he plans to bite), dark, some good visual effects (the frozen flit trail is a pretty sight to behold), with a pleasantly cheesy message behind it. Good fun. I recommend checking it out while you can.
*Dramatisation: May not have happened (thank you, The Simpsons).