The biggest problem with Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009) is writ large right there in its wordy-ass title. On the one hand you have the story of a super-normal high-school student who impulsive steals an exotic spider from a travelling Freak Show performer, and is subsequently forced to perform “community service” for the circus as punishment… slowly coming to befriend the “freaks”, and eventually falling for a feisty “Monkey Girl” named ‘Rebecca’. On the other hand you have the story of two teenage chums who are destined to become rival champions in a long-brewing battle between two opposing factions of vampires… half of whom believe in draining humans completely (like worthless “blood bags”), while the other half favour subtlety, seduction and restraint. Now, either of these stories would be enough for a feature-length movie in itself, but combining them just makes for a deeply unsatisfying, cluttered and shallow mess, that wastes way too much time setting the table for a sequel that may never come!
Given a choice, I would have favoured the circus storyline… partly because the whole “vampire war” thing is so played out by now, but mostly because they cast so many fun actresses in freaky roles: First up was Salma Hayek as ‘Madame Truska’, an occasionally bearded fortune-teller, whose hirsute appearance leads to a fascinating dilemma for the male libido. “She’s still smokin’ hot, but now she has a full beard and moustache! How do I respond to this???” Personally, I’m not sure I could date a woman with better facial-hair than me… but I’m open to persuasion. Next up was Jane Krakowski as ‘Corma Limbs’, a woman who could regenerate replacement limbs at will (and even offered her hands out as snacks to guests!)… then there was Kristen Schaal as ‘Gertha Teeth’, a woman who could bite through solid wood with her oversized gnashers… and finally Jessica Carlson as the aforementioned Monkey Girl, who appeared perfectly normal except for the furry tail she kept hidden beneath her skirt.* Oh, and Colleen Camp also appeared as the hero’s mother, ‘Mrs. Shan’… but all of these talented ladies were poorly served and side-lined by a script that gave too much precious screentime to the boring human boys at the centre of the vampire blah. Meh. Schaal almost got a funny moment during a circus-based montage, but it was over in the blink of an eye… and what’s the point of even hiring Krakowski if you aren’t going to let her spontaneously burst into song at random moments? Dammit!!!
Note: Photo of “Gertha Teeth” © Phil Holland 1999-2013 (www.artbyphil.com)
* I was glad to hear she chose to conceal her appendage to stop it getting stepped on, rather than out of shame… because we all know women with tails are sexy, right? No? Just me, then…