Welcome to the second Vampire Month installment. This one nearly killed me, but I was resurrected at the last minute. I suppose that explains my recent thirst for blood and aversion to garlic. Anyway, without further ado: VAMPIRE ACADEMY Director: Mark Waters Writer: Daniel Waters, based on the novel by Richelle Mead Key Cast: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Sarah Hyland, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne In Short Rose, a vampire-human hybrid or Dhampir, has run away from Vampire Academy with her best friend Lissa, a Moroi vampire who is among several contenders in line for the throne. The two have a special psychological bond, and Rose has been trained as Lissa’s protector. After a year on the lam, they are found and sent back to the Academy, but not before being attacked by evil, emotionless Strogoi vampires. Neither girl wants to be back at the Academy because they both feel Lissa is in danger from some internal threat. Lissa has a number of powers, unlike other vampires that only have specific elemental abilities, and she is a target of much speculation and political maneuvering. Back at school, Lissa uses her mind-control abilities to enhance her popularity and figure out who is slandering her and putting her in danger. Rose trains with Dmitri, a highly skilled Dhampir protector. She starts to fall for him, but cannot let it get in the way of helping Lissa figure out who wants her dead. Both girls also struggle with rumors that Lissa was feeding off Rose, a huge no-no in the vampire community. After a mix of high school dramatics and internal vampire political struggles, the girls attend prom, hoping to have a little fun. Instead, Lissa gets kidnapped, and Rose has to track her down using their psychic connection. She goes to get Dmitri’s help, but falls unwitting victim to a love spell. It turns out that Victor, Lissa’s confident and an old family friend, has been trying to take her down so he can take over the throne. Rose stops him, but he turns his granddaughter into a Strogoi, and Rose has to fight a girl who was once her friend to save the day. With Dmitri’s help, she succeeds. She and Lissa are finally safe. As Cinema While we’ve seen a number of mediocre YA properties emerge in the wake of Twilight and The Hunger Games, I’m not sure any of these empty franchise-starters have been as useless as Vampire Academy. Most vampire films made for a female audience require at least one charming male lead — vampires are sexy bloodsuckers, after all. Unfortunately, the only dude charm we get is Gabriel Byrne acting as a poor man’s Ian McShane. On the upside, this endeavor did remind me that End of Days exists, and that Gabriel Byrne might be my favorite cinema Satan, so that’s a win. Anyway, the ladies don’t fare much better. Sarah Hyland is a charmer, but she’s reduced to being the loser third-lead who gets a feeble attempt at revenge in the end, and she deserves so much better. With the recent influx of 90s nostalgia, she should be given her own modern-day Shakespearean comedy adaptation. But Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry, playing best friends with a psychic connection, lack any semblance of chemistry, so their relationship, which is supposed to the crux of the film, lies dead in the water while the film attempts to trudge forward, spouting useless exposition and world building factoids clearly meant for a second installment. Mercifully, this film did not do well at the box office, so we are spared. There is justice in the world after all. The real tragedy of all this is that Mark Waters has proven himself in the teen arena. The director of Mean Girls and the Lindsay Lohan / Jamie Lee Curtis Freaky Friday, he typically has a knack for telling cool stories about interesting teen girls. I don’t know if he just needed a better script or more studio backing or the budget to hire a cast of actual humans instead of robots, but he clearly lost his mojo on this one. It looks cheap, and it plods along with little regard for emotions, character development or organic world building. Everyone speaks in exposition, and very little of it matters in the grand scheme of the highly predictable plot. I am not totally sure why any of the characters had to be vampires, and I don’t actually care to find out. The Horror The whole movie revolves around protecting a woman who, despite her immense power, relies on everyone else because she’s delicate and sensitive. Sure, one of her protectors is a woman, but Rose is routinely reminded how inexperienced she is. She does not save the day, but instead has to be helped by her male trainer. Rose gets bamboozled by a love charm, and Lissa, despite all her powers, cannot seem to escape a feeble old man out of some bizarre sense of family loyalty. Both girls spend their time obsessing over boys, and their enemy tries to defeat them by using his granddaughter as a pawn, taking advantage of her girl-on-girl jealousy. The girls receive the vampire-equivalent of slut-shaming for sharing blood, and the cranky headmistress babbles about being a model when she’s magicked unconscious. I am not sure they could fit more negative, sexist tropes in if they tried, especially with the rest of the dialogue being devoted to exposition to make up for the lack of budget in their world building. Vampires deserve better than this. High school movies deserve better than this. Chick flicks deserve better than this. Gabriel Byrne deserves better than this.