Do we really need another vampire movie? Well, this one is based on a popular tweener series of a dozen books by British writer Darren Shan. Director and co-writer Paul Weitz claims he loves the series, and Weitz's credits — he and his brother Chris Weitz gave us American Pie and About a Boy — got my attention. But the mess onscreen does no one any favors. The Cirque du Freak itself has flavor with sexy Salma Hayek as the bearded lady, 30 Rock's Jane Krakowski as a limb regenerator and especially stage actor supreme Michael Cerveris (Tommy, Sweeney Todd), swathed in foam rubber as the fatso villain, Mr. Tiny. Newcomer Chris Massoglia plays Darren, the blind teen who gets involved with the freaks (it's not that I can't tell you how, I just don't want to). But Darren does get bitten by redheaded vampire Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly, giving the film the few laughs it has). Actually, Darren is only halfbitten. Hell, I'm not explaining that, either. All you need to know is that the movie is a setup for sequels that I hope never come. Jammed with story threads that don't cohere, Cirque commits the cardinal sin for a vampire movie: It's bloodless.
From The Archives Issue 136: June 7, 1973