Vampire Academy came out in February this year, and even though the film was directed by Mark Waters (who also directed Mean Girls), I hoped the fact that vampires were involved meant that it’d be a little thrilling. After recently watching the film with friends, though, I sadly can’t say that it was scary in the slightest. The moment the opening song started with “Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well…” I knew this wasn’t going to be a horror movie. By the time it ended, I was pleasantly surprised. While the story did follow typical high school problems (with vampires and romance of course), the two main characters were generally treated with respect. These leading ladies could fend for themselves and weren’t afraid to do it. Though the story wasn’t my cup of tea, I can appreciate what the movie did right: how they handled having two female protagonists.
Spoilers, and a trigger warning for animal cruelty after the jump!
The story, based off the young adult series of the same name, follows seventeen year old Rose Hathaway. She’s half human/half vampire (otherwise called/known as a Dhampir), and training to be a guardian for her friend, Lissa Dragomir, who is part of the royal Moroi (or pure vampire) bloodline. We briefly see Rose and Lissa have run away from school for their safety, only to be brought back to continue their education and training at St. Vladimir’s Academy.
Besides being uncomfortable with rumors of their relationship together (feeder/food), they start to get trouble from an unknown source—there’s bloody writing on their bedroom walls, dead animals being hung around campus, and more. Lissa gets fed up with being blamed for these events and starts to investigate her peers at school. Rose spends her time training with another Dhampir guardian, Demitri Belikov, and learning how to kill when the time comes.
The situation becomes more serious as Lissa’s cat, Oscar, is killed and left for her to find. Lissa heals Oscar with a power called “Spirit”, a rare ability that allows a vampire to heal anything or bring anyone back to life. Shortly after, someone causes Rose to trip and break her leg. Lissa heals Rose and the two continue to investigate. At the school’s Equinox Dance, we find out that three schoolmates had been harassing Lissa and were responsible for the bloody writing. That night someone kidnaps Lissa, and Rose leaves with a group of friends to save her. We find out that Victor Dashkov, another member of the royal bloodline, had been watching Lissa and testing her Spirit powers by killing animals and hurting Rose. He tortures Lissa until she agrees to use her power to make him healthy and younger so he can become the next in line for the throne. Rose and Lissa find each other and fight Victor, then they lock him in a cell underneath the school until he can stand trial. The movie ends with Lissa making a speech to everyone at the school against bullying, and Rose giving up on her crush with her mentor.
Our more active protagonist, Rose Hathaway, is the main character from the novels. Throughout the movie, she’s never reluctant to fight anyone that seems to be a threat, and even trains harder when she knows her friends’ lives is on the line. There are no moments when she’s working out that she’s sexualized or objectified, even when she’s flirting with her mentor. There are a few moments when she’s sexually harassed by boys during class, but she is quick to respond (generally violently). Violence isn’t the best way to handle harassment, but I’m glad the movie acknowledges this as a problem, rather than as a joke.
Lissa Dragomir was temporarily a damsel in distress in the film. Once she decided to use her powers to change (or rather hypnotize) people’s thoughts of her and Rose, she used that advantage to try to find the people harassing her by forcing people to tell the truth. Again, not really the best approach to solving a mystery, but she’s actively trying to do something rather than letting other people continue to harass her. By the end of the movie, she doesn’t wait for Rose and the others to save her; she was using her hypnotic powers once again to escape her kidnapper. Any time she could do something to change her circumstances, she did without hesitation.
One of the great things about the movie is the relationship between Rose and Lissa. Lissa saved Rose from dying in a car crash in the past, which gave Rose the ability to psychically share random moments or dreams that Lissa has. This ability is known as being Shadow Kissed, where not only does Lissa share her thoughts/physical views at the moment, they share their life force or energy. Despite there being little to no privacy between the two, they stay good friends throughout the movie. There’s never any mention of them being more than friends, and luckily there’s no queer shaming either, even when the visuals hint at some pleasure when being bitten. Both of them do things they regret to each other, from reprimanding crushes to abusing powers, but they both forgive each other rather quickly. They still care about each others’ well being and happiness, even if they have to hurt themselves.
When Lissa heals Rose from breaking her leg, she goes through a lot of pain in order to use her Spirit healing. In a previous scene, Lissa heals a bird, and her skin starts to split open. It takes a serious toll on her body and sanity to use these powers, but she doesn’t think about that, she’s just focused on helping her friend. Rose is always willing to feed Lissa if the need should arise. From the beginning to the end of the film, she’s never complained or hesitated to share her blood with her friend.
I was ready to hate this movie. It’s the most insufferable mix of Twilight and Harry Potter that I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it was downright painful, with lines like “…they acted like I stuck a porcupine in a hot tub!” Despite all this, I’m glad that these ladies were given some consideration. It shows that even in a high school setting with petty arguments, romance and drama, you can still have a female cast that has personality beyond eye candy.