You need to watch the best satirical fantasy thriller on Netflix before it leaves next week
“Are you not entertained?!”
Driving a stake into the heart is no easy feat. From Van Helsing to Buffy, slaying the undead takes skill, practice, and an uncanny ability to sense when a bloodthirsty creature lurks nearby. But few vampire movies and TV shows explore both people on either side of the dagger while conjuring new mythology that pushes the supernatural into more fantasy territory.
One epic story that does all that is Richelle Mead’s bestselling Vampire Academy books. First released in 2007, the young adult series is part class thriller, part teen melodrama, and part supernatural fantasy — and successfully fuses all of those genres together in a heartstopping six-book collection that eventually inspired another (equally heartrending) six-book spinoff.
Ask any Vampire Academy fan, and they will tell you why Mead’s series is a formative part of the teen vampire genre, alongside the wildly popular Twilight. However, the same can’t be said for the movie adaptation of the first book, which flew under the radar when it was released in 2014. Starring the effortlessly charming Zoey Deutch, Vampire Academy (the movie) only offers a taste of what makes Mead’s novels so good, but there’s just enough to warrant giving it chance before it leaves Netflix on June 6, 2022.
Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) will do anything for her best friend, Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). Rose will ill-advisedly run away from their boarding school with Lissa, take down anyone who could potentially harm her friend, and even let her bestie drink her blood so that she doesn’t starve.
But when their school tracks them down, Rose and Lissa must return and face the consequences, which come in the form of cruel high school gossip, shady academic administrators, and a persistent but unknown threat. It’s like Twilight meets Harry Potter with a good dose of Gossip Girl. Sounds fun? Sure! Sounds complicated? Well, yes...
The movie wastes no time explaining the world of Vampire Academy, where there are three types of creatures:
- The Moroi are an elite class of vampires who can wield air, fire, earth, or water magic. They need to drink human blood to survive. Despite having magic, they are not indestructible.
- The Strigoi are evil, soulless vampires who like to hunt down Moroi, dhampirs, and humans. They can only be killed by stabbing their heart with a silver stake.
- Dhampirs are half-human and half-Moroi hybrids, tasked to protect the Moroi from Strigoi. Their Moroi blood gives dhampirs super-human strength, making them ideal bodyguards.
Rose is a dhampir, and Lissa is a royal Moroi. After almost dying together in a car accident, the two form a spiritual bond, where Rose gets pulled into Lissa’s mind unintentionally when her friend is feeling extra emotional. The two teens soon realize that this new aspect of their bond is somehow linked to the threatening messages Lissa has been receiving since they returned to the academy.
What’s more, Lissa’s magic is becoming unwieldy. She can heal animals and uses compulsion to get others to do what she wants. Her increasing magic use takes a toll on her and Rose, who as her guardian is trying to find any way to protect her.
It eventually reaches a boiling point (at the school dance, of course) that leads to some surprising revelations (involving a pre-The Crown Claire Foy). With an action-packed ending, the movie’s small twist hints at how this story could expand and move forward.
However, this iteration of Vampire Academy never did move forward. A poor box office performance and even poorer reviews took a stake to what could have been a new vampire franchise. It doesn’t help that the movie includes a romance between 17-year-old Rose and her 24-year-old mentor Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky). One of the few poorly aged aspects of the book, the adaptation could have benefited from changing their ages and the dynamics of that inappropriate relationship.
While the movie is far from perfect, Deutch’s performance and Sarah Hyland’s supporting turn as classmate Natalie bring a lot of energy and camp to what could have been a dull teen drama. Best known for directing Mean Girls, Mark Waters prioritizes sharp-tongued teen comedy over everything. It’s Rose’s sardonic attitude that makes her so well-loved by book fans, and the movie thrives on that.
One final reason to watch Vampire Academy before it makes its indefinite exit from Netflix is that its reboot comes out later in 2022. Vampire Diaries creator Julie Plec is creating a new TV series based on Mead’s novels. The show, which will stream on Peacock, features a whole new cast, and while details are sparse, we imagine its 10-episode first season will take the best parts of the 2014 movie and do more with them.
Vampire Academy is streaming on Netflix until June 6, 2022.