Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

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Cirque du Freak:
The Vampire's Assistant
Vampires assistant.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Weitz
Screenplay by
Based on Vampire Blood
by Darren Shan
Produced by
Cinematography J. Michael Muro
Edited by Leslie Jones
Music by Stephen Trask
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • October 23, 2009 (2009-10-23)
Running time
109 minutes [1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million [2]
Box office$39.2 million [2]

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant is a 2009 American fantasy film loosely based on the Vampire Blood trilogy of the book series The Saga of Darren Shan by author Darren Shan. The first three books in the 12-part series — Cirque du Freak , The Vampire’s Assistant, and Tunnels of Blood — inspired the film. The film received mixed reviews and was a commercial failure.



In an unnamed American town, teenagers Darren Shan and Steve Leonard, Darren's more rebellious best friend and classmate, sneak out at night to attend the Cirque du Freak freak show at a local theater. During the performance, Steve recognizes one of the troupe's members, Larten Crepsley, as a vampire who is over a hundred years old, prompting him to try to find Crepsley after the show. Meanwhile, Darren, fascinated by Crepsley's spider, Madam Octa, goes backstage, and impulsively steals her, but is forced to hide when Crepsley returns to his green room. Steve arrives, begging to be made into a vampire, but Crepsley refuses after tasting Steve's blood, which he says "tastes of evil." When Crepsley realizes that Madam Octa was stolen, Darren flees from the theater with Crepsley in pursuit. He escapes when the mysterious Mr. Tiny arrives in his limousine, accompanied by Murlough. The latter is unimpressed with Darren, dismissing him as a "bag of blood", but Tiny promises to stay in touch after dropping Darren off at his home.

The following day, Darren secretly brings Madam Octa to school, where she escapes. After a struggle in a crowded hallway, Madam Octa bites Steve on the cheek, leaving him to succumb to her deadly venom in the hospital. Darren returns to the theater and begs Crepsley for help. Initially annoyed and contemptuous, Crepsley agrees on the condition that Darren becomes a half-vampire—and Crepsley's personal assistant. Darren agrees, only to flee while Crepsley administers the antidote to Steve. However, after nearly attacking his own sister out of vampiric bloodlust, Darren decides to leave with Crepsley, who uses magic to stage Darren's death of a fall from a roof.

After being buried in a cemetery, Crepsley digs up the grave to free Darren, but Murlough ambushes them. Crepsley fights him off and the two go to the Cirque du Freak campgrounds, where Darren meets Evra Von, the snake boy, and Rebecca, the monkey girl. Meanwhile, Steve, contemplating suicide after losing his best friend, is stopped by Tiny, who offers him a chance to become a Vampaneze, a race of vampires who—unlike Crepsley and others—murder their victims to feed on their blood. Steve agrees, proceeding to kill high school history teacher Mr. Kersey with Murlough's help. Trying to instigate a confrontation between Steve and Darren, Tiny kidnaps Rebecca and Darren's family, leaving a flyer for the Cirque du Freak at Darren's former home.

At the theater, Crepsley and Murlough fight while Darren fights with Steve but Darren's refusal to feed weakens him. Rebecca frees herself using her monkey tail and offers Darren a taste of her blood. After some hesitation, he accepts. Crepsley stabs Murlough, and with his dying words, Murlough declares that the truce between the two vampire clans has been broken. Tiny (who had been watching from the balcony via opera glasses) eventually separates Steve and Darren. Darren asks Steve to stay with him, but Steve refuses, saying, "I have my destiny and you have yours." Steve then leaves with Tiny, who plans to groom him as a Vampaneze leader.

Crepsley returns Darren's family to their home, hypnotizing them so they'll forget what they've been through. Rebecca and Darren share a heartfelt kiss before returning to the campgrounds, where Crepsley gives Darren a coffin to sleep in, and Darren accepts his new life as a member of the Cirque du Freak.



Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant was fimed between February 19-June 1, 2008 in New Orleans, Folsom, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Some of the characters required extensive prosthetics and makeup, which was led by Steve Koch, Brian Sipe, and Mark Garbarino. Prosthetics did not quite add the height needed on certain shots for the character of Mr. Tall, played by Academy Award-nominated Ken Watanabe. [4] Although Watanabe is six feet tall, a body double was cast for some scenes to accentuate the abnormal height of the character Mr. Tall. Trevon Flores, a local basketball player who stands 6'10" tall and weighs 210 pounds, was used cast as the body double. Watanabe also utilized dialogue coaches Kathleen S. Dunn and Francie Brown in pre-production and production to further enhance his performance as the circus barker. Computer-generated imagery was also used to portray other fantasy elements.

John Marshall High School in Los Angeles was used to film some parts of the movie. Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans was also used to shoot scenes from the film. A portion was filmed on a set constructed within New Orleans City Park, approximately 1,000 feet off the side of the road, along Harrison Avenue.

Principal photography began on February 8, 2008 in New Orleans and concluded on June 3, 2008. [5] The film was distributed by Universal Studios. In one of the manga additions of the saga, the director says that the character of Gavner Purl was a hint of the sequel he wanted to make.


The score to The Vampire's Assistant was composed by Stephen Trask, marking his third feature-film with director Paul Weitz. The score was recorded with an 86-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox. [6] The movie also features the songs "Something Is Not Right with Me" by Cold War Kids, "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis, and "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave. The trailer features the songs Asleep From Day by The Chemical Brothers, Bliss by Syntax, and Superhero by Immediate Music.


The film was originally set for release on January 15, 2010, but was moved to an earlier release date of October 23, 2009. [7]

Critical reception

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes assigns the film a rating of 38% based on 139 critics with an average rating of 4.87/10. The site's critical consensus reads "This overstuffed, scattershot vampire flick suffers from poor characterization and an unwieldy mix of scares and chuckles." [8] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 43 out of 100, based on 25 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". [9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale. [10]

Box office

The film opened in 2,754 theaters in the United States and made over $14 million, reaching #7 in the charts. In other countries, it made more than $25 million, giving it a worldwide box office total of more than $39 million. On DVD, sales in the United States made more than $5.5 million. [11] The film's chart placings worldwide include reaching #1 in Ukraine, #2 in Hungary, #2 in Russia, #2 in the United Arab Emirates, #3 in Mexico, #3 in Portugal, #4 in Egypt, #4 in Venezuela, #5 in Belgium, #5 in Peru, #5 in Singapore, #5 in the United Kingdom, #6 in Lebanon, #6 in the Philippines, #7 in Bulgaria, #7 in Japan, #8 in Chile, #8 in Colombia, #8 in the Netherlands, #9 in Austria, #9 in Romania, #11 in Germany, #11 in Malaysia, #11 in New Zealand. [12]

Home media

The film debuted on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in Canada, the United Kingdom and United States at the end of February 2010. [13] [14] [ failed verification ] In Canada, by the end of its first week on sale and available to rent, it was #1 on the Rogers DVD bestselling chart, #2 on the Blockbuster Canada bestselling chart, and #6 on the rental charts of both. In the United States it was #2 on the Rentrak bestseller chart, and #6 on the Blockbuster, Home Media and IMDb rental charts. In the United Kingdom it reached #5 on the MyMovies bestsellers chart, and #6 on the Yahoo chart. [15]

Cancelled sequels

In a Reddit AMA in March 2015, Darren Shan stated that three sequels to Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant had been abandoned by Universal prior to the film's failure, as well as expressing interest in a potential future reboot of the series. [16]

See also

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Darren O'Shaughnessy, is an Irish writer and novelist. He is best known for his young adult fiction series The Saga of Darren Shan, The Demonata, and Zom-B, published under the pseudonym Darren Shan. The former was adapted into a manga series from 2006 to 2009 as well as a live-action film in 2009, with a prequel series, The Saga of Larten Crepsley, being released from 2010 to 2012.

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<i>The Saga of Darren Shan</i> Series of books by Darren Shan

The Saga of Darren Shan is a young adult 12-part book series written by Darren O'Shaughnessy about the struggle of Darren Shan, a boy who has become involved in the world of vampires. As of October 2008, the book has been published in 33 countries around the world, in 30 different languages. A film based on the first three books in the series was released in theatres on 23 October 2009. Blackstone Audio has also released CD recordings of all 12 books in the series, read by Ralph Lïster.

<i>Tunnels of Blood</i> Novel by Darren Shan

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<i>Cirque du Freak</i> 2000 novel by Darren Shan

Cirque du Freak is the first of twelve novels in The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan, published in January 2000.

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Vampire Blood is the first trilogy in The Saga of Darren Shan by the author Darren Shan. It contains the books Cirque du Freak, The Vampire's Assistant and Tunnels of Blood. These starting books explore how Darren must adapt to his new life, and what that entails. The first book contains the reasons why he became a half-vampire and what he had to give up in order to save his ex-best friend, as well as introducing the character. The second and third go into more detail about how he has to change and what he will never be able to do. The main theme for the whole of the trilogy is insecurity. Darren has just been changed into something hardly anyone would accept, and this, combined with the fact that he is just a child, leads into a darker and more unusual way to grow up.

Vampire Rites is the second trilogy in The Saga of Darren Shan by author Darren Shan. It contains the books Vampire Mountain, Trials of Death and The Vampire Prince. This trilogy involves more of the various vampire characters, and their beliefs and customs. This trilogy's main theme is religion, compared to the previous one, it brings a whole new take on the vampire way of life and shows the kinder, better side of the vampires involved. These books show a more relaxed character of Darren Shan towards the more gruesome aspects of vampire life.

Vampire War is the third trilogy in The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan. It contains the novels Hunters of the Dusk, Allies of the Night and Killers of the Dawn. This trilogy continues the war between vampires and vampaneze. Mr Tiny forms a group of three "hunters" - Darren Shan, Mr Crepsley and new character Vancha March, a Vampire Prince who lives in the wild and follows the old vampire traditions, and has unusually pink skin from staying out in the sun too long. Also, Lady Evanna, who may or may not be a witch, comes along with them. She tells Darren that either he or the Vampaneze Lord will be the Lord of Shadows. But instead of that being on his mind: he only will have four opportunities to kill the Vampaneze Lord, or else the vampires will be destroyed. But there is a gruesome twist involving the Vampaneze Lord and Darren's childhood friend, Steve "Leopard" Leonard, who is the dreaded Vampaneze Lord himself.

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<i>Cirque du Freak</i> (manga)

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