Australian Council on Children and the Media

Cirque du Freak: The Vampires Assistant

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Not suitable under 8, Not recommended 8-12, PG to 14 (Violence, Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Cirque du Freak: The Vampires Assistant
  • a review of Cirque du Freak: The Vampires Assistant completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 March 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children 8-12 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children 13-14 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Cirque du Freak: The Vampires Assistant
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy violence
Length 104 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Sixteen year old Darren Shan (Chris Massogloia) is talked into attending the travelling freak show Cirque du Freak by his best friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson). While attending the freak show, Steve realises that one of the performing freaks, a man called Larten Crepsley (John C Reilly), is a vampire.

Crepsley has a giant poisonous performing spider called Madame Octa and following the show, Darren, who has a passion for spiders, decides to go backstage and “borrow” Madame Octa. While Darren is in the process of taking the spider, he overhears Steve ask Crepsley to turn him (Steve) into a vampire and Crepsley refuse.

Darren manages to abscond with the spider which he takes to school the next day. Unfortunately it manages to escape from Darren’s locker and bites Steve who ends up in hospital in a coma. In an attempt to make amends for his misdeeds, Darren goes back to Cirque du Freak seeking an antidote from Crepsley. In return for the antidote, Darren must agree to becoming Crepsley’s assistant, which involves Darren being turned into a half vampire. Following Daren’s transformation, Crepsley administers the antidote to Steve, who promptly recovers. However, when Steve learns that Darren has been turned into a half vampire he becomes enraged with jealousy and vows revenge.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Freak shows; vampires; jealousy and revenge

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

While the violence presented in this film is at times quite brutal, much of it is depicted in comic book format with little or no blood and gore. The majority of the action violence is confined to three major fight scenes. Examples include: 

  • During a performance of Cirque du Freak, we see a wolf-man attack a woman in the audience and rip off her arm which he then drops on the stage floor. The woman stands and announces that she is fine, as she displays the bloody stump of her severed arm to the audience we see her regenerate a new arm with flesh, muscles, veins etc reform a new arm within seconds. The woman then picks up her old severed arm and kisses it before carrying it off stage. 
  • A large spider crawls underneath Steve’s t-shirt and then onto Steve’s face. The spider bites Steve on the side of the face and he collapses with two fang marks on his face. Later Steve is shown in a hospital bed in a coma, with his face swollen and discoloured.
  • In order to give Steve an antidote to the spider bite, Crepsley sticks his long filthy looking fingernail into a vein into Steve’s arm, producing a small drop of blood. Crepsley drinks liquid from a small vial and then lowers his mouth to Steve’s arm, forcing the antidote from his mouth and into the wound.
  • To turn Darren into a vampire, Crepsley makes cuts in his fingertips and tells Darren that it will hurt when it reaches his heart. Darren collapses in pain. Darren is told to lick his fingers and when he does so the cuts immediately heal up.   .
  • During a brutal fight between Crepsley and a Vampanese (half Vampire) at a cemetery we see the Vampanese smashing a rock over Crepsley’s head and the pair punching and kicking each other with extreme force. Finger tips are used as stabbing weapons, heads smashed against walls, shovels smashed over heads and teeth used to bite. Crepsley uses a head stone as a Frisbee to knock the Vampanese down. Crepsley tricks the Vampanese into standing in front of a speeding truck. When the truck driver checks to see if the man he just ran over is alive, the Vampanese attacks the truck driver biting him on the neck. . 
  • Steve, having become a Vampanese, uses his finger tips as knives to slash a teacher across the face and later brags about how he killed his teacher.
  • During a fight between the Vampanese and the Cirque du Freak people, a man has his head smashed into a mirror and another man is smashed in the face with an iron bar. The Wolfman attacks a Vampanese and bites him on the arm. A group of Vampanese wielding clubs and knifes attack the Wolfman knocking him to the ground.         
  • Towards the end of the film there is a brutal fight between the leader of the Vampanese and Crepsley. The two men throw a dagger back and forth with each trying to kill the other, but each is able to use their powers to grab the dagger from the air and then hurl it back towards the other. The dagger cuts their hands, but after each grab they lick the wounds and they heal (no blood is depicted). As the fight progresses we hear the sounds of bones breaking and see a finger bitten off. Crepsley is thrown from a balcony and when he lands we see a dagger embedded in his chest and another in his leg. A Vampanese pulls the dagger from Crepsley’s chest and hands it to Steve encouraging Steve to use it to kill Crepsley, but before Steve can deliver the death blow his is attacked by Darren who knocks Steve to the ground. Crepsley stands and pulls the dagger from his leg; Crepsley’s face is covered with blood.
  • At the end of the film we see Darren and Steve fighting each other using supernatural speed and strength. We see the pair punching each other in the face, head butting each other and slamming each other into a wall. The fight is stopped before the pair can inflict any visible damage to each other.  
  • Throughout the film we hear frequent violence-related dialogue, particularly about Vampires drinking blood. At one point Darren says that he is very close to killing his own little sister and drinking her blood.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The film contains numerous images of bizarre, scary-looking, creatures and people which are capable of scaring and or disturbing younger children. Examples include a large multi-coloured poisonous spider that gets under people’s clothing and crawls across their faces, a group of short vicious goblin-like creatures with grotesque faces and mouths full of long razor-sharp teeth, a wolfman and a bare-chested man who is missing the skin, flesh and intestines from his abdomen. We see his exposed spinal column with what appears to be his vital organs tightly wrapped around his spinal column.
  • A woman’s arm is torn off by the Wolfman and regenerates with bloodied flesh, bones, veins and skin forming within seconds.
  • A number of goblin-like creatures eat chunks of bloody flesh from a large trough.
  • The body of a Vampanese shrinks and transforms into a small shrivelled goblin-like creature.
  • A small goblin–like creature reaches into his chest cavity and pulls out a small black, beating heart which he shows to Darren. The creature then places his heart back into his chest cavity.
  • Darren and a teenage girl are instructed to clean out the Wolfman’s cage, the floor of which is covered in faeces and other filth.
  • Darren’s younger sister, his parents and a teenage girl are tied up, gagged and suspended above a stage. Darren is told that in order to save his sister and family he must kill the teenage girl.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also very likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

Cirque de Freak contains occasional mild sexual innuendoes and references. Examples include:

  • Crepsley finds pornographic magazines in Darren’s bedroom and asks why he doesn’t get it off the internet.
  • A teenage girl asks Darren to take off his pants, Darren looks a little bewildered but the girl explains that he has a tear in his pants that needs mending.
  • Darren talks to Crepsley about liking a girl that has a tail, while Crepsley says that he likes his female partner’s beard.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • women wearing low cut tops that reveal cleavage
  • A woman feeds a man cake icing from her finger tip. She breaks off her finger, places it her mouth and offers the other end to a man. They eat the finger and kiss passionately when they meet in the middle.
  • During a performance of Cirque de Freak a female performer wearing a low cut and tight fitting dress drags Darren onto the stage. She acts in a sensual manner towards Darren who gently caresses her face, then abruptly pulls away and slaps Darren across the face. She then instantaneously grows a beard. A similar scene occurs between when Crepsley touches the woman’s face followed up by Crepsley passionately kissing the woman on the lips.  

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A couple of scenes with people drinking wine from glasses with no intoxicated behaviour. A man suggests having “one for the road” and sculls the wine in his glass.
  • On a couple of occasions, Steve makes reference to his mother being drunk all the time; Steve appears resentful of this fact.

Coarse language

The film contains some coarse language, put downs and name calling. Examples include:

  • Disgusting weird freaks; God damn; he just scratched his balls; Murderous scum; Idiot kid; you’re in deep shit; arse wipes; What a dick; filthy little pig; my head up your arse; arsehole thing to do.   

In a nutshell

Cirque du Freak: The Vampires Assistant, based upon a series of books, is a supernatural vampire thriller suited to an older adolescent audience and containing numerous scenes and images capable of disturbing younger children.   

The main message from this movie is that “It’s not what you are that matters; it’s who you are”. It doesn’t matter whether you are seen as a freak or otherwise; what matters is how you behave and how you treat others.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Self sacrifice and courage: Darren sacrifices his own life in order to save the life of his best friend. He also refuses to let go of his humanity by drinking the blood of humans.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Crepsley infers that not killing humans when they drink their blood makes vampires better than the Vampanese who kill their victims. Parents may wish to discuss whether what he does a lesser form of assault because his victims are unaware of what he is doing to them

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