Cirque du Freak poster.Well, here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the first major vampire film made for kids. I should start by mentioning that I am not a fan of the books and have never read any of them, but as a fun vampire movie you could certainly do worse than this. I've heard a lot of griping and moaning about the fact that there's no blood in the movie, mostly from people who have forgotten that this is based on a book that you'll find in the young adult section of your local Border's, and not on something by Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker. It is missing many of the most important ingredients of a good vampire horror film, but it's got the right brand of comic relief throughout and a good-natured, classic creepiness that reminds me of "The Munsters." Add to that an outstanding cast, impressive special effects and a giant tarantula that they even mange to infuse with some personality, and you have the makings of a clever little movie.So here's the story a couple high school kids, Darren and Steve, come across a traveling freak show performing in their town. They make their way into the show and ultimately discover that the whole cast is all vampires. Josh Hutcherson and Chris Massoglia in Cirque du Freak.After a series of unfortunate events Darren is forced to abandon his mortal life and join the freak show as a vampire in order to save the life of his best friend Steve, who may turn out to be his immortal enemy. Along the way we meet an array of creepy characters and learn about the simmering makings of an epic, supernatural battle, but that's left for the sequel(s) to handle. The ending feels a little sudden and entails a little of the disappointment that you may have felt when the credits started rolling at the end of Kill Bill Vol. I, but I think the movie has enough charm to make you interested in the budding story-lines and to remain interested in the sequels that are sure to come.Chris Massoglia in Cirue du Freak.Not that the movie is totally without its shortcomings, of course. There are plenty of scenes that feel a little disjointed, there's a bonehead moral at the end of the story that's older than vampires, werewolves, the very hills themselves, and I often found myself unsure of what was going on, who was playing what role, etc, but that may have more to do with my diminutive attention span than the movie. Besides, I like that the movie makes itself available to a more squeamish audience without losing its entertainment value. And along the way it even manages to make clever comments on the whole vampire legend. My favorite was just after Darren was turned into a vampire by Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly). "So what happens now, do I turn into a bat and stuff?" "No," Crepsley replies, "That's bullsh*t."Chris Massoglia checks out his new lodgings.There were times during the movie where I wasn't really sure how I felt about Reilly in this role, but ultimately I think he pulled it off nicely, taking an interesting career turn and having fun with it. Salma Hayek is underused as the bearded lady, and her performance is overshadowed by a feeling that she kind of pops in and out at random, but Willem Defoe fits right into any vampire film, I think, ever since his astonishing performance in the brilliant classic remake Shadow of the Vampire in 2000. But most importantly, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Massoglia as Steve and Darren, the two teenage leads, both show promise that they have the talent needed to make a film series like this last. Massoglia, who I have decided to forgive for Journey to the Center of the Earth, even reminds me a lot of Jared Rushton as Tom Hanks' friend Billy in Big.Josh hutcherson, Willen Defoe and John C. Reilly in Cirque du Freak.The movie is certainly not going to end up in the annals of horror classics, to be sure, but I feel like it's getting more bad press than it deserves. It's not a great film, but it's a fun and interesting take on the vampire genre, and nicely sets up the sequels that are sure to follow. It feels like the start of a trilogy, which would be perfect, although I've heard there are a ridiculous number of books. But I think it would be in their best interest to make less movies than books, because so far the movie has made me interested in reading the books, whereas the intense details of the Harry Potter films has made it almost unnecessary to read the books anymore. That's unexpected. Oh, and the junior high school crowd is going to love it...The Bean MeterThe Man.[caption id="attachment_63093" align="aligncenter" width="573" caption="Vampireland!"]Vampireland![/caption]