Home > Reviews > THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT – Stephen Trask


October 23, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Another film cashing in on the currently de rigeur vampire craze, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is directed by Paul Weitz and stars Chris Massoglia as a young boy named Darren, who meets a mysterious man named Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) at a travelling freak show, who is revealed to be a vampire. After his best friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson) is bitten by Crepsley’s poisonous spider, Darren makes a deal with Crepsley: if he saves his friend’s life, he will leave his hometown and join the Cirque du Freak as an apprentice vampire.

The music for The Vampire’s Assistant is by young American composer Stephen Trask, whose prior experience includes working on films such as Dreamgirls, In Good Company and The Station Agent, but who has never tackled a score of this size and scope before. While certainly impressive in terms of the orchestral forces in play, Trask’s score suffers from a distinct lack of a unique personality. Each cue seems to have developed independently of all the others, and as a result there is very little cohesion in terms of the overall score structure beyond the nature of the instrumental palette itself.

Part of Trask’s brief seems to have been to reflect modern urban teenage life as well apart from the supernatural elements, which has resulted in cues such as “College! Job! Family!”, which have a sprightly rhythmic content and a clear Thomas Newman/American Beauty vibe. There are also several cues which feature prominent guitar performances, notably “You Can’t Just Leave”, once again alluding to the rock music sensibilities of the lead characters. Having said that, several cues do contain some quite impressive material. The opening “The Vampire’s Assistant” has an urgent tempo, a gothic atmosphere, and some powerful brass writing reminiscent of Elliot Goldenthal’s Interview With the Vampire.

The action music in cues such as in “Octa Escapes”, “Graveyard” and “The Vampaneze Attack” are lively and full of kinetic energy, often making use of xylophone and other light percussion items to keep the tempo frisky. One or two cues feature a wailing female vocalist playing off brooding orchestral chords, notably “Destiny”, “Sneaking Out”, “Book of Souls”, “Limousine” and “I Have Returned”, giving the Cirque du Freak itself an exotic, gypsy-like flavor. Cues such as “What I Was Meant For” have a low-key, unsettling piano motif that is pretty in itself, but through its setting adopts a sinister, aged romantic tone. The conclusion, in “Blood Brother Reunion” and the epic, stirring “The War Begins” revisits the Goldenthal-style action material from the opening cue, and represents some of the most powerful and enjoyable music on the CD.

In many ways, The Vampire’s Assistant is frustrating mixed bag. Parts of it are generally quite impressive and enjoyable, and it’s good to see Stephen Trask being given projects which require this much musical meat, but it never quite lives up to the potential of the source material, as has too much ‘anonymousness’ to be truly engaging.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • The Whistle Song (1:38)
  • The Vampire’s Assistant (2:46)
  • College! Job! Family! (1:15)
  • Destiny (1:30)
  • Sneaking Out (1:34)
  • The Show: Welcome/The Wolfman/Dance of the Bearded Lady/Octa’s Jig (3:43)
  • Obsessed (1:43)
  • Book of Souls (0:50)
  • What I Was Meant For (2:54)
  • Limousine (2:58)
  • Octa Escapes (2:49)
  • The Vampire’s Bargain (3:13)
  • You Held Your Breath, Right? (0:49)
  • You Can’t Just Leave (3:24)
  • Graveyard (2:52)
  • The Cirque du Freak (1:53)
  • I Have Returned (1:02)
  • Not Drinking Blood? (2:46)
  • New Pants (1:15)
  • Rooftop (2:05)
  • Blood Will Have Blood (2:01)
  • Headache for Nothing (1:09)
  • The Vampaneze Attack (4:44)
  • Don’t Go Home/Little Vampire (3:56)
  • Blood Brother Reunion (2:40)
  • The War Begins (9:24)
  • Vampire Bird (3:27)

Running Time: 70 minutes 20 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6990 (2009)

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