A14-year-old boy (Chris Kelly) who visits a travelling freak show is drawn into a world of vampires, werewolves and bearded ladies.
When the mysterious circus comes to town errant schoolboy Darren (Chris Mossoglia) runs away with it, made into a half-vamp and prepped by his new master/mentor for his prophesied role in a coming war between undead factions.
Having sold millions internationally, the Cirque du Freak vampire chronicles by UK Darren Shan looked a likely next big thing. But this cluttered, wannabe Burtonesque adaptation of the first three novels is juvenile for adults and violently grotesque for children, homing in on in-betweeners engaged by teen angst and macabre humour.
Plusses include ingenious effects, glam-creepy New Orleans settings and a fun adult ensemble (Watanabe, Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe), with Reilly’s rough magic as vampire Crepsley. Darren the Chosen One doesn’t impress, however, and this will struggle to fulfil its destiny as a franchise.
A talented ensemble helps this pull through despite a leaden lead, but it may still seem too childish for adults and too adult for kids.