Netflix for Kids is VODzilla.co’s monthly column that sends a grown man without kids into the barrel of the streaming service’s kids catalogue and searches for morsels of goodness at the bottom. Today, our childless adult writer tackles The Little Vampire.
It’s Halloween, your kids want to watch a scary film, but for Good Parenting reasons, you don’t really want to sit them down in front of The Shining just yet. Don’t, however, be tempted by The Little Vampire, a 90s family drama about an American kid in Scotland, who befriends an aristocratic bloodsucker. You’re unlikely to be entertained and it’s too old-fashioned and eventless to engage the youngsters either.
The Little Vampire has the kind of premise that’s perennially popular, recasting traditionally villainous figures as simply eccentric and friendly (here, the vampires drink cow’s blood). Everything from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Twilight, via Sabrina the Teenage Witch, has sought to recast supernatural creatures in a nicer light. It gets to the point where it’s harder to remember seeing actually scary witches or vampires.
At least Sabrina the Teenage Witch was funny. The Little Vampire is just… there. It is a film that simply exists and doesn’t possess much in the way of character or charm. The jokes don’t land, the family story about a kid-out-of-water is airless and the dialogue is flat. An adventurous plot, about finding a hidden amulet, is passable enough, but there’s no visual flair or inventive storytelling. The effects have dated poorly. It’s one of those films that’s so beige you wonder why anyone was ever inspired to make it. Who went to all the time and effort (which is considerable, when making a film) to make something so unimpressive?
On top of it all, the main problem is that it’s just not scary. If you’re going to put vampires in the very title of your film, include something even a little bit spooky in your screenplay. The Little Vampire has all the trappings of eeriness – a ghoulish home beneath a cemetery, nightmare sequences, old castles – but it never once musters a shudder. Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey plays a vampire hunter, the ostensible villain of the piece, but his slow-moving vehicle isn’t particularly threatening, while his various weapons never seem to have any real impact. It’s the very definition of the BBFC’s Mild Peril warning.
Films aimed at children can be scary and remain within its PG or U boundaries. Whether it’s one frightening sequence in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or an entire film based on a scary premise, such as Coraline, kids have a high capacity for being scared. Surely, that’s the whole point of a film about vampires? If you want a film to watch with your children at Halloween, watch Laika’s ParaNorman. It’s a zombie film for kids that has heart and electrifying action, while being both properly scary and endlessly clever. Everything that PG-horror cinema really should be.
The Little Vampire is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.