Freak Out | Sally O’Shaughnessy takes a cousinly interest in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

The Vampire’s Assistant - John C Reilly plays Larten Crepsley & Chris Massoglia plays Darren Shan in the screen adaptation of the cult teen horror novels

I confess to a personal interest in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, the forthcoming movie adaptation of Darren Shan’s cult teen horror novels, The Saga of Darren Shan. Now on his 14th Darren Shan novel, my 11-year-old son is an addict. Any reading is good reading I’ve convinced myself while eyeing up the alarming book covers plastered with bloodied, fanged creatures with titles like Tunnels of Blood and Blood Beast. I’m not surprised that the Christian mother of one of his friends has banned her son from reading them.

So recently in the interest of responsible parenting I thought I’d find out a bit more about the author and the books. It turns out that author Darren Shan’s real name is Darren O’Shaughnessy. So far so freaky, because my surname is O’Shaughnessy. Now I’ve always been proud of the fact that my family name, O’Shaughnessy, is quite an unusual Irish surname. I’ve rarely come across the name in England. I was told most of us left for America or Australia in the mid 19th Century thanks to the potato famine. With O’Shaughnessys popping up in the movies (remember the femme fatale Brigid in The Maltese Falcon) the theory was borne out for me.

But Darren, it turns out, spent his first six years in London, then returned with his family to live in Limerick, Ireland. As his website reveals, he’s always been a prolific writer and comic fan. So it’s quite fitting that his novels were turned into Manga comics long before Hollywood came knocking. Published in 37 countries around the world and in 30 different languages, The Saga of Darren Shan has a cult following.

The Vampire’s Assistant - Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) & Larten Crepsley (John C Reilly) in the screen adaptation of the cult teen horror novels

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, the title of the forthcoming movie is also the title of the second of the series of 12 novels in the Saga. Like many other adaptations of children’s literature – the Narnia books, for example – the movie condenses the first three novels into one story. I rather like the fact that the author has chosen his own name for the main character Darren Shan. Ordinary schoolboy Darren unwittingly breaks the truce between two warring vampire factions after he stumbles into the Cirque du Freak, a freak show with his friend.

Bloodsucking creatures of the night have become tried and tested movie fodder for teens ever since Buffy kickboxed her way onto our screens in the Nineties. However it’s an indication of the calibre of the series that it’s directed by About a Boy’s Paul Weitz and features a stellar cast – John C Reilly as vampire master Mr Crepsley, Willem Dafoe as Vampire General Gavner Purl and Salma Hayek as the bearded lady Madame Truska.

My son’s very excited about the books being turned into a movie. Watching the trailer hasn’t dampened his fervour either. ‘It looks so American,’ I complain. This, of course, after his childhood TV diet of back-to-back Suite Life, Drake and Josh, Hannah Montana et al is probably a bonus to him anyway. Although Darren Shan has had nothing to do with the screenplay or movie, he’s also really thrilled about the Hollywood treatment. I note, however, that he’s arranged for the premiere outside of America, to be held at his local Limerick cinema. Way to go, coz.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is on general release from 23rd October.


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