TORONTO — Blood-sucking vampires and demons just can’t seem to resist the heightened emotional turmoil of teenagers in high school.
How else to explain the seemingly endless parade of undead that’s invading — and often enrolling in — post-secondary institutions on film and TV?
Debuting in Canada this week is Teletoon’s My Babysitter’s a Vampire, a younger-skewing take on the monsters-meets-hormones genre also seen in the Twilight film franchise, the campy Space comedy Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, and CTV Two’s The Vampire Diaries.
Toronto-bred star Matthew Knight, who plays earnest 14-year-old Ethan, says he hopes young viewers can learn a lesson or two as his show draws over-the-top parallels between the eternal battle of good and evil and the seemingly insurmountable trials of growing up.
“I kind of feel like it makes kids . . . feel like their (problems) are not the end of the world and they can get through it,” 17-year-old Knight says of the show’s weekly supernatural calamities.
The series’ over-the-top hijinks — which include resurrecting dead family pets and navigating a suspicious school blood drive — are all in service of putting common teen anxieties into perspective, adds co-star Atticus Mitchell, who plays Ethan’s trouble-making best friend Benny.
“You don’t know what the end of the world is until you hit that bad point in your life when you’re trying to get with your crush and it’s like, ‘Oh, I love you.’ And all of a sudden — ‘What? There are vampires! Zombies!”’ says 18-year-old Mitchell, from Toronto.
“That’s the end of the world, OK?”
The new series is based on the TV movie of the same name, which centred on the awkward Ethan, his precocious little sister Jane and his mischievous pal Benny.
In that 2010 comedy, billed as Teletoon’s first-ever original live action feature, Ethan’s hopes of shedding his geek status are thwarted when his mom decides he’s not mature enough to watch Jane and hires a babysitter from his school.
Ethan is mortified when it turns out to be his longtime crush Sarah, played by Vanessa Morgan, who just happens to be a newly formed vampire.
Morgan says Sarah is still just a “fledgling” vampire as the series kicks off — stuck between the human and supernatural worlds — and her character is determined to reclaim her life despite the ongoing temptation to join the undead.
“She’s dealing with . . . the drama of high school, then realizing she’s going to be 17 forever, not going to get to grow old, get married, have kids like a normal person would,” says Ottawa-born Morgan, 19.
“And then dealing with having to battle all these supernatural creatures with her other classmates.”
Ethan is also going through a transformation as he grapples with disturbing visions that seem to predict future events. And Benny, who learned from his Grandma that he’s actually a young wizard, is struggling to cast magical spells without causing more harm than good.
Despite all the hocus pocus, Knight says the comedy is broader and the subject matter less scary than in the movie version.
“It’s definitely a little bit lighter in the way that it’s shot and the way the characters deal with it and just more family friendly,” he says.
The supernatural series has already won a fanbase south of the border, where the Disney Channel aired season 1 over the summer.
The young cast members say they’re hoping for an equally enthusiastic Canuck following, noting they’ve already shot season 2.
“We haven’t really felt it here because it hasn’t come out in Canada but clearly it’s doing well in the States,” Mitchell says of the first batch of episodes.
“I have a lot of American relatives who say it’s all their kids’ favourite show.”
My Babysitter’s a Vampire debuts Thursday on Teletoon.