“They have to suck your blood. And then you have to suck their blood. It’s like a whole big sucking thing”- Vampires in a Film & Television ContextThe whole concept of “Twilight” actually makes me want to cry, I will never understand how people are unable to read into it deeper and realise that the whole thing is encouraging teenagers to view necrophilia as something positive while trying to cover it up with some formulaic “epic love story”! I have never watched “Twilight” and I never will, the moment I discovered how they had ruined the whole vampire lore I decided to boycott it completely. They literally sucked the darkness out of what are considered to be some of the most terrifying creatures in the history of horror, Vampires DO NOT go out in the daylight because it will reduce them into a pile of dust! The least said on vampires sparkling (what ever that is supposed to mean) the better!
I realise I cannot judge the films fully but I’m just focusing on how they have messed up the vampire lore. It bothers me that this is how younger generations will be subjected to vampires, what I will say is thank God for the brilliance that is Eric Kripke’s ‘Supernatural’ that has for me made vampires cool again and restored the traditional lore into a modern context.
In this review I am going to remind you of some REAL vampires and the films and television shows that came before this money-consuming-fan girl crap.
Remember this is all just my personal opinion so feel free to agree or disagree with me:
Vampire films have been around since 1913 with Robert G. Vignola’s ‘The Vampire’, however the oldest vampire film I can remember is the German, 1922 silent picture ‘Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens’ now, simply known as ‘Nosferatu’; the film was an adaptation of the classic ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’. I was fortunate to attend a screening of this film back in 2009 at the ‘Abertoir Horror Film Festival’ featuring a live piano accompaniment.
I think the use of shadows in this film gave an unsettling feeling. especially the moment where ‘Count Orlock’ as he’s referred to is creeping up the staircase, for me that is one of the most creepiest cinematic moments. His appearance is more monstrous than any other vampire I’ve seen in film, he does not look human, he is almost ghoulish!
The fact that the film is silent adds to its eerie-ness, evidently its a product of its time before sound became present in cinema. Watching it now in the present day, the silence makes Count Orlock so much more mysterious, I actually preferred “Nosferatu” to Bela Lugosi’s ‘Dracula’ which came out in 1931. In this version we are presented with the stereotypical image of ‘Dracula’; his appearence in contrast to Count Orlock is more human, he wears a traditional cape, sleeps in a coffin and transforms into a bat, personally I find turning into a bat more comedic than frightening especially in this movie where you actually see the strings on the bat, but yes it was 1931 so you can forgive it.
‘Dracula’ continued to fit itself within the ‘Hammer Horror’ genre. I find these films particularly enjoyable, they don’t take themselves too seriously and with these films came the brilliance that is Christopher Lee’s portrayal of the ‘Prince of Darkness’ himself. He has a a startling screen presence which was considered terrifying in its day. He starred as ‘Dracula’ from 1958 until 1973 and continued our traditional perceptions of ‘Dracula’ following Bela Lugosi’s version rather than ‘Nosferatu’. These films kept on the traditional ideas regarding the vampire lore, ‘Dracula’ (1958) reinforced the idea that vampires sleep in the day and hunt at night, this is essential as sunlight will ultimately kill them, piercing a wooden stake through their heart’s can also damage the vampire’s immortality. I have already stated that I am unimpressed with ‘Twilight’s’ concepts, however I saw a screening of ‘The Last Man on Earth’ (1963) starring Vincent Price, again as part of the “Abertoir horror film festival” and to celebrate his centenary. This film’s really interesting as it was not considered to be your typical vampire movie, it would be viewed more as a zombie film, as the plot of the film is centred around a disease spread across the world, causing the decline of humanity, with the only survivor being Vincent Price’s character Dr. Robert Morgan; the reason being because he had become immune to the virus due to being bitten by a bat.
I liked how this film took both monsters and combined them, they could be killed with wooden stakes, and they spread their disease by devouring a humans neck, mirrors and sunlight also repelled them; however the creatures appearance and actions were more like a zombie’s, wondering the earth aimlessly, with very little intelligence. I will say that I don’t have issues with the lore being challenged and changed to a certain extent but as long as its done in an intelligent way.
Vampires have become a huge part of television as well as film; I am aware there is so much more I could have gone into but I want to focus on what is memorable to me. ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ (1997-2003) was the television show that changed my life, Joss Whedon’s writing was so clever, I loved how he would create fantasy elements and use them as a metaphor for real life. On one hand Joss could be responsible for encouraging ‘Twilight’ as yes he did portray tortured human-vampire relationships and sex on ‘Buffy’ but at least he thought through his character motivations well, especially in the Buffy/Spike relationship (or Spuffy as its known to the fans). It was made clear that the audience was supposed to view this as dangerous and wrong, the metaphor being we all go to dark places in life and might do things that aren’t good for us. It was interesting to finally have empathy for vampires rather than just seeing them as one-dimensional villains, ‘Buffy’ really went into the ethics of this concept. Angel (Played by David Boreanaz) character was interesting; he was a brutal killer that had been cursed with a soul and had to walk the earth feeling remorse for all the terrible things he had done. I like this concept because there was a reason to empathise with the character, however one moment of pure happiness would result in his soul being taken away again and when ‘Angel’ transformed into ‘Angelus’, he really was evil; it was as if they were two separate characters sharing the same entity, I thought it was pretty cool to show how a vampire would be if their inner beast was actually caged. The series didn’t just portray our traditional perception of vampires but they made them three-dimensional characters with emotions, it was as if they were humans but their bodies dead inside. There was always rivalry amongst the fans, much like there is today with ‘Twilight’ regarding ‘Buffy and Spike’ or ‘Buffy and Angel’ being the main ones, I think what makes “Buffy” special is that it has a cult feel to it rather than just being mainstream and obnoxious.
Joss Whedon wrote because he enjoyed it not because he knew he had something that was going to sell and get fan girls all around the world screaming. In comparison ‘Twilight’ doesn’t seem to be well thought through and knows its going to sell purely based on this love triangle that sugar coats the dark themes of bestiality and necrophilia! Buffy also paid homage to ‘Dracula’ in the episode ‘Buffy Vs. Dracula’ (#5.1)
I liked how they kept the bat transformation in and how Dracula is the only vampire that can do that, it was clever that even the slayer herself wasn’t immune to his charms, ‘Buffy’s’ version of the dark prince was that of a tall, dark and handsome figure, more seductive than scary, but then again that concept of the thin line between sex and death is dangerous and frightening.
Finally, we come to ‘Supernatural’ (2005) which for me has filled the void that ‘Buffy’ left in terms of fantasy/horror television. I’m aware that there are other shows out now in a similar context such as ‘The Vampire Diaries’ (2009) and ‘True Blood’ (2008) that I’ve yet to watch.
In ‘Supernatural’ the main focus is not on vampires, however their portrayal is pretty cool and does put a new spin on the lore. I love that ‘Supernatural’ suggests that this is how real life vampires would be; a stake through the heart doesn’t work and the only way of killing them is with dead man’s blood. This is pretty dark stuff, again they do follow ‘Buffy’ in terms of having vampires that don’t kill humans and feed off animal blood instead; emphasising that vampires don’t necessarily have to be villains.
In the recent season six episode ‘Live Free or Twi-Hard’ (#6.5) we saw our protagonist Dean Winchester (Played by Jensen Ackles) becoming a vampire. The episode went into the idea of what would it be like if vampires could be ‘cured’ on the one condition that they avoided feeding off humans, challenging the whole ethics of vampires. Would they really want to be cured and walk the earth as regular humans once turned?
This episode also poked fun at ‘Twilight’ in which Dean stated ‘These aren’t vampires, they’re douchebags’. It centred around this new concept of vampire-ism and how all they need to do now is dress like Robert Pattinson and easily lure in their victims as its become very popularised. The intense fear of these creatures has just gone and they are worshipped more like popstars than icons of the horror genre; kids there is nothing cool about premature death!
What I’m trying to emphasise here is ‘Twilight’ has enabled vampires to become less horror cult and more mainstream and popular more so than any other film or television show within the genre; to me this is not what vampire-ism is about; I see no appeal in it whatsoever; there is nothing sexy about this Cullen dude.
Give me stakes, sunlight and old school vampires any day!