Category Archives: Vampire Awareness Month

Vampire Awareness Month – The End

[written by Vampire Awareness Month, co-conspirator, Mark S. Deniz]

Don't say it's over...not yet...

Well I even have to admit to getting a little emotional whilst typing the subject for this post. I have to be honest though and say it might not just be melancholy at the thought of this most wonderful of events ending but it could also be from a lack of sleep, brought on by, not just this, but two announcements that will be made tonight (coming up in this very post).

Saying all that though, I’m quite sure that the main reason I’m feeling emotional right now is that I am aware that several of you have settled down with your popcorn, crisps and soft drinks, to watch easily the worst of the sixteen vampire films of the schedule, the yawn-inspiring Twilight. I braved it the other day and it took me five sittings to get through it…

But yes, this month is now to go the way of many a good thing before it, and I’m a little sad about that, as it’s been absolutely fantastic. Not only have Peter Bell and I been rather surprised by how his little idea took off but that we got so many readers, so many mails and so many interested people, both in what we wanted to do and in the topic itself!

For a hastily put together event it went ever so smoothly, the contributors sent their posts to me, with enough time for me to tweak them, add pictures and schedule them for their allotted time. From an outside viewer, coming along to view the posts every day, it must have seemed ever so organised.

Yet we agreed things could have been done better: I think the event grew too big for my blog and would have been better housed somewhere else, not so much for you lot but for me, as it got to the stage where I didn’t want to add my daily thoughts, thinking they might get confused as rubbish posts on the event…;) I even missed blogging about the World Cup final, as it fell on the third day of Vampire Awareness Month. Did you notice that? I did!

My other niggle was that we created an event, rather than a group on Facebook, and this lead to all sorts of limitations over there. Facebook is a wonderful social tool and we really think we could have gotten more exposure had we looked at that differently.

BUT, and it’s a big but (as you can see), we have to remind ourselves (make that me, as Peter has been very satisfied with it all) that it was pretty much a spontaneous event that we turned into a very workable and very engaging month of stuff about the vampire.

May saw me watch twenty-six zombie films, after reading someone else’s blog about the official Zombie Awareness Month, which is really official, before then being asked to write an article for Dark Fiction Review‘s Full Moon Month, in June, not surprisingly featuring werewolves. After Peter mentioned vampires we were then set for the third monster!

As mentioned in the earlier post, Stoker’s Dracula is easily one of my favourite novels of all time but I had forgotten how much I do like this creatures, in their many guises. I was reminded of this when I re-read Keats’ Lamia poem, thanks to Tom English, watched the TV series, Ultraviolet, which I rather enjoyed. I also went back to True Blood, a series I had given up after one episode but actually enjoyed, as I began to watch more.

Boo!

I am currently re-reading Dracula, and still loving it (ow that sounded like a film parody there) as well as fully immersing myself in all the films, as there were several here that were on my list that I just hadn’t got around to: 30 Days of Night, Shadow of the Vampire, The Hunger and Martin were all films I hadn’t seen before – Martin pretty much ending up being my favourite vampire film ever made – yes, I said it now, so it must be!

But as well as all those gems we got these excellent posts from so many writers, reviewers and artists out there, which basically made the month. I mean the films were good and I’ve enjoyed reading the literature but the posts made the month, they made us re-assess where we are with vampire, what we love about the vampire, what we should be reading, watching, listening to, eating…

A huge thank you, massive in fact, goes to every single one of you, for being a joy to work with, for giving of your time, for linking to/pinging back to/commenting on all the posts, for making Vampire Awareness Month the absolute joy that is was. I am so looking forward to us working together sometime soon…

Which brings me to the first of the two announcements for this evening and that is that after we’ve said goodbye to our little bloodsuckers, we are going to jump right into the next festival, that of Ghost Appreciation Month, as, much as I love the vampire, and the werewolf, and the zombie, the ghost is easily my favourite of the ‘monsters’ I like to write about/read/watch and after hinting the thing to Peter a couple of weeks ago we had made up our mind to go for it.

Bearing in mind all I have mentioned about where we could improve, we have decided to get started on it all now, tonight, and have added it to a website, in readiness for the event, which will take place in October this year. More can be found here:

Ghost Appreciation Month

but more will be forthcoming.

The wily ones among you may also have noticed things going on in that link and that refers to our brand new shiny website, Beyond Fiction, which will not only be the host of Ghost Appreciation Month but will also be home to interviews, reviews and other goodness in this fair industry of ours.

So that’s it for Vampire Awareness Month, hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and very much hope to see you at Ghost Appreciation Month in October!

WoooHHHooooHHooo


‘Dracula’ and the Liminal Zone

[written by Vampire Awareness Month co-conspirator, Mark S. Deniz]

(Disclaimer: in this particular post I do not go into any great lengths to exemplify what the liminal zone is, beyond the description given nor do I attempt to explain Stoker’s interest in it. My post is merely to show my interest in the two)

The Liminal Zone

LIMINAL (Latin limin, “threshold”): A liminal space is a blurry boundary zone between two established and clear spatial areas, and a liminal moment is a blurry boundary period between two segments of time. Most cultures have special rituals, customs, or markers to indicate the transitional nature of such liminal spaces or liminal times. Examples include boundary stones, rites of passage, high school graduations, births, deaths, marriages, carrying the bride over the threshold, etc. These special markers may involve elaborate ceremonies (wedding vows), special wardrobe (mortarboard caps and medieval scholar’s gown), or unusual taboos (the custom of not seeing the bride before the wedding). Liminal zones feature strongly in folklore, mythology, and Arthurian legend. See the Other World for further information. For in-depth discussion, see Victor Turner’s Drama, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society.[1]

‘Dracula’

Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, featuring as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula. It was first published as a hardcover in 1897 by Archibald Constable and Co.

Dracula has been attributed to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Structurally it is an epistolary novel, that is, told as a series of letters, diary entries, ships’ logs, etc. Literary critics have examined many themes in the novel, such as the role of women in Victorian culture, conventional and conservative sexuality, immigration, colonialism, postcolonialism and folklore. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, the novel’s influence on the popularity of vampires has been singularly responsible for many theatrical, film and television interpretations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.[2]

‘Dracula’ and the Liminal Zone

Stoker’s novel is riddled with examples of the liminal zone, most significantly the title character Count Dracula, who is neither living or dead but, as Van Helsing calls him, one of the un-dead, existing in this threshold state. Even though the term liminal is most often used in conjunction with spirits, there is such a wealth of instances in the book that when you start looking for them, you almost find yourself slipping into some quasi-dimensional space of your own.

Take for example the narrative, many novels work with a standard format of third person or first person narrative (with the occasional braving the intriguing but extremely difficult second person narrative). Stoker uses many main characters – who would you say the main character of ‘Dracula’ is? I once thought Harker, or Mina, or even Van Helsing but whilst re-reading the book I can’t help thinking that if I have to give one narrator the title of main character it has to be Dr. Seward, as it seems his narration uses much more ‘airtime’ in the novel – but they all employ varying methods to impart their information: Lucy uses hand written journals, Mina is perfecting shorthand, whilst her husband Harker is proficient in shorthand and Dr. Seward speaks into a phonograph (employed by Cushing’s Van Helsing in ‘Dracula – 1958).

The location of the castle, as early as page one, gives us a lovely sense of the liminal:

I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia and Bukovina.[3]

We often talk of his accommodation being in Transylvania and forget the other two. Not even his castle can be said to belong to one place, one region, it is on a threshold.

Dracula, for obvious reasons is the subject of much of this examination of the liminal. Here we have one of Harker’s descriptions of him:

What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of a man?[4]

Before Van Helsing expresses similar views on Lucy:

It is her body, yet not it. But wait a while, and you shall see her as she was, and is[5]

That beautifully Van Helsing-esque quote, says much about the blurring of things, people, places in this wonderful novel: we have a scientist (Van Helsing) using spiritual and religious beliefs (at a time when there was much opposition between science and faith), we have sweet, beautiful Lucy turned into a killer, in the most foul way, as she is a killer of small children, the Demeter (the ship carrying Dracula and also goddess of the Earth in Greek mythology, sailing the seas…) crashing in Whitby (beaches long used as an expression of the liminal – the land formed of the sea) and much of the action takes place at dusk and twilight (between day and night) with the climactic scene taking place at sunset.

There is much to be looked at within the novel that I haven’t even begun to touch on here: the madness/lucidity of Renfield, the whole concept of a woman with a woman’s heart and a man’s brain (Mina) and that Mina spends the latter half of the novel in a liminal state, powerless to stop herself aiding it, that which her friends and husband hunt.

Hunter becomes the hunted, becomes the hunter, becomes the hunted…

I have much more to say but feel that I am on the threshold between blog post and more serious article. The post was intended to be more of an introduction to a topic that has interested me very much over the years and one that helps maintain my opinion, that for all its flaws and shortcomings, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the finest novels every written.

Notes

[1] Link: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_L.html

[2] Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula

[3] Dracula; Stoker, Bram; Bantam Classics Edition 1981; pgs. 1-2

[4] Dracula; Stoker, Bram; Bantam Classics Edition 1981; pg. 35

[5] Dracula; Stoker, Bram; Bantam Classics Edition 1981; pg. 225


Bite-size reviews of the Vampire Awareness Month films

[written by Vampire Awareness Month co-conspirator, Mark S. Deniz]

1. Nosferatu

I should love it more than I do (but I should really like cucumbers more than I do and grapes less than I do) but it is a classic, it gets the vampire flicks off to a good start and was a brilliant introduction to our little festival too!

It’s based on Dracula, yes? No? Not if you ask the Stoker estate…

OK, well it has some plot based on a novel but is essentially the first vampire film, and has stood the test of time somewhat. You really get a sense of what an impact it has had on the rest of vampire cinema, especially when considering it was ‘worthy’ of a 1979 remake and was the whole model for Shadow of the Vampire (coming up later in this review).

It suffers from some pretty dire characters though, especially in the shape of Hutter, who yet again shows the inability to get Harker anywhere near right in the film adaptations. I mean, Harker is this stoic, eager young legal assistant who suffers absolute horrors, resulting in a ‘brain fever’ and then after meeting Van Helsing and having his story confirmed becomes a super-hero!

Not so Hutter, who goes from village idiot to weeping child to running-about-innefective non-hero.

In the silent movie era there is a need for a little bit of hamming up and overacting, to get the message across and no one does it better than our boy Knock. The guy was mesmerising, like trying to follow a fly buzzing around the room. However, I did think he seemed slightly unhinged ‘before’ the madness struck…

Ellen was the saviour of the village and at the same time such a non-character in the film that I kept forgetting she was supposed to be a major player. Something about the time perhaps? Murnau’s sexual preferences?

That Nosferatu creature’s a bit cool though isn’t he? All that creeping around and shadows…yes, the shadows…he has them pinned!

I think it would be cool to ask Giacchino to do a film score which would make it would very interesting to watch again.

2. Dracula

Now this one must be based on Stoker’s Dracula, yes? Yes, good. I’m not sure I remember the armadillos or the possum in Stoker’s book but that must just be my memory…I mean…armadillos and Transylvania were pretty much made for each other…

Is it a film? Is it a play? Is it a mish mash of scenes all lumped together? I’m not sure and I’m not sure how many people have answered this effectively yet. It does set up Renfield as a very significant character and leads the way for other film adaptations to increase the air time of the ‘lunatic’.

It does want to be faithful to the plot of the novel (I think) but struggles, as so many adaptations do. It tries though and is equally trying because of it.

In terms of characters well there’s Lugosi’s Dracula, and after that we sort of forget about anybody else don’t we? I mean, I am aware that Dwight Frye received many plaudits for his role as Renfield but I feel that is more to do with the earlier audiences thinking lots of shouting and bright/wild eyes equates to good acting (well it’s still working for Anthony Hopkins today) but I found the character to be a little irritating…OK…very.

We’re back to Harker as an idiot and Van Helsing has not so much character here either.

Like Nosferatu, I think I’m supposed to like this more than I do too, although I love it. So none of that sentence makes sense…

No I’m aware it’s riddled with inconsistencies, it’s got some terrible acting in it but Lugosi is, in a way, a god of the early horror film and a true incarnation of the most famous vampire of them all. I still don’t think I’ve seen anyone quite grasp the count yet, but Lugosi came nearer than most.

3. Brides of Dracula

I’m this very powerful vampire that’s been locked away in a room, with a chain attached to my foot.” “I zee” (said in bad French accent) “But zen why don’t yoo become zee bat, how yoo say, and escape, or better still zee mist?” “Ah”

Was that explained? I don’t remember that being explained. And you see that word in the title, that Dracula word? Did you expect him not to be in then? Cause his brides would have to be pretty much his, wouldn’t they and not some Baron’s fodder? Or?

Isn’t a cross something that is a symbol of Christ, something that should be imbued with his holy essence? I’m not sure anymore, seeing as Cushing uses a windmill and candlesticks and then we see some medical supplies (don’t ask me what they’re called) stuck together in Salem’s Lot. I’m all confused now.

Thank god for Peter Cushing as Van Helsing for that bloody baron and that ‘French’ mademoiselle are a little too much for me. However, it seems she is not to be underestimated as she gets away from the Baron not once but twice.

This was a very important film to me when I was younger and it’s Hammer and there are some wonderful scenes in it – I mean for all my jesting about the windmill, it is done rather well. It’s also terrible though…and great…and terrible.

4. Kolchak – The Night Stalker

A simple idea that is developed really well, meaning one of my favourite films of the month. It’s pacing is just right and I think the story holds together rather well. Our first solid reluctant vampire hunter

Kolchak is one of my favourite vampire hunters ever! Yes, of course I’m saying that with a straight face, I think he’s excellent. Some really sharp dialogue and great approach to the whole thing. He’s pretty much a ’70s Sherlock Holmes, showing excellent deductive powers!

Shame about the rest of the cast then. No, just leave it now, I don’t want to talk about them, I’ll get annoyed again.

As mentioned earlier it works really well, it’s got the natural response to a reporter talking about ‘real’ vampires, especially one who’s been thrown off about ten newspapers earlier. It’s got some really creepy scenes (the whole house sequence at the end) and the twist at the end is so nasty it’s excellent!

And you have to applaud the ’70s funk music to accompany the scenes where Kolchak travels around Las Vegas, it’s just sublime!

5. Martin

We follow a troubled killer, Martin, who thinks he’s a vampire as he kills victims and drinks their blood (which in the definition of a vampire means he’s right). However his arch-nemesis is a crazy cousin who believes in the whole mythological side of it and wards himself with garlic and crosses. The film is a slow-paced, effective drama with an incredibly powerful conclusion.

The most disturbing of the films so far. Why? Because it’s the most real, silly. This is the story of a fucked up family with a fucked up killer, there are no supernatural elements and this could be happening in a house near you…see, you’re not going to sleep now are you?

6. Dracula

Plot follies abound in this adaptation of the greatest vampire story ever told and I was so disappointed to find that I did not love it anywhere near as much as I did when I first saw it as a trembling ten year old back in 1981.

For now my head is in a spin. I mean that Lucy is the heroine and Mina is the victim is bad enough but Mina is now a Dutch Van Helsing and Lucy a Seward. Why is Seward old and why is there no mention/appearance of Mrs Seward or Mrs Van Helsing. But nevermind, we’ve got that out of the way and now we can concentrate on those characters that made an impact.

Langella was a cool Dracula wasn’t he? Got him quite well I’d say, noble on the one hand and monster on the other, scary stare and guttural unpleasantries abound. Yes, I liked him it has to be said.

Shame none of the other characters stepped up to the light to do anything worthy…

7. The Hunger

Wonderful film, one of the absolute highlights of the month. Reasons are in its way to tackle the seductive side of the vampire, in a way that most films haven’t come near to, but also for that gruesome plot development that the lovers don’t actually die, they just come as near as they can come to it before Deneuve sticks them in an attic with those that loved her before – what a way to be dumped eh?

Lovely switches in music make this both a joy visually and aurally.


8. Vampire Hunter D

I believe I must have been in a very easy-going/forgiving mood when I first saw this film as it’s an absolute travesty, an embarrassing attempt at tackling the monster, both in terms of plot development and in terms of horrible characterisation and ridiculous plot twists. I hang my head in shame for selecting this for the month and know that somewhere, somehow I am going to pay for it – and big!


9. The Lost Boys

You guys love it, I know you do but I have to be honest and say I wasn’t much for it when it was released and I’m sure as hell not sold now. A combination of overrated actors (Sutherland, Haim, Feldman, Patrick) and some quite horrific oily torsos belonging to crooning beach singers made me shake my head in dismay when I watched the film. It’s OK but it suffers from one huge disadvantage and that’s the fact that it is in the hands of one of the weakest directors Hollywood has ever produced.


10. Near Dark

A much better film than Lost Boys (compared a lot, due to them being released in the same year, and having very similar themes) but I had three thoughts running through my head the whole time: was this an Aliens renunion (with no less than three actors from that film), what possessed them to get a Tangerine Dream score (and yes, I do like the band, but felt that they were a little out of place here) and when was the farmboy going to show he could actually fly…

Some excellent scenes though and a film that was not originally penned as a vampire film, made a rather good one. Funny that one of the biggest criticisms is that the vampirism could be cured by a transfusion when in fact Bigelow cited Stoker as her inspiration for that, reminding us that is how Van Helsing attempts to cure Lucy (and it was working until the pesky Count came back for more)!

11. Cronos

Another of the highlights of the month, chosen by myself because I knew just how damn good it is. It’s a slow but subtle tale of a man’s descent in vampirism using a very clever little device made by an alchemist and containing a very creepy bug…

Not only this but you’ve got some great characters, not least the fantastic Ron Perlman, who is just about perfect in everything he does (think of a bad role people) and the film cannot really fail.

It’s dark, it’s moody and it’s everything about the monster that is the vampire.

12. Interview with the Vampire

I went to see this first at the cinema and hated it. That it is one of the most boring, tedious films made about the vampire is only one element. Others, for example, that the characters are so badly cast you wonder just who picked them and whether they had actually read the book beforehand. And if your brain is not ready to explode with all this before the climactic scene, then get ready for that most whiny of rock bands: Guns ‘n’ Roses expertly murdering the Rolling Stones classic Sympathy for the Devil (although I have to admit I don’t like the original song much and took it as they were destroying the classic Laibach cover).


13. Shadow of the Vampire

Took my time getting round to see this after having had it recommended for a while and thoroughly enjoyed it. In direct contrast to Interview with, Shadow of, has an infinitely better cast, fulfilling the roles set. My only quibbles were that Cary Elwes need to put much effort into his character’s German accent when none of the cast around him were, made him sound rather foolish – bless him. The other was the need of Malchovich to shout around 40% of his lines in any given film (I think he is only bettered by Tom Cruise in that award).

Great idea with the film, that Count Orlock in, Murnau’s Nosferatu was actually a ‘real’ vampire, such was the need for Murnau to make his film believable. However, there were some very unneccessary scenes, such as an overlong bedroom scene towards the end and where was Knock, the man of the original?

14. 30 Days of Night

Oh wow, some new violent vampire, using an ancient language moving through Alaska, taking a town out every winter – or so we are lead to expect. What on earth was that language and why did they take so long to find all the inhabitants? I mean, there were only 152 of them and these monsters were a crack squad of eliminators. It was all jolly good apocalyptic fun though, using the dark of Alaska, as a wonderful aid to the vampires, meaning that the ‘wait for sunrise’ gimmick was a bit more challenging! Much more entertainting that the woeful Frostbiten, which uses a similar idea.


15. Let the Right One In

As much a social commentary about bullying as a vampire film (although Lindqvist disagreed with me when I suggested this and said it’s an out and out horror film) Let the Right One In was a breath of fresh air in Sweden, a country known for its love of Crime fiction and Science Fiction but equally known for not having much to do with Horror or Fantasy.

John Ajvide Lindqvist came in and changed all that, first with vampires, then zombies and now ghosts but it’s his vampire novel that seems to have had the most impact, with the film exceeding all expectations and in fact now being re-made for the US (as they don’t like reading subtitles).

I think a few people got carried away with this, saying it was the best horror film of the last 30 years, which it most certainly is not but it’s an enjoyable and interesting take on the genre.

16. Twilight

This hurt, I mean really hurt. It’s one tedious drawn out pouting between whiny teenage girls and equally whiny teenage vampires. I mean, wasn’t that Cullen bloke supposed to be nearly 100 years old? How come he acted like a lovestruck puppy then? My favourite section of the film (mainly for how dire it was) was when Edward explains to Bella that yes, he is a vampire. It goes a little something like this: “I’ve killed people” “I don’t care” There’s a whole lot wrong with that line and it sums up a lot of what is wrong with the film, a film that focuses on the wrong aspects of the vampire and those that come across its path.


BONUS: The Horror of Dracula

What’s all this thing again of not wanting to get Lucy or Mina’s name right and having all this surname confusion too? Oh and Harker as a librarian is rather disturbing, although not as tragic as seeing him as a vampire early on. Thank god for Cushing and Lee, was a cry early this month and I heartily agree – if it wasn’t for them the film would have been extremely difficult to watch, given its otherwise terrible cast and devotion to not sticking to much of the plot at all.

Kind of cool how Van Helsing dispatched the Count though eh?

However, it’s Hammer, the home of horror and there will always be part of that in my mind when I watch these.

BONUS: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Oh yea gods is all I have to say. This film is bloody dire, all visuals and no idea of what it’s doing. In fact it actually calls itself Bram Stoker’s Dracula and then goes so far away from the plot I thought it was going to change its name to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein about halfway through (not that it resembled that plot either but)!

One of the Vampire month contributors mentioned the feeling of getting a little sick in her mouth whilst listening to Reeve’s English accent but I have to admit to being equally appalled by Ryder’s. And what the hell was Hopkins up to? The guy was an absolute menace – I seem to remember Van Helsing being a bit clumsy and unthoughtful at times but this guy was out for blood – I kept trying to decide which of them (him or Dracula) was actually the bad guy! I mean Oldman was such a thoughtful old chap, except for when his ladies went for Reeve’s throat (whilst we cheered them on). I did love his roller skates he used to get him around the castle too – you don’t know what I mean? Watch that scene again where he comes up behind Harker shaving…

The soundtrack is gorgeous (although I have to admit to doing a copy of my CD without the Annie Lennox travesty on it) but otherwise the film is more dire than its predecessors on this list.

Mark’s Personal Top 16

Those knowing me, pretty much knew I couldn’t really get away with not doing a best of chart of the films and so here is my own personal choice for the best to the worst of the Vampire Awareness Month films:

  1. Martin
  2. Cronos
  3. Dracula (1931) – You shocked? I was!
  4. The Hunger
  5. Let the Right One In – Go Sweden!
  6. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  7. Nosferatu
  8. 30 Days of Night
  9. Shadow of the Vampire
  10. Near Dark
  11. Brides of Dracula
  12. The Lost Boys
  13. Dracula (1979)
  14. Interview with the Vampire
  15. Vampire Hunter D
  16. Twilight

Vampire Awareness Month: The Posts

[compiled by Vampire Awareness Month co-conspirator, Mark S. Deniz]

Well, there’s only three posts to go after this one, and they’re all mine, so you don’t really need them re-listing here do you, as they’ll be imprinted on your brains for quite some time…

It’s been a fantastic month (more on that in the conclusion) but if you’ve missed anything so far, then this is the place to catch up. I’m also going to add a few links I’ve found along the way that I think should be mentioned.

Intro

By our very own, P. G. Bell, the Introduction gets us ready for a bumper month of films and blog posts!

Film Reviews

We had a few of them this month, some for films we had in our very own film schedule and some for those we didn’t. Those that the masses watched this month were:

Martin: A wonderful film this one, and we were privileged to have Neal Romanek‘s review to accompany it!

The Hunger: Another cracker in the selection. Actually suggested and reviewed by Ruth Merriam.

The Lost Boys & Near Dark: Both reviewed by Louise Morgan, who just can’t get why the Twilight vampires are now the cool kids…

Cronos: Wait a minute, were all the films reviewed by our guests excellent? This time Orrin Grey supplied the review.

30 Days of Night: KV Taylor reviews this one and is nice enough to compare it to its origin, the comic of the same name.

and what of those not on our film schedule:

Vampyr: Gary McMahon explains why this is one of his favourite vampire films.

Fright Night: Lisa Kessler looks at the ‘other’ ’80s vampire flick.

Dracula: Not the Tod Browning one, not the Coppola one but the Dan Curtis one, you know, the one with Jack Palance? Robert Hood let’s us know why we should be watching it.

From Dusk till Dawn: Sonia Marcon is amazed we didn’t pick it and lets us all know just how good it really is!

Then our co-conspirator, P.G. Bell, goes off and reviews three Hammer films at once!

Not only that but we have some other film stuff with Robert Hood, giving us two excellent posts on Early Vampire Cinema – 1916-1974 (Part One: Nosferatu) (Part Two: From Lugosi to Lee) and Kyla Ward, having a look at Vampire Cinema in general.

Amanda Pillar wants to let you know that the Underworld series is actually pretty good, thank you very much!

Louise Morgan gets her moan about the Cullen Paradox and reminds us why the Twilight vampires are pants!

TV Reviews

Sharon Kae Reamer gives us an in-depth review of Vampire Knight, a popular anime series.

Literature Reviews

Amanda Pillar got us under way with some Vampire myths in story telling, taking us right back to the origins of the beast.

Tom English then gave us two very detailed articles about the Literary Vampire: Part One looking at A Bevy of Bloodsuckers and Part Two: Birth of the Modern Vampire

Before Kaaron Warren let us in on some of her favourite vampire fiction in Sharing Blood.

James Willets wants to assure you that the American Vampire comic is really rather good!

Fiction

We were lucky enough to get a free read of Lisa Kessler‘s Stoker nominated short, Immortal Beloved, part one of a two part tragic vampire tale, involving Beethoven!

Vampires, Vampires, Vampires!

And the vampires just kept on coming – the filthy bloodsuckers – as we found out just how life-saving a cucumber could be in Reece Notley‘s look at Kappa and Sushi.

Simon Marshall-Jones looked at The Enduring Appeal of the Vampire, spanning quite a few years in the process.

We found out about Dead Red Heart, a new vampire anthology, looking for submissions.

Kim Lakin-Smith had a good look at music in vampire films in her excellent Love Song for a Vampire (thankfully not the Lennox one)!

Darren Pearce reminisced on one of the best gaming scenarios ever, Ravenloft.

Romanian native Mihai Adascalitei gav us his personal perspective on one of his nation’s biggest exports, that Vlad fella.

Erika Wiman wanted to know What Makes a Vampire. Do you know?

And then we get two heavyweight article writers, coming in to give us some thought-provoking views on the whole thing:

Sharon Ring felt the need to tell you all about the Domestication of the Vampire and why we should be ashamed of ourselves for what we’ve done to them!

While Bertena Varney weighed in with articles about The Lure of the Dead Boyfriend and Vampires and Religion. Thought provoking stuff!

Who’s Been Talking About The Vampires Elsewhere Then?

Well KV Taylor had two of her vampire creations discussing the Vampire Awareness Month films – very entertaining they were too!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Simon Marshall-Jones was amused by a woman blaming her car crash on a vampire!

Stacey Voss directed us to her new novel Thunder and Blood (following the link means you can read some free fiction)

Like I said earlier, brilliant eh!

Now go and get clicking the links and reading these excellent posts. You’ve read them? Well read them again!


The Domestication of the Vampire

[written by writer and reviewer, Sharon Ring]

I’ve been wondering how we made it from this,

Fear me!

to this.

Erm...hello...

As we’ve moved through Vampire Awareness Month I’ve been reading each blog post with great interest. I wanted to understand how vampire fiction has evolved from its earliest days of folklore to eighteenth century poetry, into nineteenth century gothic novels and through into modern cinema and literature. I also wanted to understand how each person who contributed and commented throughout the month perceives the vampire on a more personal level. Just what is our fascination with these creatures, why does the myth persist and why are vampires, as far as I can tell, the most oft-used fictional genre monster? Seriously, how does the vampire, more than any other fictional creature, manage to successfully reinvent itself through the generations?

Before I get any deeper into this train of thought, let me tell you a little about my own introduction to the world of vampire fiction, both literary and cinematic.

My first vampire book was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, read at the tender age of eleven, and the first vampire movie was the TV miniseries of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, watched at around the same age. Both tales affected me deeply although they troubled me in quite different ways. What connected them however, despite the seventy-eight year difference in each story’s creation, was the presence of the evil predator in our midst. It seemed to me at such a young age that this “presence of evil” was the most vital aspect of the vampire mythology: all things considered, I still believe this to be the most important part of any well-told vampire tale.

It's me again...


Back to the present day. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly Neil Gaiman talked about “what vampires get to represent”. His point of view is that with each generation of readers and movie-watchers the vampire is given a fresh role to play, a role that reflects the morals and ideals of the world into which this new incarnation arrives. I have to agree with Gaiman on this to a certain extent; the movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read about vampires over the years have definitely moved the creature through a number of subtle and not-so-subtle changes. Looking at the overall picture, from the earliest fictional vampires right up to the present day, we can see how societal attitudes have shaped our depiction of the creatures. Repressed sexuality and gender inequality in Victorian times, xenophobia throughout both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the sexual revolution of the post-war western world, have all served to define the creature who stalks the pages of the vampire novel or who broods on the big screen.

Inevitably, and mostly for the good, this leads to huge differences in interpretation of the vampire myth. In both books and movies there appears to be a vampire for everyone: you can still find the predatory, murderous vampire if you look hard enough but most of what you’ll find out there, in mainstream cinema and paranormal romance novels particularly, seems a poor imitation of what most of us consider to be the “real” vampire.

Today’s most popular vampire, Edward Cullen, is a rather insipid looking, generically handsome brooding teenager. He attends school to give the impression of a “normal” life, in daylight no less. Not sunlight, mind, sunlight is dangerous. Why, we wonder? Will he smoulder and burn, disintegrating before Bella’s eyes? No, he fucking SPARKLES! Yes, he sparkles, and it just wouldn’t do to be seen sparkling now, would it? I’ll say no more on Twilight for a moment, lest I begin to smoulder and burn myself.

Where's that Cullen bloke? I'm hungry!

Vampires for the grown-ups don’t do much better. The most popular vampires out there now for adult readers and television watchers – True Blood – based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I like True Blood and I’d be a hypocrite to pretend otherwise. It has its fair share of gore and not all the vampires in it contain their bloodlust, far from it. Still, despite my fondness for the show (not the books, they’re bloody awful), I have got to say that True Blood is little more than vampire candy floss.

What we’ve done, ladies and gentlemen, in our endeavours to reinvent and re-imagine the modern vampire, is made him a little too much like ourselves. Gone is that sense of the true outsider, we’ve replaced that with a bunch of moody teenage vampires. Gone is the dangerous sexual predator, he’s been usurped by the caring and sharing vampire boyfriend.

We have domesticated one of our most feared monsters, made him (and her) handsome and pretty, with human emotions and a whole new way of life that allows them to enjoy a little intimacy with the human race. Their previous elusive and disturbing qualities are now diluted to the point where they may as well now be us, albeit with a vague aversion to sunlight.

In the same Entertainment Weekly interview, Gaiman says, “… it kind of feels like now we’re finishing a vampire wave; at the point where they’re everywhere.” I hope he’s right. When we’ve reached a point where vampires sparkle in the sunlight, it’s time to call it a day, at least for a while. Stick the vampires back in their coffins, hammer a few extra nails into the lid and don’t let them back out to play until they’ve re-grown their fangs and washed off all the glitter.


The Cullen Paradox

[written by author, Louise Morgan]

Edward Cullen has no bed.

Edward Cullen's room, 'Twilight'

It’s a small thing – a plot point, really – and yet if anything sums up the vampires of Twilight, that’s it.

These are nu-vampires. The Lost Boys ride motorbikes, Edward Cullen drives a Volvo; the vampires of Near Dark spend their time in sleazy bars and motels while the Cullens play baseball. So, somehow, regardless of the number of times Edward Cullen warns Bella he could kill her (and that he’s actually having a bit of bother in stopping himself) you can never quite bring yourself to believe him. Mostly because he drives a Volvo.

The thing is, vampires like David and Severen never needed to tell you that they’re dangerous. It’s apparent with every move, every look; to paraphrase Drusilla, they reek of death. In a good way, of course. The Twilight vampires, by comparison, are strangely anaemic.

Let’s get back to Edward’s bed, so to speak. It’s a throwaway point in the film, used to emphasise his otherworldliness: what could be more alien than a man who never sleeps? But it’s not just that, is it? Like the “vegetarianism” of the Cullens, it’s a signal that the two appetites we most associate with vampires – blood and sex – don’t come into play here. Edward, despite his protests, is safe. He behaves as a gentleman who wants to protect Bella from harm, from the world… from himself; whether she likes it or not. Interestingly, the “bad” vampires of Twilight are the only ones who express any real sexuality at all: tracker James is described as Victoria’s “mate” – as though they are feral in all respects, not merely because they feed on humans.

The Cullens, then, are quite the opposite: Carlisle is a doctor – that most respected of small-town professions. They have a large, airy house and project the image of a close-knit family. And they go to school. Remember the wall of graduation caps in the Cullens’ house: when did the Lost Boys’ motto of “sleep all day, party all night” become “never sleep, get good grades”? No wonder Edward is so reluctant to consider Bella becoming a vampire: for all his talk of becoming a monster, he’s clearly more worried about condemning her to an eternity of double maths.

Graduation caps in the Cullen house, 'Twilight'

Like Edward’s missing bed, this lies at the heart of the Cullen paradox: here are a group of vampires who seem to go against everything we associate with that word: no blood, no sex… and far from being the outsiders we expect, they set up home, build lives and cling to them for as long as they can (“The younger we start out in a new place, the longer we can stay there”). No wonder we find them so frustrating.

But are we all treating Twilight too harshly? After all, this is essentially a teen (or “young adult”) phenomenon that has crossed over into the mainstream: can we really expect to judge it by the same criteria as films like Near Dark or The Lost Boys? In the case of the former, perhaps not: but for The Lost Boys – aimed at teens, featuring teenage characters, it seems entirely reasonable… and yet in a side-by-side comparison Twilight comes up wanting. Its vampires are unsatisfying, missing that spark – that mesmerising, seductive something. They’re interesting, but to me, they’re not really vampires: at least, not ones I could easily recognise. I’m not sure they even have fangs.

Regardless of what you or I might think of Stephenie Meyer and her creation, Twilight has sold over 2 million copies… and it’s fairly safe to assume that the Cullens are here to stay. A whole new generation has been introduced to the concept of vampires through these books and films; with new ideas, new rules and new mythologies. Whether they can ever grow to love them remains to be seen.

A Hammer Horror Hat-Trick

[Written by co-conspirator P. G. Bell]

Last week, a bunch of intrepid film fans abandoned the comfort of Vampire Awareness Month‘s official movie list and struck out on an expedition into the gothic vaults of the Hammer archives.

Like many people of my generation, I was born too late to experience Hammer’s films at the cinema but was just in time to catch late night screenings on the BBC. Plague of the Zombies, Taste the Blood of Dracula, To the Devil a Daughter… Years of watching Doctor Who had taught me that I enjoy being scared but these were my first glimpses into the hitherto forbidden pleasures of genuine screen horror.

They shared the same homespun charm as classic Doctor Who, with their fluorescent orange blood, underexposed day-for-night scenes and endlessly recycled sets and props. But they had a darker, harder edge that was impossibly exciting to my impressionable teenage psyche.

So it was with a sense of real anticipation that I settled down to watch a trilogy of films that encompass the entirety of Hammer’s vampire output; Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.

More than anything, I was looking forward to Dracula (1958, Dir. Terence Fisher). This, after all, was the film that redefined the character and cemented Christopher Lee’s and Hammer’s stars in the show business firmament. It’s not much of an exaggeration to call it the Godfather of vampire movies.

And perhaps it was, once, but I’m sorry to say that my first reaction was one of disappointment.

For a start, it suffers from the perennial blight of most classic British cinema; it never feels very cinematic. The theatre-on-screen approach may add to the sense of homely nostalgia but it all too often keeps the audience at arm’s length when we should be standing in the thick of the action, resulting in a film that is rarely tense and never scary. Some of the performances don’t help – John Van Eyssen’s portrayal of Jonathan Harker is so asphyxiatingly straight laced that you begin to wonder if he’s capable of any facial movement whatsoever.

Bram Stoker’s story was getting a little worn even before Hammer picked it up, which probably explains Fisher’s decision to re-wire the plot. While the main beats of the original tale are left intact, he throws in some welcome surprises – dispatching the central hero so ignominiously in the first act is a master stroke although it makes many of the subsequent changes feel superficial by comparison.

Sparkles not included

Thank goodness for the double-whammy of Lee and Cushing. The entire film (and, by extension, the whole gamut of Hammer vampire movies) hangs on their performances and they don’t disappoint. Cushing enjoys the most screen time, of course, and is never less than engaging while Lee uses his fleeting appearances to maximum impact. The film is, ultimately, their show.

The film’s second sequel, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966, Dir. Terence Fisher) throws off the shackles of Stoker’s text almost entirely and weaves a far more confident, engaging story as a result.

The characters are more immediately arresting, particularly the coarse but warm hearted Father Sandor played by Andrew Keir (the big screen Quatermass) who replaces Peter Cushing on slayer duty. His world weary monk is a good counterpoint to the bickering British travellers who stumble into Castle Dracula. Also of note is Barbara Shelley, who morphs from Victorian prude into femme fatale without resorting to the tawdry excesses of the later Hammer movies.

Christopher Lee takes a bite out of Barbara Shelley. And stares down her cleavage.

Most importantly, the film makes better use of Lee, despite the fact that he doesn’t appear for the first 40 minutes and has absolutely no dialogue. (Lee was so disgusted with Jimmy Sangster’s script that he refused to speak any of his lines, preferring instead to hiss like an angry swan. The fact that this makes no appreciable difference to the plot or the character suggests that he was right to do so).

It’s really a film of two halves though. The first is an exercise in atmosphere, as Fisher steadily (and sometimes mechanically) builds tension – the terrified locals; the ominous warnings; the abandoned castle; the mysterious servant with a sinister agenda… It’s all familiar stuff but it’s handled well and does an admirable job of signposting Dracula’s grand entrance.

Sadly, things fall a bit flat in the second half when, after a disastrous flight from the castle, our surviving heroes take shelter in Father Sandor’s monastery. What could have been a claustrophobic base-under-siege tale is hamstrung by a laconic pace and an over-reliance on tried and tested plot devices, including an entire sequence from Stoker’s novel that was dropped from the first movie.

Terence Fisher

By the 1970s such lack of innovation was costing Hammer dearly, as audiences abandoned the studio in favour of more contemporary horror.  Hammer responded with a slew of updates, most notably bringing the Prince of Darkness into the modern age with Dracula AD 1972.  But they were the same stories re-told in modern dress and didn’t perform well at the box office.

My friends and I were already suffering a similar level of vampire fatigue, so a lot was riding on our third film, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974, Dir. Brian Clemens).  Luckily for all of us, it didn’t disappoint.

Horst Janson as Captain Kronos

Blending the sensibilities of a spaghetti western with the rolling fields of British period drama, Captain Kronos feels light years ahead of its predecessors. Crucially, it plays out as a murder mystery – a shadowy figure is draining the life from buxom young maids with nothing deadlier than a kiss, leaving them as wizened old crones. Who is carrying out the attacks, and why? Steely-eyed war veteran Captain Kronos is summoned to find out. The whodunnit structure is a simple conceit but it keeps things sharp and fresh, as do the periodic bouts of swashbuckling sword play.

Clemens’ stylistic approach is also bang up to date.  Although he’s best known as a writer and producer (his back catalogue includes The Avengers, The Professionals and Bugs, among many others), he proves adept behind the camera.  Despite a modest budget, the film looks infinitely more polished than previous Hammer offerings, with some terrific lighting, beautifully framed shots and notable performances from many of the cast. The weakest link is probably Captain Kronos himself. Leading man Horst Janson makes a decent fist of the sub-Eastwood adventurer, but his good looks makes him pretty rather than handsome, and his stoic reserve is a little too complete at times.

I was lucky enough to hear Clemens discuss the film at last year’s FantasyCon in Nottingham, where he claimed it was a direct influence on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I can’t testify to the truth of that, but his film certainly heralded a bold new direction for Hammer.

Alas, it’s a direction that was never pursued. The prospect of yet another vampire movie failed to excite the public and Captain Kronos struggled at the box office.  The studio never produced another vampire film.

I’m glad Vampire Awareness Month prompted me to dig these titles out. While Dracula may have established a formula that dated very quickly, it’s still been fascinating to watch the evolution of the British vampire story over the course of a generation.  If only changes had been made sooner, we might still be watching the adventures of Captain Kronos (the film was intended to generate a string of sequels, in the manner of James Bond or, er… Dracula).  But with news that Hammer Films has once more risen from the grave[1], I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the vampire genre tastes fresh blood.

Watch this space…


[1]Link: http://www.hammerfilms.com/news/daniel-radcliffe-to-star-in-hammers-the-woman-in-black


‘From Dusk till Dawn’ Review

[written by writer, Sonia Marcon]

Blood and Guns and Rock’n’Roll

“What’s in Mexico?”

“Mexicans.”

If you, as a viewer, have a penchant for looking at your shelf (or shelves) of DVDs and realising you can’t decide what to watch with dinner (Crime or Horror? Guns or Vampires? Wit or Gore?) then From Dusk till Dawn should satisfy. This film is a perfect example of one that does not hail all audiences because it can be explained with one word – unexpected. It not only relies on the knowledge and understanding of the creators’ tone but also on a love of the genre. From Dusk till Dawn has three creative figures, each recognised by their alternative works. Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Desperado) directs this Robert Kurtzman (noted make-up effects artist) story written by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs). Enough said?

Crime drama, yes?

From Dusk till Dawn is a film for the lovers of snappy Tarantino scripts and good, hard Rodriguez directed action, which is what the film is before the vampires show up. The opening scene is classic Tarantino; it shows banality versus insanity purely through conversation. This is what powers this film pre-vampire. The first moment of horror isn’t completely, if at all, Rodriguez-esque. It’s more akin to anything that could be considered horrific in Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, such as the scene with the adrenalin shot to the heart or the scene where Michael Madsen slices the cops’ ear off with a straight razor. Both of these scenes are made effective by what is not seen as opposed to the current love of showing it all. The way you don’t see the ear being cut off, you just hear the screaming, and you don’t see the needle pierce through the chest to the heart, you just hear the force exuded by the loud ‘thump’ as the syringe hits, makes these scenes very effective. The first scene of horror in From Dusk till Dawn is just as effective and well written as either Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs because it is made not by the dead body but by the fact that the dead body is not visually focussed on. All that is present is confusion, discomfort and damn good acting by George Clooney.

We're the good guys, bad guys, good guys...

What is this film about, then? Two criminals, on the run from the law, seek temporary refuge in an establishment populated by vampires. The criminals are Seth (George Clooney) and Richard (Quentin Tarantino) Gecko who take a family hostage in order to hitch a ride to Mexico, home of the movie-lawless. The dwelling of the vampires is a place that is open from dusk till dawn (bingo!) and is where the film shifts seamlessly from Tarantino to Kurtzman while under the canopy of Rodriguez. The vampire-horror element is left to, and celebrated by, Robert Kurtzman who is a noted make-up effects and props artist. Having worked on a diverse range of films such as Misery, Dances With Wolves and Little Nicky, From Dusk till Dawn harnesses Kurtzman’s prowess with make-up which is well known from horror movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child, Tremors and Army of Darkness. The use of Kurtzman’s talents really keeps these vampires in their own element. These vampires are not glamorous like those in Interview with the Vampire or sparkly and loveable like in Twilight. Before becoming vampires, the women are beautifully desirable and the men are Tarantino cool. As the vampires emerge as ugly and animalistic, surviving on carnage and gore, the film shifts as abruptly. The horror becomes random and almost silly, but this shift is not what makes this film special. What does is the fact that the characters, while remaining quintessentially Tarantino, become aware of what is happening around them in a very post-modern sense. The characters who we assume are fictional in the first part of the film become aware that they are in a completely unbelievable situation when faced with vampires and so react in a very real and believable way. It’s fictional characters within a world of their own fictional characters.

Oh man, you got real ugly!

What makes this film brilliant in my mind is that this hidden depth really doesn’t matter if you just want to watch a good horror movie. If you’re not a Tarantino fan but really enjoy the bizarre horror of Army of Darkness then this film can easily be skipped forward till that part starts. Alternatively, if you prefer the former then completed viewing is not necessary because of the dubious, yet still complimentary, narrative. However, it is suggested that you watch the whole thing in your first viewing otherwise there are classic bits that shouldn’t be missed. The dialogue is as funny as the conversation about quarter-pounders with cheese in Pulp Fiction while the action is as sharp as in Once Upon a Time in Mexico with a story idea that works both by passive observation or critical analysis. From Dusk till Dawn is a definite viewing must for those on a vampire binge.


’30 Days of Night’ Review

[K.V. Taylor is an avid reader and writer of urban fantasy and dark speculative fiction. Her first novel, "Scripped", which stars pseudo-vampiric fae, is coming from Belfire Press in May 2011. For more vampiric nonsense visit kvtaylor.com]

THE MOVIE

“30 Days of Night” is that rare animal: an honest-to-god, gut-wrenching horror flick that goes for emotional involvement. Unlike the anti-hero, or at least sympathetic villain vampire film, this one goes for a post-apocalyptic zombie movie feeling.

The movie takes place in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States. As the catchy title implies, for more than a month every year, Barrow never sees a sunrise. No one comes or goes, and what communication they have with the world is easily cut off. The only real question is why it took the vampires so long to sort this out; the place becomes a month-long all-you-can-eat buffet.

Vampire buffet carnage

That’s really all you ever learn about the vampires in the film, apart from a few tips and tricks (decapitation and sunlight as weaknesses, vampirism as a blood infection, etc.) and their basic desire not to be rediscovered by humanity– who have relegated them to nightmares and fiction. The real story follows Eben (Josh Hartnett), the sheriff of Barrow, and Stella (Melissa George), his estranged ex-wife of a fire marshal, as they try to keep a mismatched handful of survivors alive until the sun finally comes up. This is where the zombie apocalypse part comes in– most of the movie is them scurrying and hiding around town, trying to avoid the violent, bloodthirsty monsters.

Wanna play with me now?

But there’s more to it than that. Beyond the relationship between Stella and Eben– which could easily be overdone, but isn’t– there are some truly interesting character moments. A little girl accidentally turned, a friend used as bait; self-sacrifice, fear, community, and protective instinct all get a workout, creating genuine personal horror beyond the primal “oh god, I’m about to be torn apart and eaten” reaction. The build up and interspersion of these moments makes the drawn-out tension more bearable and sustainable than in most horror films. More obviously, it also lets us know our heroes, so we actually care if they get eaten or not.

It’s a classic set up with a classic ending, nothing unpredictable or visionary about it, perhaps. But it’s a well-executed, intensely human-centric vampire movie. And is not for the weak of stomach.

Stella and Eben: The End

There are some really interesting featurettes on the DVD, not the least of which is talking about creating the vampires, their look, their language, their movements. There’s also some waxing philosophical about how unromantic* their brand of terrifying is, which considering the modern vampire climate is certainly worth noting.

THE MOVIE Vs THE BOOK

“30 Days of Night” was a horror comic by Ben Templesmith (artist) and Steve Niles (writer) first. Niles was involved in the script-writing for the film, which as usual is a good sign– but the two incarnations have as many differences as similarities, in some ways. I like the book, but– and I realize it’s generally blasphemous to say this– I think the movie is better on the whole.

The movie preserves most of the comic’s finer points. It grabs you by the throat and drags you in fast, covers you in blood, and leaves you breathing hard. It even keeps some of the most memorable moments in the book perfectly intact– for example:

I can smell your blood

However, the book gives you zero character involvement. Eben and Stella don’t have a lot of personality (not in the first book, which is the one on which the movie is based), and none of the others are more than a random name dropped here or there. The breakneck pace of the book is great for action but:

1. You hear them talk about as much action as you’re actually shown.

and

2. The lack of character is gaping, to the point where it’s just about blood-splattered snow.

The film also preserves the book’s aesthetic in some ways. This is a point of much argument, as Templesmith’s art is somewhat love it or hate it. The art often reflects the lack of character– the faces are vague in terms of physiognomy, serving more as a palette for emotion than anything else– but what it does, it does well. Slade preserved that gory rawness in the film without the sacrifice, though.

Templesmith's art, Slade's translation

The one thing the book does better is give the vampires motivation, which makes them terrifying in a slightly different way– if not more or less. The intense human focus in the movie makes it unnecessary, but it’s worth reading the book to get the other side; it’s as monstrous and enjoyable as you’d expect. There are also some plot complications meant to set up the sequel, “30 Days of Night: Dark Days”, which stars Stella as a more fully-realized character, that they left out of the movie. But that’s for the best, considering.

As a side-note, my favorite nod to tradition– which appears in both the book and movie– is “The Stranger”. This is the guy the vampires send ahead to take care of communications and generally be creepy before the sun sets. In both book and movie, he orders raw meat and has an affinity for bugs. In the book, they call him a “bug-eater”.

Nice to see you again, Mr. Renfield. And well done, Steve Niles.

*The whole unromantic thing gets blown out of the water by the second book, Dark Days, which is funny since it’s Steve Niles talking about it on the DVD. But it certainly holds for the movie.


The ‘Underworld’ series – thoughts

[written by writer and Morrigan Books in-house editor, Amanda Pillar]

I tend to be a bit picky when it comes to vampire movies. I don’t really need them to be unique, to show me something new about the vampire or to even be works of art. Mostly, I just want to be entertained with the general myth being adhered to.

Underworld

That’s why I love the Underworld movies. A lot of folks look at me strangely when I say it is one of my favourite – if not favourite – vampire movie series. They talk of poor acting and bad lines, but I like the acting and I thought the lines worked. I’m not after Oscar-award-winning performances.

My favourite part of the trilogy is the sheer thought that has gone into the world-building of the Underworld universe. I think I liked the third movie, Rise of the Lycans, the most, as it tells the story of how the feud came about, of why Lucien hates vampires and why Viktor is so hell-bent on destroying Michael, a vampire/werewolf hybrid.

There is no sleeping in coffins or stakes through the heart – humans generally die if they’re bitten by a vampire – but sunlight is deadly. Humans are noticed about as much as we notice cattle in a field; they’re a curiosity, but not important to a vampire’s daily life.

Rather than summarise each movie, it is perhaps better to look at the mythology of the universe itself, as this is what I love anyway. N.B.: Spoilers do abound.

In this universe, immortality was an accident, a mere genetic fluke. Alexander Corvinus, the first immortal, was the only survivor of a plague that killed everyone it touched. He had three sons, Markus, William, and another. One son was bitten by a bat, one was bitten by wolf and one remained human. Markus and William were the very first vampire and werewolf while the human child carried the immortal gene in a dormant form.

William was uncontrollable; everyone he bit rose as a ‘wolf, but with no control, no ability to turn human again. The werewolf gene was like a curse, unstoppable and uncontrollable. Markus, in order to save his brother, made a deal with a local king, Viktor, who he transformed into a vampire in order to help prevent his brother’s rampages. But Viktor tricked Markus, locking William away and forcing Markus to pretend he wasn’t the first of their kind.

Viktor

Viktor then studied the werewolves created by William, hoping to control them somehow, as he wanted guards that would protect his vampire clan during the daytime. Eventually, a baby was born to a ‘wolf: Lucien. Viktor thought to kill him, but decided to wait, hoping that his werewolf guard was still a possibility. And it was.

Lucien - number one Lycan

Lucien was really the first werewolf, a true Lycan. He could control his transformations and those he bit also were able to return to human form. He was strong – he didn’t need the full moon in order to change form. He was also dominant; the werewolves created by William obeyed Lucien as if he were their true master.

However, Viktor’s plans went awry: he didn’t count on his daughter falling in love with Lucien or the fact that she would fall pregnant with his child. Horrified by the mixing of the lines, Viktor exposed his only child to the sunlight and let her perish in front of Lucien’s eyes.

Daddy's girl?

And so began the war that lasted centuries: werewolves against vampires. This is where the first movie begins, with Selene, a Death Dealer with a striking resemblance to Viktor’s daughter, hunting werewolves who are trailing the human, Michael Corvin. Intrigued as to why a human would be of interest to werewolves, she follows the young doctor.

Only to have the reasons for the war start all over again.

Michael Corvin

The fourth instalment of the Underworld universe is due out next year. I’m rather looking forward to it.

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