Thursday, July 01, 2010

Those oh-so-sexy vampires!

Yet another of my major disconnects from current popular culture: the series Twilight, which just had its third--is that right? third?--installment, Eclipse, show up in theaters, has been eagerly awaited by fans of the book and movie franchise.

Stephanie Meyer, the creator/writer of the Twilight series, is known as a Mormon housewife, and much is made of that. I'm not sure why. Being Mormon or a housewife shouldn't matter. Being a writer should matter. If she can come up with good characters and an interesting storyline that engages her readers that should be enough. The other day I saw an article about Mormon symbolism in the Twilight books and I wouldn't know, but as long as the books appeal to a broad audience who cares? A lot of books and stories have religious symbolism, and it doesn't mean anything to me...just as long as it engages its readers.

Despite saying that I probably won't read the books, although I might take a look at the first movie on DVD at some point, just to see what all the fuss is about.

My wife shrugged her shoulders at the sex appeal of any of the actors, as have I, but then neither of us is in that young demographic the movies are aimed at.

I don't care about Twilight, the story, but I am interested in why vampire movies and stories continue to be popular. Bram Stoker's Dracula has been popular for over a hundred years. Someone makes a movie version every few years. Hammer Films in England hammered out quite a few of them, all starring Christopher Lee, someone indelibly identified with the role.

My personal favorite vampire book is 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King. I liked that the vampire was a monster. In the television movie version with David "Don't Give Up On Us Baby" Soul, Reggie Nalder played the vampire, and he was a fright for four eyes. Max Schreck played Count Orlok (top of the page) in the Dracula rip-off, Nosferatu, in the silent movie days. He was presented as a hideous monster, more bat than human. In my mind, living for centuries, drinking the blood of people, would tend to turn one into something inhuman, not some sexy, sensitive type.

Shadow Of the Vampire, starring Willem DaFoe and John Malkovich, used Nosferatu as a springboard for a story of Max Schreck, in this case a real vampire, starring in a movie about making Nosferatu. For some reason Shadow Of the Vampire didn't find its audience and it's a shame, because it's excellent. Maybe nobody wants to think of vampires as monsters. Maybe young women think of them as cuddly, sexy types who have may have wild, passionate sex and bite necks, and the blood is kind of, you know, secondary. "I mean, he may have sunk his fangs into my jugular and sucked out a couple of pints, but he really, really loves me, Mom!"

But of course we know vampires don't exist, except in that world of fiction. The writer can create any kind of vampire he or she wants. Meyer's is to the first decade of the 21st Century as Anne Rice was to the last few decades of the 20th.

Movies about zombies, serial killers, slashers, have reached a saturation point with me. We don't need any more because none of them are saying anything new. But money says a lot. Every time a new Twilight movie comes out and breaks open the box office it speaks to movie people, telling them we need more vampire movies and TV shows. Like Dracula, no matter how many times you stick a stake in the guy, before long he's out of the box and biting again.

This article came out of a 1952 comic, Sensation Mystery:

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