Should Vampires Sparkle?

Sadly, the answer is yes. Despite your attitude toward Twilight and its ilk of bloodsuckers, this trend toward the romantic vampire was inevitable.

In the 1980’s vampire films were at an all time low. A comedy, Love at First Bite with George Hamilton, out grossed the serious remake of Dracula with Frank Langella.

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Love at First Bite, released April 1979, grossed $44 million.

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Dracula, released July 1979, only grossed $20 million.

Vampires might be able to rise from the dead, but there was no saving poor box office results. The failure of Frank Langella’s Dracula signaled the end of the serious vampire movie. After all, how could these supernatural creatures compete with Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger? By all intents, the vampire film, and genre, should have never survived into the 80s.

In 1985, two more vampire films were released. One film was another comedy: Once Bitten with Jim Carrey. The second was Fright Night. The box office results showed that a serious vampire movie could compete again.

ONCE BITTEN

Once Bitten, released November 1985, only grossed $10 million.

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Fright Night, released August 1985, pulled in $25 million.

The secret to Fright Night’s success was a genre pastiche. It successfully mashed up the vampire film with the more popular teen horror flicks. Instead of a dated historic timeline, the movie existed in present day. Instead of stuffy older adults fighting the vampire, teens had to cope with the monster.

Fright Night competed will with other horror films of the time. Look a that some 1985 box office grosses: Return of the Living Dead ($14 million); Friday the 13th part V ($22 million), Nightmare on Elms Street 2 ($30 million).

The success of Fright Night led to nearly all future vampire films having a genre pastiche element. More teen films arrives (Lost Boys , 1987), along with vampire westerns (Near Dark, 1987 and From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996) and plenty of action movies mashed up with vampires (Blade, 1998 and Underworld, 2003).

So what, you ask, has this got to do with the sparkling vampires of Twilight?

It was inevitable that the romance genre would be combined with vampires. A long history of a vampire longing for a lost love existed. The 1960s television soap opera, Dark Shadows, was the first to have a romantic vampire with Barnabas. Several other movies carried this theme along, notably Blacula (1972) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

In 1991, The Vampire Diaries series featured Elena Gilbert, a human girl, who is only moved to passion by Stefan Salvatore, a vampire. These novels jump stared a whole industry of paranormal romance. The meshing of two popular genres: the supernatural and romance. It was only a matter of time before these popular books exploded onto the screen. The small screen for Vampire Diaries. And a four part movie series for Twilight.

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Vampires have so melded with romance, I doubt the two will separate. However, this doesn’t mean that different genre pastiches don’t await us in the future. Would people want to see vampire political thrillers (a bit like the Kindred)? Or supernatural detectives (like the X-Files)? The genre of vampires will not dies. It simply resurrects in different forms.

To read more about how vampires have changed through the years, check out my book: The Changing Vampire of Film and Television.

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Thanks,

Tim Kane

What Sort of Vampire Are You?

With so many choices for vampirism these days, the decision for immortality can be a daunting one. But stay with me, curious reader, as we delve into the murky world of the fanged undead. Stroll the aisles and choose the form of blood-lust that most appeals to you.

Sparkly Vampire

Yes, this the Twilight variety. Able to saunter around in daylight (looking eternally glum in the process), this vampire has some great features to consider. Sunlight has no negative effects. Plus, you become a disco-ball in the blazing sun. Bonus. Add to that the special ability you get by going vampiric (prophecy, telepathy, tracking) and you’re a vampire that’s going places.

God-Fearing Vampires

Good old fashioned undead who shriek in the sight of the crucifix. Nothing beats the original. People often debate what happens when the cross-bearer or vampire isn’t Christian. Stop it. You’re complicating things. Just accept that crosses make the vampire flesh sizzle like bacon on a griddle.

Nosferatu

Also known as the “Ugly Vampire.” These vamps often have chrome domes and pointy ears.  But hey, looks aren’t everything. You get super long fingers, nifty German-Expressionist shadows, and the ability to cause disease. Who’s missing their hair now?

And now, new and improved, Nosferatu with hair. Check out the Radu model from Sub Species.

Public Vampire

Maybe you don’t want to spend eternity in the shadows. Maybe you want to party down with your blood-sucking self. Why not opt for the public vampire. One that’s been outted from the coffin.

True, there are all those fangbangers to deal with. Groupies always flock to the famous. A warning here: with fame comes certain consequences. People want to drain your blood and sell it as the drug V. Now the vampire is the victim. Go figure.

Virus Vampire

Do you want vampire friends, but don’t relish the three bite quota of most vampire conversions? Well look no further, the virus vampire is your answer. Any blood contact, bite, scratch, hangnail, can create new vampires. This variety sprouts a nasty set of teeth, bordering on shark-like.

They have the added benefit of never truly dying. Just a bit of blood is all that it takes to revive them. Take a look at the grandaddy of long-living vampires, Christopher Lee in “Dracula, Prince of Darkness.”

Go ahead, make your choice. After all, if you’re going to be stuck with immortality, you might as well get the features you want.

Tim Kane

Should Young Adult Books Be Rated for Content?

I can see the issue of rating books from two angles. As a teacher, I have to be damn careful what YA books I bring into my sixth grade classroom. Life would be a whole lot easier if I could glance at the rating and determine if it’s even worth adding. Currently, I only add books I’ve personally read and can vouch for. This takes a bit of time. I read slower than ketchup dribbles from a bottle.

Then there’s the writer in me. Would slapping labels on books act as a deterrent to some books with higher ratings (or an attractant, depending on the kid). Is this a form a censorship, as some have said? I disagree with the last point. Just labeling the product doesn’t censor it. Mostly, it limits access.

I certainly don’t think that books need to fall into the categories of movies, where readers will have to pull out an ID to purchase the novel. I would see the system more like what exists now for comic books, video games, and television. An advisory label. That doesn’t bother me too much.

One thorny issue to consider, should this new rating system come to pass, is this: what about indie writers? Would they self rate? Would some rating board come into play? Unlikely on the second count. Who would fund such a board and how could anyone rate the thousands of books that come out daily? That leaves self rating which also means that the authors could play with the rating, raising or lowering, to suit their tastes. Hey, what’s to stop an author from republishing the book with a lower rating if the sales didn’t click the first time? Nothing, really.

This, in itself, points out the ridiculousness of any rating system. In this world of instant publishing, people could circumvent it and manipulate any rating system easily. Even webpages that are supposed to have adult content only ask the user to click OK if they’re old enough. Like that stopped anybody.

What got the ball rolling on this recent round of “rate these books” is the novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Although this is an adult novel, it started as a fanfiction for Twilight, having Edward and Bela take up a quite different relationship than Stephanie Meyers had intended. When asked to remove the fanfiction from the fan site, James simply posted it onto her site. After reworking the book and changing the characters, she published it (to remarkable success).

The trouble is, it’s still linked to Twilight (no officially, mind you) and the novel attracts droves of young adult readers. In fact the movie will most likely garner an R rating, thus preventing many fans from seeing it. So should these fans even be reading it? Maybe not. But would a rating system really stop them?

Tim Kane