Vampiric Birds and Fish (November’s Weird Roundup)

Just when you thought life couldn’t get any stranger, along comes vampiric fish and blood sucking birds. In the spirit of all things creepy, I’ve scoured the realms of fauna to find all the bloodsuckers out there. And I’ve saved the best to start us off.

Vamp Birds

I Vant to Peck Your Blood

Although no bird on Earth draws all its nourishment from blood, the sharpbeaked ground finch will occasionally delve into vampirism. This bird lives on an island already known for its freakish deviants of evolution: Galapagos. Typically the “Vampire Finch” will peck at seeds, just like a normal bird. But in the light of a full moon… Er, when drought conditions limit the number of seeds available, it switches to the red stuff. Then it mosey’s over to another fowl, a seabird called a booby. The finch pecks at the victim bird’s back until it draws blood, offering up a nice warm meal. The sharpbeaked ground finch never over pecks. They only draw enough bloom to eat. If the finch were to cause too much pain, then the booby would chase them away or attack.

This National Geographic video shows the vampiric finch in action.

Blood Sucking Fish

The candirus (or pygidiid catfish) is strongly attracted to raw turtle meat and will also attack the legs of human waders. These fish crave blood and will attack the gills and fins of dying or disabled fish or even the legs of submerged children. Scientists, Vinton and Stickler, caught a specimen using a bloody cow lung for bait. Another scientists captured one as it tried to rasp the skin of his leg. Generally, these vampire fish seek out larger catfish, burrowing into the gills. One specimen was found halfway inside the belly of a larger catfish. The vampire catfish’s belly was distended with blood.

a11fig04

In 1960, one researcher captured a canirus catfish and “permitted [it] to fasten onto his hand for a short while during which time it succeeded in drawing blood, apparently using its mouth as a sucking apparatus and rasping with the long teeth in the middle part of its upper jaw.” It seemed, he added, “to be utterly avid for a meal of blood and had to be forcibly removed.” So unlike the finch, this bad boy loves the taste of blood. It gets better.

In 1959, the Cleveland Aquarium acquired four vampiric fish. The keepers tried to feed them anything from worms to brine shrimp. No go. The canirus would have none of it. Only when a half-pound goldfish was put into their aquarium, did they bite. Almost immediately, according to the report, three of the four latched onto the goldfish under its gills and began sucking blood.

wwa5kigra7xwnejarj1a-2

So vampire bats do not have the corner on the creepy bloodsucking market.

Tim Kane

 

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.

Love-at-first-bite

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

MSDDRAC EC020

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.

frightnight1985_11

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.

draft_lens12020081module109503401photo_1278602143twilight-edward-sparkle-v

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.

changevamp

Thanks,

Tim Kane

Ear Flapping Vampire

Imagine a vampire as a head with gigantic ears, that soars toward victims to devour blood and inflict curses. While doing research on Camazotz, a Mayan death bat, I stumbled on one of the most bizarre vampires I’ve every heard of. The chonchon.

The legend hails from the only native people that remained independent in South America. The Mapuche not only resisted the Incan Empire, but also the Spanish. Their name derives from Mapu (of the land) and Che (people).

On version of the chonchon story has that when a person dies, the ears will grow to an enormous size, and it will year away from the body.

I found this picture a Spanish site about the Chonchon.

I found this picture a Spanish site about the Chonchon.

A more complete myth involves a kalku (a sort of mythical sorcerer that works with wicked spirits). The Kalku transformed into the chonchon only on moonless nights. The sorcerer uses a magic cream along the throat (this somehow helps separate the head from the body). This version of the creature has feathers and talons and the ears serve as wings. Only other kalkus can see the chonchon.

 Tim Kane

What Sort of Vampire Are You (Revisited)

There are more sub-types of vampires than I care to count. Just when I think I have the list narrowed down, more pop into my brain. So, continuing along the vein of the last post, here are some other vampire options for your wish list.

The Punk Vampire

Although there are multiple vampires that touch on this category, only one truly embraces it. Spike. The bit character that exploded into the most interesting aspect of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The attitude here is Sex Pistols meets Lestat the vampire (in the rocker sense). Spike is the sort of vamp that just wants to have fun. I recall one time where he said he wouldn’t want to kill all the humans, then there wouldn’t be anything fun to do.

Biker Vampires

A cousin of the punk vampire is the biker vampire. Here you have the painfully 80’s and stylish Lost Boys vampires led by David (Kiefer Sutherland). I mean, is there one of them that doesn’t have an earring? But they do exude a certain level of cool. The I-can-do-whatever-I-want vampire.

Bordello Vampires

Despite a bar populated by down and dirty bikers (the human variety) it’s the female vamps you have to fear. These girls will tear you apart (literally). The upshot: as this sort of vampire, you get killer looks most of the time. Downside: You get damn ugly fast in the killing spree. Check out From Dusk Till Dawn.

Mafioso Vampire

Actually, there are multiple choices here. The first is from the one season only TV show, The Kindred: The Embraced—a show that had different species of vampires all fighting for control of the city. There was one boss vampire (Prince Julian Luna) and all the other clans vied against each other. The series was based on a role playing game (and a LARP version) called The Masquerade.

As great as this series was, to see real vampire clans (both the Euro-trash suits and the enforcers) you have to turn to the Underwold series. What’s better than gun toting vampires? Gun toting vampires that duke it out with werewolves.

Ninja Vampires

These vamps sneak around in skin-tight black speedos and wield swords. They’re about as badass as you can get and still be a vampire. The nemesis of the Blade series, these ninja vamps make their appearance in Blade II (where our cuddly damphyr has to team up with them). Check it out.

That’s all so far. Plenty more vampire types out there. But that’s enough bloodletting for now.

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