Here’s the thing about the latest crop of vampires, they have gotten a little lame. Now I’m not about to start the usual, Twilight is so gay, mostly because that insult is the sort of schoolyard name calling boys use to write something, anything, off. I’m going to go on a rant sometime else about the real issues with Twilight (don’t freak out yet, I’m not going to diss Twilight), but for now I want to focus on when vampires were cool.
Through the 50s and 60s, hammer horror b-movie vampire flicks brought audiences scary gothic vampires with fear of sunlight and all the other cliches. The 80s finally brought some relief with a string of films that finally started givings some proper vampires, starting with the Lost Boys.
At the same time, vampire fiction didn’t progress very far, creating few memorable novels until Interview with the Vampire came out. Anne Rice reinvented the genre, creating imaginative, complex stories with century old vampires casually walking through immortality. Interview with the Vampire introduced sexy vampires who we wanted to see survive; hell we wanted to join them, to be them. Except as these novels veered away from their horror roots, they became more mainstream.
Finally vampires were relatable, though still feared. Vampires weren’t yet redeemable, and the slaughter of the immortals continued. The vampires who survived were the ones in comedies, not our rockstar Lost Boy vamps. There have been few major vampire films part from a handful of classics (Lost Boys, Interview, Dracula), most were relegated to direct-to-video status. Even the cult classics (Fright Night, Near Dark, or Vamp) were small by Hollywood’s standards.
The 90s began the wave of softer vampires. Buffy the Vampire Slayer gave us yet another comedy undermining the power of vampires. The tv series had many redeeming qualities to make up for the film but there was also this ever present mass murder of vampires; Buffy has a lot to answer for. We also got the Vampire Diaries, which has finally panned out in recent years. The original novels gave us teens sex young vampires.
Enter our current era and the birth of Twilight. Much has been written about Twilight. Enough said, for now. Between Blade, Bloodrayne and the Underworld series of films we’ve had action movies focused around vampires killing vampires worse than themselves. We’ve also had more comedies and parodies, Dark Shadows and Vampires Suck to name just two. None of these films is adding much credibility to vampires.
Look at the handful of good vampire films, The Lost Boys, Frostbite, Daybreakers, Near Dark, Interview with the Vampire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, would make my list of top films, but only a few tick every box. I want to see fanged, bloodthirsty, sexy & attractive vampires who are not only the main characters but survive the film. All too often Hollywood treats the vampire as social sin or disease to cure. Give vampires fangs and let them get to it. Don’t make it a comedy, the film is meant to scare and thrill the viewer. Aside from the awful slaughter of vampires, Lost Boys remains one of my top picks. Frostbite makes up for the unnecessary killing, giving us less zombie-like creatures.
What do the good films have in common? Fangs and other good special effects. Solid original story lines. And the best ones, vampires who survive. However looking at what Hollywood has been producing in the last few years, either bankable love stories or remakes, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a good big-budget vampire film any time soon. But we can hope.