Why the Vampire Genre Hasn't Lost its Bite

Clarisse Loughrey,

You know what's incredible? The Twilight franchise ended and we all survived. Now we can all go live in a glorious post-Twilight world where the sky always shines blue and people spend all day frolicking and making daisy chains. However, the celebration can only last so long before we're faced with the tough questions: where do vampire movies go from here? Has Twilight's insipid teens sucked all the life out of the genre or is there still some blood left in this old beast? Can I fit any more vampire puns into this article?

With this week's release of Neil Jordan's Byzantium, following two vamps seeking refuge in a sleepy British coastal town, all will soon be revealed.


Well things so far are looking pretty good for our old fang-y friends. Twilight's success may have been the reason behind Hollywood's new love affair with the vamp, but it's opened the market for some fascinating new takes on the genre. It's let Neil Jordan bring back to the screen the kind of stylish vampiric ennui at the immortal life he mastered with Interview with the Vampire, or let Xan Cassavetes hark back to the charged sexuality of '70s Eurotrash vamps in Kiss of the Damned. Neil Marshall's The Last Voyage of the Demeter sounds intriguing in concept at the very least: taking a stab at imagining the events which occurred on the fateful voyage from Stoker's novel which brought Dracula's coffin to the shores of England, where the ship arrived into port without a soul left alive. There's even a new Universal Dracula flick with Luke Evans in the starring role. Phew, that's a lot of vampires.

But let's put all that to one side for a second, because what I'm really excited about is Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which has already started receiving positive reviews out of Cannes. Swinton and Tom Hiddleston have taken the leads as Adam and Eve, lovers for centuries, who reunite over Adam's depression at modern human society. While usually a subject of high camp and farce in the past, Jarmusch is taking everything in an entirely new direction: deadpan comedy. Which is a perfect fit because, you know...DEADpan...I need to stop this.


OK, so at least one of the movies I mentioned above is going to be terrible. And by that I mean Universal's new Dracula movie is going to be terrible. It's original title was Dracula: Year One and the word “reboot” has been thrown around. At this point I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they teamed him up with Batman and Selene from Underworld to track down Michelle Rodriguez's character from The Fast and The Furious. But you know what? I don't think it matters at all in the end. Bad vampire movies just feel so comfortingly normal, they're just a part of daily life stretching all the way back to the early days of Hollywood.

Now, I was going to take a moment to discuss here that if anything was going to kill the vampire genre it would have been Francis Ford Coppola's version of Dracula. But then I discovered that apparently PEOPLE LIKE THIS MOVIE? Please, I need to know your opinions because I'm honestly deeply confused. It has an 80 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet when I watched it I became convinced that this particular brand of absurd Gothic romanticism could only have been dreamt up by a middle-aged housewife with a LiveJournal account. So instead I'll at least argue that if the vamp genre survived Keanu Reeves' English accent, it's probably going to be OK. And it's definitely going to take a lot more than R-Patz's pouty little face to shut the whole thing down. We just freakin' love vamps apparently. Here's a fact for the day: did you know Count Dracula has been the subject of more films than any other fictional character?


Which begs the inevitable question: why do we like vampires so much? Well, according to every copy of Dracula's Spark Notes ever, it all comes down to sexuality. And, of course, for Hollywood: sex sells. While I'm not going to delve into this topic any further because it'll turn this entire article into an awkward secondary school essay, I will offer this one little factoid. The very first big screen “vampires” didn't suck blood or turn into bats or anything remotely supernatural. They were the vamps of the '20s: the slinking, brooding femme-fatales which found their queen in the intensely kohl-rimmed eyes of Theda Bara. Hollywood had swapped fangs for a kind of sexual vampire: a woman who's hypnotic charms would bring lovers entirely under her control, sucking them dry of their independence, of their life-force, and leaving them as a ghost of their former selves.

Nothing much has changed. Apart from the occasional hideous Nosferatu the Vampyre of Herzog's imagination, vampires are still a pretty sexy bunch. Sure, Twilight's idea of sexy was whiny pale people, but did anyone else totally crush on Jason Patric's leather-jacketed, sunglass-donning Brat Pack vision of the vamp in The Lost Boys? Swoooooooon.


If Twilight has done any damage to the genre, it's the fact that people don't really seem that scared of vampires any more (although I have to partially blame Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer here, what a sap). Jarmusch, Cassavetes, and Jordan's movies have all put their vamps in the position of romantic protagonists; people who seem kind of normal when they're not digging their teeth into people's necks. I kind of have some issues with this, mainly because people are sleeping way too soundly at night and it's making it increasingly difficult for me to sneak into their rooms and scare the bejesus out of them. Thank God for Sweden, then, and Let the Right One In. Even though the horror of the original novel was actually toned down to focus on the film's central relationship, it's still entirely refreshing to see vampires treated as terrifying, savage, animalistic killers.


Have you actually seen Twilight? I feel like I need to discuss the fact that I secretly really enjoyed this film. An old flatmate of mine was super into Twilight, like wall-calender levels of into Twilight. So being the supportive, kind person I always am I decided to hear her out and sat down to watch this movie with as open a mind as possible. I don't think I had laughed that hard for a while. There is something so enjoyable about how into “being a vampire” all these people are. It's a movie I will always remember for this one, particular scene where the beginning of this supposed great romance stems from the fact R-Patz looks like he's going to vom every-time he takes a whiff of Kristen Stewart's delicious human blood.. But then she misinterprets the whole thing as him thinking she smells bad. I love it. It's so relatable.

So where do you think the future of the vampire flick lies? Let us know in the comments. Do you have faith in Only Lovers Left Alive or Kiss of the Damned? And most importantly, will anything ever be as great as Nic Cage's performance in Vampire's Kiss? The answer is surely, no.

Follow Clarisse on Twitter: @clarisselou

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