Monday, February 25, 2013

New Vampire Cinema – review

Author: Ken Gelder

First published: 2012

The Blurb: New Vampire Cinema lifts the coffin lid on forty contemporary vampire films, from 1992 to the present day, charting the evolution of a genre that is, rather like its subject, at once exhausted and vibrant, inauthentic and 'original', insubstantial and self-sustaining.

Ken Gelder's fascinating study begins by looking at Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula and Fran Rubel Kuzui's Buffy the Vampire Slayer – films that seemed for a moment to take vampire cinema in completely opposite directions.

New Vampire Cinema then examines what happened afterwards, across a remarkable range of reiterations of the vampire that take it far beyond its original Transylvanian setting: the suburbs of Sweden (Let the Right One In), the forests of North America (the Twilight films), New York City (Nadja, The Addiction), Mexico (Cronos, From Dusk Till Dawn), Japan (Blood: The Last Vampire, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust), South Korea (Thirst), New Zealand (Perfect Creature), Australia (Daybreakers), and elsewhere. In a series of exhilarating readings, Gelder determines what is at stake when the cinematic vampire and the modern world are made to encounter one another – where the new, the remake and the sequel find the vampire struggling to survive the past, the present and, in some cases, the distant future.

The review: A perfect Valentine’s gift? For some maybe not, but for me it was and I must begin this review with a thank you to my long-suffering better half.

Gelder’s volume is a scholarly look at some of the seminal vampire movies of the last twenty years (complaints that Twilight could be included in such a study should be stowed away, whether you like it or not the franchise has, by force of sheer popularity, shoved its way into the public awareness and has influenced – by action or reaction – the entire genre).

I enjoyed Gelder’s writing style and appreciated his thoughts and theories. Not that I agreed with his every point but they were thoughtful, well-argued and I respected each one. There was one point of accuracy that struck me so strongly as I read it that I knew I’d have to mention it. Gelder suggests, when talking about Thirst, that “The vampire suicide is something quite new, going utterly against the grain of the popular cliché that these creatures want to ‘live forever’.” Not so, Varney repeatedly tried to commit suicide as he did not wish to go on between 1845-1847 in Varney the Vampire. or, the Feast of Blood finally ending the saga with a voluntary dive into Mount Vesuvius. The idea of vampiric suicide has resurfaced on occasion since then. This point aside, the only argument I could have with Gelder would be on the basis of opinion.

Gelder included one unusual film, Irma Vep. This film concerns a fictional remake of Louis Feuillade’s 1915 serial Les Vampires. Whilst I give the original serial an Honourable Mention, for reasons explained in that article, I have never considered looking at Irma Vep. In fairness Gelder suggests “Irma Vep is not quite a vampire film; we might say that it puts itself into proximity with vampire films, that it cites them, summons them and draws them in (and keeps them at bay).” Needless to say, I am going to have to look at the film for the blog at some point now.

A great book for the scholar of the media vampire and necessary for any self-respecting vampire library. 9 out of 10.


Kuudere-Kun said...

Angel attempted suicide in Amends.

Spoiler Alert

There is a Vampire Suicide at the end of The Vampire Countess as well.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Indeed, and there may have been examples pre-Varney that I can't think of right now.

Varney takes the biscuit for early depictions, however, as he really did go for it and the saga ends with it.