Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture – review

Author: Sorcha Ní Fhlainn

First published: 2019

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture is the first major study to focus on American cultural history from the vampire’s point of view. Beginning in 1968, Ní Fhlainn argues that vampires move from the margins to the centre of popular culture as representatives of the anxieties and aspirations of their age. Mapping their literary and screen evolution on to the American Presidency, from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump, this essential critical study chronicles the vampire’s blood-ties to distinct socio-political movements and cultural decades in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Through case studies of key texts, including Interview with the Vampire, The Lost Boys, Blade, Twilight, Let Me In, True Blood and numerous adaptations of Dracula, this book reveals how vampires continue to be exemplary barometers of political and historical change in the American imagination. It is essential reading for scholars and students in Gothic and Horror Studies, Film Studies, and American Studies, and for anyone interested in the articulate undead.

The review: Taking the Nina Auerbach principle that “every age embraces the vampire it needs”, Sorcha Ní Fhlainn tracks socio-political development through the decades via the vampire films and books of those decades. Now, it is true that the genre is so wide that you can always find a vehicle for your premise but the author really concentrates on some of the essential vampire texts for this. The fact that this is American socio-political development is understandable given the author’s background – though perhaps I expected a more wide-ranging, less America focused exploration given the title. Not that it is a problem with the book and it is clearly identified in the blurb.

The writing in this is very strong, thought provoking and interesting. Indeed each page had food for thought and sometimes debate. As a for instance, the reading of Dan Curtis’ Dracula in terms of Nixon (and the transposing of Holmewood as a primary rather than Harker) was inciteful but overlooked the fact that the same character transposition occurred in the 1958 Horror of Dracula. Does it negate the reading, not at all, but the sourcing of the character transposition becomes the earlier film.

A couple of very interesting readings were included. The first was of Hannibal Lector as Dracula – this is not a new reading, indeed several people have identified such a reading before now. I am a big fan of all the Lector films and the TV series and may look at this at some point. The other, which the author herself recognised might be a controversial reading, was of the vagina dentata film Teeth as a vampire film – that will form the basis of a ‘Vamp or Not?’ at some point in the not too distant future.

I love it when an academic book sucks me in and this one certainly did. America studies are not my area of expertise but that was no barrier to enjoying this lively sprint through the decades. 8.5 out of 10.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK

No comments: