How do you like your vampires?
Those who have seen Neil Jordan’s “Interview with a Vampire” may remember the ironic moment when Louis watches a selection of movies at the cinema, one of which is “Nosferatu”. The audience is treated to a comparison between how vampires in the movies have been portrayed in the past and how they are (or were) portrayed in the Nineties.
Certainly the melodramatic Louis and flamboyant Lestat are a far cry from Max Schreck’s statuesque and grasping ghoul. Yet even in the decade and a half since “Interview”, the image of vampires has changed dramatically again.
Say “vampire” today, and the next word out of most people’s mouths are “sparkly”. This debt is owed to the “Twilight” series of movies from 2008 onwards, based on the Stephanie Meyers books that have so captured the teen imagination.
For older viewers who like their vampires with sex appeal and a dash of morals, there is a weekly dose of vampires courtesy of the “True Blood” series. Arguably, Bill Compton owes more to Bobby Ewing than he does to Louis or Lestat. Bill might have vampire mojo going for him, but the storylines of “True Blood” are more akin to the plot of “Desperate Housewives” than anything within the horror genre.
It would seem that the gentle, soul-searching Louis and the fun-loving (albeit sadistic) Lestat have been displaced in the hearts of many by the moralistic Cullens and the glamorous companions of Sookie Stackhouse. Yet for those who like more bite to their vampires, a second and opposite strand seems to have developed on the big screen.
In 2007, the year before sparkly vampires hit our screens, came “30 Days of Night” a film which is as visceral as it is tense. The vampires don’t bother searching for their souls but brutally hunt humans instead. Its budget was only $5 million less than “Twilight”, but it didn’t fair half so well at the box office, grossing only $39.5 million against a sparkly $191.5 million. That said, “30 Days” does seem to set the stage for some darker vampire interpretations recently, where vampires return to their origins as creatures of the night to be feared rather than marveled at.
“Let the Right One In” in 2008 came from the imagination of John Ajvide Lindgvist and combined the innocence of childhood with the eternal hunger of the vampire. The style and content of this Swedish film proved so popular that it was remade just two years later for a purely American audience as “Let Me In”.
Still keeping the predator in mind, “Daybreakers” in 2009 posed the question that so many people asked after “Twilight”: if vampires are so awesome and unstoppable, why haven’t they taken over the world? Michael and Peter Spierig answered that question with a film that is part way between “Minority Report” and “Underworld”. Ethan Hawke provides the soul-searching element while Sam Neill reminds us of just what an intelligent, powerful predator can achieve if he sets his mind to it.
These are just a handful of the vampire films available today, but it is clear that from killers to lovers, soulful to soulless, you can have your pick of vampires. However the one thing that all films agree on is that vampires are great entertainment and are here to stay, in one form or another, for a long time yet.