Welcome children of the night! This week, Brian, John, and Elaine regale us with the long and storied history of the vampire film and its place in horror cinema. We will try to answer some of the big questions associated with vampire movies, like how in less than 100 years we can go from blood thirsty, sex obsessed, gothic romantics to sparkly hipster vampires that simply “suck”. So grab your holy water and sharpen your wood stakes as we crack open the crypt on the history of vampire films.
- Most of the cinematic vampires can be traced back to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
- Dracula was based on an amalgamation of different vampire myths and legends dating back to the dark ages.
- Vlad the Impaler
- Countess Elizabeth Bathory
- Vampires are based on a misunderstanding of how death and decomposition works.
- Vampires are also symbols of our feelings of lust, the sacred nature of blood, fears of foreigners, fear of venlarial disease.
Vampires at the Dawn of Cinema
- Nosferatu (1922) an unofficial production of Dracula is considered to be the first vampire film.
- Murnau’s Count Orlock terrified audiences with rat like features and is far removed from the dashing count later introduced.
- Excellent example of German Expressionist filmmaking.
Universal Monsters of the 30’s & 40’s
- Bela Lugosi’s Dracula featured the first cinematic version of the dashing romantic count.
- Director, Todd Browning, based his film more on the broadway play rather than the Bram Stoker book.
- 1931’s Dracula is more of a filmed version of the play. There really isn’t a lot of variation in the cinematography. A lot of wide angles and not a whole lot of movement within the frame.
- Interesting fact, the Spanish language version of Dracula features more creativity in cinematography and visual effects for its time.
Hammer Horror and the Rise of Blood and Sex
- In the 1950’s, the UK’s Hammer Studios releases Horror of Dracula, a Dracula film in color featuring a vampire that drinks blood on camera and is far more sexual than previous incarnations.
- Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing become the archetypes for Count Dracula and Van Helsing respectively.
Exploitation Vampires in the 70’s
- The 70’s saw the rise of exploitation vampire films with movies like Blacula, Andy Warhol’s Blood for Dracula, George Romero’s Martin, and Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot.
- Anne Rice Vampires are introduced. The vampire now is more of a self reflective creature that contemplates their immortality rather than just being a bloodthirsty monster.
Mixed Bag for The 80’s
- Vampires now had to compete with the popular slasher films of the decade.
- Goofy vampire movies became popular.
- Once Bitten
- Vampire’s Kiss
- My Best Friend’s a Vampire
- Vampire films reflected a more comedic tone due to the the association of blood and the AIDS epidemic.
- Vampires also took a much darker and bloodier turn, yet stayed away from the gothic horror roots, with movies like The Lost Boys and Near Dark.
1990’s Buffy and the Return of Dracula
- The 90’s brought a new twist of the vampire myth with Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer film and tv series.
- Notable for changing the role of a male vampire slayer into a female.
- Gothic horror returned to the screen in 1992 with Bram Stoker’s Dracula– Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
- Notable for being the first major film to be digitally edited.
- The film saved Francis Ford Coppola’s production company, American Zoetrope, from going out of business.
- All effects were done in camera, no digital effects.
- Led to a resurgence in gothic horror films with Frankenstein, Mary Rieley, and Wolf.
2000’s and beyond
- Cross genre bending films became popular. Vampire films would combine with action films resulting in movies like Blade, Underworld, Van Helsing, and Dracula: Untold.
- An extension of the Anne Rice vampire archetype, Twilight took the vampire and turned it from more of a bloodthirsty monster to a brooding, sparkling teenager in a love triangle with werewolf and a human girl.
- Currently, vampires do not seem to be popular within the horror genre.
- Zombies have overtaken them in popularity with shows like The Walking Dead and iZombie.
- The monsters we see in horror films today are a reflection of our time. This could be anything from our fears of technology, climate change, and terrorism.
- The idea of a bloodsucking ghoul that seduces their prey does not really seem to jive with our current fears.
- Vampires can and will make a come back.
- Vampire films are at their greatest when they tap into our societal fears. I believe the next version of the vampire will deal with our fears of income inequality. Where the vampire is part of a ruling class and sucks the blood and financial resources from everyday people. These vampires will be tied into our politics, our media, and our economy.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (- Trailer
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