Trending Cinema: Vampires

I had the great pleasure of being a guest on episode 17 of Trending Cinema, hosted by Jon Tilton and Simon Miraudo. The episode was about, what else?, vampires.

At the end of the episode, we all gave reading/viewing suggestions. Here is a recap of mine.

1. The Vampire Tapestry by Auzy McKee Charnas

See my review from yesterday.

2. The Historian by Elizabeth Lostova
I think the novel is a little uneven but the idea behind the story is a great one. If Dracula is really Vlad the Impaler, a Holy Roman Crusader and a killer of infidels, before he became a vampire, what horrific stories and legends about him exist in the Middle East? There are also a lot of graduate students and library research involved. Gotta love that.

3. Being Human produced by the BBC
This British series is about a vampire, a ghost and a werewolf who are all roommates in a flat in London. They are trying, of course, to figure out what it means to be human. If the vampire can just overcome his addiction to human blood, will he be human? If the werewolf can have himself locked away on full moons, will he be human? Is it even possible for the ghost to be human again? It’s really very moving and clever at the same time. I will say, I found the pilot to be much better than the series proper. But I’ve only watched a handful of episodes from season one. Maybe it gets better?

4. Hellsing by Kohta Hirano
Readers (do I have any?) of my blog will not be surprised to see Hellsing up here. What can I say? I love it—ridiculously violent and bloody excesses and all. I think I like it so much because Alucard is a vampire without shame. He’s not out to be some pretty, romantic, sexy thing and he has absolutely no angst or guilt whatsoever. But for all that, he’s not simply a flat character. He has an extraordinary fascination with humanity and human weakness. In fact, his full respect is reserved for humans who continue to live and fight bravely despite their frailty and fear. Alucard’s own disdain for other immortals must translate into a hatred of himself and we get little glimpses of that here and there. The manga series has now officially come to an end with vol. 10 and you can buy all of them in translation now. There is also a 12 episode TV series and an OVA series that is currently at 7 volumes, I think. The OVA follows the manga but the TV show has its own story arc.

5. Shadow of the Vampire
Another favorite of mine. I regularly show clips from it when I teach Dracula The film stars John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, and Cary Elwes, and is the story of the filming of F.W. Murnau’s (Malkovich) 1922 Nosferatu. Murnau has found the perfect actor to play the nosferatu – Max Schreck (Dafoe). But what the rest of the film crew doesn’t know is that Schreck is really a vampire. Then the crew starts disappearing . . . .

One of my favorite scenes is one in which the producers ask Schreck if he’s read Dracula. Shreck says “I found it very sad.” And his reasons for thinking it sad are both funny and tragic.

6. Dracula by Bram Stoker
If you haven’t read the original, then you must start here. Dracula is a really great novel – spooky, frightening and perverse. It shows a lot about what British Victorians feared at the turn of the century and a lot of those same fears are still powerful today.

Whatever you do, do NOT see the Coppola movie version of Dracula It’s ridiculously bad. And proof why Keanu Reeves should never be allowed to use a British accent. Anthony Hopkins is a really good Van Helsing, Gary Oldman is a fabulous Dracula (as long as he’s no where near Mina), and Tom Waits is a PERFECT Renfield. But the rest of the movie is so campy and maudlin that it just makes me want to spit.