Celluloid Vampires: Life After Death in the Modern World
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In 1896, French magician and filmmaker George Méliès brought forth the first celluloid vampire in his film Le manoir du diable. The vampire continues to be one of film's most popular gothic monsters and in fact, today more people become acquainted with the vampire through film than through literature, such as Bram Stoker's classic Dracula. How has this long legacy of celluloid vampires affected our understanding of vampire mythology? And how has the vampire morphed from its folkloric and literary origins?
In this entertaining and absorbing work, Stacey Abbott challenges the conventional interpretation of vampire mythology and argues that the medium of film has completely reinvented the vampire archetype. Rather than representing the primitive and folkloric, the vampire has come to embody the very experience of modernity. No longer in a cape and coffin, today's vampire resides in major cities, listens to punk music, embraces technology, and adapts to any situation. Sometimes she's even female.
With case studies of vampire classics such as Nosferatu, Martin, Blade, and Habit, the author traces the evolution of the American vampire film, arguing that vampires are more than just blood-drinking monsters; they reflect the cultural and social climate of the societies that produce them, especially during times of intense change and modernization. Abbott also explores how independent filmmaking techniques, special effects makeup, and the stunning and ultramodern computer-generated effects of recent films have affected the representation of the vampire in film.
reconsider the novel in the light of the feminist movement.20 Hammer Studios continued its series of Dracula films with its two modern day interpretations: Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). There were three television adaptations of Dracula, starring Norman Welsch (Canada, 1973), Jack Palance (US, 1974), and Louis Jordan (UK, 1977) as the Count. The Jack Palance version, produced by Dan Curtis, demonstrates a specific debt to McNally and Florescu by directly
transforming the vampire narrative through its representation of the vampire hunter.34 In the film, Las Vegas is being tormented by a series of mysterious murders. Reporter Carl Kolchak follows the trail of a madman who he comes to realize is a true, mythic vampire. While he tries to convince the authorities that the killer they have on their hands is really a vampire, they maintain their bureaucratic line and ignore his advice. Even when they agree to follow Kolchak’s suggestion to arm the
to streak or splatter, and these effects appear quite graphic and realistic. The use of black-and-white stock facilitated these choices by not showing the artificiality of the effect while allowing the gore to be shown in detail. The desire to show horror in realistic and graphic detail was one of the defining characteristics of these underground movies of the 1970s, and it is largely due to the success of Night of the Living Dead that this was possible. Romero’s film shows horror in two ways:
the patrons remarks with wonder, “Things they can do with special effects these days.” This remark is precisely aimed at the film’s audience and is what Steve Neale would call “a ‘textual’ and an ‘institutional’ event: a remark addressed to the spectator by the film, and by the cinematic apparatus, about the nature of its special effects.” 19 Talking specifically about the famous line in The Thing—“You’ve got to be fucking kidding!” uttered at the sight of a particularly ridiculous embodiment of
the repetitive action of pursuing the life-sustaining need to drink blood Mae engages in the anonymous, superficial motions of the non-place. Mae instructs Caleb, “Don’t think of it as killing. Don’t think of it at all. It is just something that you have to do night after night.” Similarly, while the vampires in Carpenter’s film search for the Black Cross, a symbol of the failure of the Catholic Church, the slayers become numbed by their experiences until they all emulate the style and attitude