The Twilight phenomenon is nothing new. It’s just the apotheosis of a sort of pop-cultural nosferatu makeover that has been chugging along since Anne Rice sent moody young romantics swooning with Interview With a Vampire way back in 1976. Purists may scoff at the melodrama and angst that have been infused into the sinister vampire archetype by authors like Stephenie Meyer or Laurell Hamilton, but nowadays, the real paroxysms of angst are coming from tormented horror fans who can’t stop moaning about the sparkling Nu-Vampire paradigm. Still, whining sourpuss fans should take heart. If you hunt hard enough, there are still plenty of counterpoints to the new moon that is rising, and even stories that integrate elements of the romanticized Nu-Nosferatu in a way even anti-Twilight curmudgeons can appreciate. Consider the following suggestions a sort of prescription for the current vampire epidemic going around, a treatment regime of literary inoculations and cinematic antidotes that can help you survive.
Horror of Dracula/Brides of Dracula: For immediate radical treatment of glampire infection, a back to back viewing of Hammer Film’s first 2 Dracula films can serve as a potent antidote to the Nu-Vampire Horror of Dracula’s Christopher Lee plays Count Dracula, the true O.G. of bloodsuckers, with no romance and only the barest hints of humanity. Lee’s vampire is all predator, a wolf in a very thin veneer of sheep’s clothing. Cunning and ferocious rather than oily and seductive, Lee’s magnetism is the allure of the viper as it hypnotizes its prey. Even the suavity Bela Lugosi exhibited in the role is absent in Lee’s articulation. When Lee’s Drac feeds, it is unequivocally an act of violation and when poor Lucy Homewood returns from the grave in the film, she’s not a bright-eyed Bella, but a soulless, bloodsucking baby-killer.
Battling the count in both outings is Peter Cushing’s Abraham Van Helsing. Cushing invigorates Van Helsing with a physicality and presence that makes the professor a true rarity: a horror protagonist actually worth rooting for. Horror of Dracula’s sequel, Brides of Dracula, is, ironically , bereft of Dracula himself, but Cushing returns with all his panache and dynamism intact. In Brides, he’s flushing out the seductive Baron Meinster, a vamp more in the charming-but-deadly Lugosi vein than Lee’s Dracula, but one whose sanguinary appetites still spell doom and death for any woman who catches his eye. Despite the absence of the titular Count, Brides is a full-blooded, invigorating old-school vampire rush, full of iconic scenes that sometimes surpass its predecessor. Taken in combination, the Horror/Brides regime is a powerful panacea to Pattinson.
ANNO DRACULA : Maybe you don’t need your system flushed of the nu-vampire, maybe you are looking for a gradual exposure to build up your tolerance. If so, Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels are the ideal elixir. Anno Dracula’s premise is sly to the point of gimmickry: Suppose Van Helsing and pals had botched their mission to eliminate Dracula in Stoker’s original novel? What would have happened to British history? Set in Victorian times, Anno Dracula depicts a late 19th century England where Count Dracula has ingratiated himself to the queen, and embracing vampirism is the quickest route up the stiflingly class-conscious social ladder. At first blush, Anno Dracula seems to exhibit all the irksome nu-vampire clichés that hardliners rail against; There’s the oxymoronic conflict of “good” vampires vs. “bad’ vampires, vamp/human romances, and the now-cliché premise of Vampires gone mainstream, but author Kim Newman’s encyclopedic knowledge and deep love for classic horror keeps the proceedings from descending into mall-goth melodrama. Anno Dracula is actually a literary forerunner to mash-ups like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The alternate world Newman conjures integrates a whole universe of fictional Victorian characters, and vamnpires from history and myth. In Newman’s london H.G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau can rub elbows with Lefanu’s Carmilla Karnstein, and Jack the Ripper can be twisted into a vicious vampire murderer dubbed “The Silver Knife Killer”. As the excesses of the killer and anti-vampire sentiment rise, secret agents of the crown must struggle to solve the murders before London explodes into anarchy.
Anno Dracula’s first sequel, The Bloody Red Baron, fast forwards the premise to World War One. This time, Dracula has allied himself with the Kaiser and incited war with France and England. While human and bloodsucking bureaucrats alike are sending men to die on the front, Dracula and the Germans are developing a top secret squad of bizarrely hybridized, flying vampire monstrosities to wage war above the trenches. Bloody Red Baron arguably eclipses its predecessor in scope and erudition. Once again Vampire is pitted against Vampire, and a host of fictional characters, from Lovecraft’s Dr. Herbert West, to beloved British boys’ adventure character Airman Biggles, get mashed up in a fray of dogfights, vampire blimps and gritty wartime adventure. Heroes are just as likely to sport fangs as villains in the novel, but for every noble nosferatu, Newman provides a surpassingly nasty bloodsucker for balance, and the sad irony in the novels depiction of deathless immortals sending young, living men to die in faraway trenches is both poignant and horrifying.
The final Anno Dracula book, Judgment of Tears, is less effective, but still worth reading. Set in 1959, the premise seems to suffer with the temporal distance from its Victorian roots. Newman integrates characters from the films of Federico Fellini, the novels of Ian Fleming and even an oblique inclusion of everyone’s favorite Kryptonian in Judgment, but Newman’s tone, and the nature of the go-go pop-culture icons he has to work with means Judgment of Tears often veers dangerously close to camp. Briefer than its predecessors, Newman seems to be wearying of the Anno Dracula concept with Judgment, and the plot of the novel itself seems to be an exercise in acknowledging the impotence of the traditional vampire archetype in a garish new world of superspies and giallo film brutality.
As a halfway point between the unspeakably evil vampire of old, and the romanticized mystical outsiders of today, the Anno Dracula books are like a flu vaccine; a controlled exposure to nu-vampire that may get you acclimated enough to avoid sickness from prolonged exposure to the inhabitants of Forks, Washington.
Mr. Vampire: If you prefer eastern medicine, Mr. Vampire, a comedic martial arts-Horror hybrid from Hong Kong, is quite potent in alleviating the symptoms of New Moon fever. Unlike the previously mentioned Hammer films, Mr. Vampire takes an alternate course of therapy. Rather than re-infusing the vampire with menace and horror, Mr. Vampire works by rendering the whole vampire concept rather goofy. Produced by Sammo Hung and released at the height of the Golden Harvest/Jackie Chan slapstick martial arts craze, Mr. Vampire pits a typical kung Fu rascal and his pals against the titular bloodsucking monster. Wacky antics with voodoo dolls, sexy ghosts, and anti-vampire snorkels, of course, ensue.
A couple of facts will strike the viewer strongly while watching Mr. Vampire. The first is that chinese Vampires are a lot more complicated to deal with than occidental ones. Repelling a Chinese vampire is not a simple matter of whipping out a cross or hanging some tasty spices on the wall, it involves calligraphy, measuring string soaked with chicken’s blood, complicated prayers, and a whole slew of ceremonial Taoist folderol. The complicated nature of anti-vampire techniques does, however, make for some really intricate Kung-Fu choreography, and the integration of the supernatural into the already spastic mix of slapstick and Kung Fu becomes a recipe for some really memorable martial arts battles.
The second, and most important element of Mr. Vampire in regards to our anti-Cullen regime, is that the Chinese vampire is kind of goofy. In Chinese folklore, the idea of rigor mortis is factored into the vampire legend. Thusly, vampires, their joints stiffened by rigor mortis, move via a rigid, undeniably silly looking sort of bunny-hop. Beside the fact that it is just plain goofy looking, it’s also hard to buy into the threat of a monster who could be smoked in a one-hundred yard dash by a George Romero Zombie. Add in the fact that Mr. Vampire, like most hopping vampires, is garbed in the pom-pom hatted, shiny, silk, funerary finery of a traditional Chinese mandarin, and you get something infinitely more ludicrous than bela Lugosi in even his campiest, cape furling, hand-waving moment.
So, if you find yourself swooning under the influence of shimmering, nu-vampire dreaminess, just pop in this film and picture Robert Pattinson bouncing around in a shiny, purple Chinese mandarin outfit. I promise you’ll feel better.
The Golden: Perhaps inoculation and immunization is useless in light of the angst-pire epidemic. Maybe the only way to survive is to give in, to fully embrace the charms of the nu-nosferatu. Lucius Sheperd’s novel The Golden, is a story that takes the goth trappings of the vampire protagonist and the velvety black allure of vampire sensuality and runs with it all the way to its lushly rotten core. Set in 1861, The Golden follows the dark machinations at a gathering of vampire families called “the decanting”. Once every few centuries, generations of selective breeding by the vampire clans produces an individual dubbed ‘The Golden’, a human whose blood is so intoxicating to vampires, its drinking is a ceremonial occasioning that outshines the pomp of any mortal vintner’s most exclusive wine-tasting. As much an occasion for intrigue as a gustatorial delight, The Decanting is thrown into uproar when The Golden is found murdered the day before the ceremony. When the all-powerful Patriarch demands justice, It is up to newly-turned vampire and former Paris detective Michel Beheim to solve the crime.
Shepard’s cadre of silk-and-ruffle vampires are cut from the same black cloth as the creations of Anne Rice or Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. They’re sensual, darkly charismatic, and sybaritic to the extreme, but Shepherd balances out this evil glamour with an existential decadence that undercuts all of the sinister enchantment of the vampire life. As Beheim learns about the plot to murder The Golden, he learns just as much about the existentially empty future that awaits him as the years of his immoratlity pass. The Golden is full of silky trysts and dangerous seduction, but the intrigues and entanglements only exemplify the emptiness of the vampire life. The pas-de-deux and deceptions are not so much the machinery of true passions, but the deadly hunting dances of immortal carnivores with little more than their instinctual urges and the lust to satisfy them remaining to fill their endless lives. The vampire world is also as hierarchical as any pride of lions or pack of wolves. To be a vampire is also to be a servant to superiors without compassion, empathy or, oftentimes, perspective. Beheim’s life as an immortal is filled with as much humiliation and servility as pleasure and decadence. Freedom from death for a young vampire, really means enslavement to a stifling, inescapable social order.
The Golden has a locked-house mystery structure as its framework, but the house Beheim and the suspects are locked in is a surreal kingdom unto itself, a singular masterpiece of gothic grandeur and senselessness. Shepard describes castle Banat, the Home of the mysterious vampire Patriarch and the place of the decanting as, “…an immense skull of grayish black stone to contain the bleak materials of (The Patriarch’s) personality”. It’s a place of mile-deep staircase, vaulted pits and stairways to nowhere, as much a place of the mind as a real stone and mortar structure. Shepherd’s evocation of the deadly mesmerism of the vampire is just as hypnotic, and he writes of the decadent rendezvous and savage vampiric acts of violence with the sickly sweetness of a Baudelaire poem. Reading The Golden is like biting into an over-ripe fruit with a poisoned center: Its’ sweet, bitter and deadly. The Golden is miles removed from the Twilight zone, but unequivocally a product of the influences that gave birth to the nu-vampire.
This is just a small pharmaceutical cocktail of the available remedies to glampire infection, alternate courses of treatment are available, and, as always, effectiveness may vary from patient to patient. In case none of these treatments are available, the powerful home remedy of repeated infusions of Bram Stoker’s original novel Dracula and copious amounts of Count Chocula cereal can also be effective. If symptoms last for more than 48 hours proceed directly to Hot Topic. You probably can not be saved.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, the BPRD, or the Stephenie Meyer fan club.