Friday, June 22, 2012

Christopher Lee Never Had to Sparkle

My officially teenager in a week daughter and I each have and e-reader and share an account. Amazingly enough there are actually books we both like, from classics like The Wizard of Oz and the works of Louisa May Alcott to more recent series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. There is however one great literary  divide between us. It is vampires.

Now I love classic horror films and horror literature. Frankenstein, Dracula, Carmilla, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and their various film incarnations have been among my favorite entertainments for most of my life. From classic silents like Nosferatu and Phantom of the Opera, through all the Universal classics (especially anything with Boris Karloff), the great sci-fi/horror films of the 50s and the brilliant work of those folks at Hammer films and even current films as long as they don't go too crazy with the blood and gore: I am a fan. 

One of the appealing things about horror films of course is that they take place in a surprisingly ordered universe. Once the conventions are established they of the need to be adhered to. Mummies may seem like soulless creatures, but wait till the reincarnation of their late lover turns up. Werewolves fear silver and the full moon. Vampires can only come out at night and need to be firmly staked at the end of the story. I don't object to a little tweaking mind you." Shadow of the Vampire" was a brilliant film which postulates that the classic film Nosferatu employed a real vampire in the lead. Of course in true vampire lore they cast  no reflection, nor would they appear on film, or cast shadows, but making those allowances the rest of the rules were strictly followed. In "Fright Night" it is not merely enough to confront the vampire with a cross, one must also believe that it will work. (I speak of course of the original Roddy McDowall/Chris Sarandon Fright Night, not the more recent film that I have no intention of seeing: once you change an essential premise of the story (in this case a main charecters profession, which related directly to the plot, you have lost the reason for your story) The beauty of the horror film is that after the initial disruption, order is restored by the end of the film, even if there is a doorway left open for a sequel.
Then a few years ago the vampires of Washington State disrupted the ordered vampire universe
Its all Stephanie Meyers fault of course. In the Twilight books the vampire mythos is made subservient to teen Harlequin romance. The films are even worse because the story is being told by some remarkable attractive young people. (and some attractive older people also. In the midst of the great Team Jacob/Team Edward debate, I suggested there needed to be a Team Carlisle for moms who had to sit through the dang movies with their daughters, but could at least appreciate Peter Facinelli's talents. I got a "really mother" and a pre=teen roll of the eyes) What I think of their acting talent have to wait till I see them in better films.

As a devoted fan of the more classic horror films, I cant tell you how distressing it  to see vampires running around by daylight, playing baseball, going to school and so forth. But it is the sparkling that is the worst. Yes for those of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid the entire Twilight universe, vampires don't vaporize in daylight, they sparkle. It has to be the silliest horror film concept ever. How menacing is a creature that sparkles in the daylight? But these aren't menacing vampires anyway, they are tortured teenage adolescent vampires.

To me this is more less Gothic heresy. To me the essential vampire has always been Christopher Lee. (All respect to Bela Lugosi for creating the template, but Sir Christopher perfected it) Tall and menacing and oh that voice.  (Nobody knows how to talk in the Twilight films either, but that's a whole different column) "Christopher Lee never had to sparkle" I tell my daughter.To her Sir Christopher is Willie Wonka's father or the guy giving Gandalf trouble in the "Lord of the Rings".
Because the saddest thing about Twilight is that it turns the kids off on the more classic horror stories.  The ones that set the standards are now the deviants.I can tell this by the vampire novels she is downloading to the nook, Twilight rip offs all. The 25 classic Vampire Tales anthology is strictly for my reading.

One more Twilight movie to go, and instead of the pang of regret I felt for the final Harry Potter film last summer, there will only be a sigh of relief. And there is hope for the future. Lately she has gotten into reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now there's a show that knew its teen angst and its Children of the Night.

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