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I am a big wuss. It's true. The tiniest thing can frighten me. So I have no idea why I love vampires so much. Nor do I have an earthly clue why I had originally intended to write about Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark (1987)...
For that underseen horror film, Bigelow enlisted the cast of her then-husband James Cameron's Aliens (1986) to play a wandering group of bloodsuckers: Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein and Bill Paxton are the alien soldier/prey gone western vampire/predator. In Near Dark's most famous sequence they enter a roadhouse and massacre the patrons. It's been a good twelve years since I've seen the film but I've never been able to shake Paxton's demonic "finger lickin' gooood" glee from my memory. Just typing this makes me long for vampires on the more romantic side of the undead fence. Since the most romantic thing about Near Dark is a marriage that shares actors, I'm opting out of a repeat viewing for now. A wuss and a softie.
So when it comes to my preferences in fictional monsters, I'll admit that I'm something of a beauty fascist. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my favorite TV series of all time, but it has one recurrent motif that makes me die a little inside. Each time vampires in the Whedon-verse reveal themselves, their pretty faces morph into hideous mugs --a little too Klingon / Lost Boys for my taste. If you're going to sink your teeth into my neck, please look pretty while doing so. Don't scrunch up your face.
Since the vampire's "blood is life" myth haunts metaphor rich neighborhoods like Sex and Death, it's no surprise that it's so flexible a fictional genre. It changes with the times. Recent years have downplayed the seductiveness and amped up the savagery of the creatures of the night. When you stop to consider vampiric activity in the Blade and Underworld series or in 80s films like The Lost Boys and Near Dark the violence has become so foregrounded that the erudite romantic vampire is now a dinosaur.
Francis Ford Coppola's divisive batty Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) did try to resurrect the old-school vampire, but I'd say the operatic romance within it is the one thing that most assuredly did not work. In the form of delicious Winona Ryder (just ignore her tone-deaf line readings), this Mina Harker could certainly drive a man to drink...her blood. But in the form of Gary Oldman, this Dracula would have a hard time inspiring recriprocal lust. If you want to ressurect the fanged hypnotic ladies man, he shouldn't have a weak chin. A great actor Oldman may well be. A great romantic leading man he simply is not.
But if we can't have the swooning albeit incongruous romanticism of bloodthirsty killers, can we at least have eroticism? Occasionally we can, yes. The legendary sapphic makeout between Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger (yes, please) and Keanu Reeves's druggy romp with three nubial vamp brides (and how) in Bram Stoker's Dracula are two famous examples. But here are two more cinematic moments worth obsessing on. They're both chilling and sexually charged and, therefore, perfectly vampiric.
Is any vampire uglier than Nosferatu? In Werner Herzog's expert adaptation of the silent classic, the disgusting, decayed Nosferatu leaning over the prone form of young and beautiful Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) is a forceful study in contrast. Their lone similarity is their mutually pale skin which, come to think of it, is a perfect statement itself: isn't Lucy already doomed, the moment she concocts her self-sacrifice?
Aside from a moody, well-judged cutaway to bats flying in slow motion, Herzog's camera doesn't ever look away -- for minutes on end -- from the blunt sexuality of Nosferatu's bloodlust. The creature is mesmerized by both the blood and the body. With sickeningly slow care he caresses her with his beastly clawed hands. This excruciating scene maximizes the feeling of violation, playing on the audiences fear of their own sexual vulnerability. Lucy, knowing the sun will soon rise and rid the town of this undead monster, pulls him closer as soon at a crucial moment. His violating lust will be his undoing. Her sexual martyrdom is on the disturbing level of Breaking the Waves.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Is any vampire prettier than Brad Pitt? This film adaptation of Anne Rice's bestseller gets a considerable boost from Pitt's potent auto-eroticism, which hit its peak with this film and Legends of the Fall (the combo of which sent him into the stratosphere). My favorite moment in the whole of the sumptuous but uneven Interview is when Louis (Pitt) is first bitten by Lestat (Tom Cruise).
Once Cruise has buried his face in Pitt's neck, turning the moviegoing audience green with envy, the movie stars lift off into the air. For a blissful moment or two each time I watch this Neil Jordan film, I believe that the director will make a convention-defying choice and leave the camera resting on the glory of Pitt's face in ecstacy, his eyes fluttering. (As it turns out, it's quite orgasmic to be bitten by a vampire. But maybe everything is sexually heightened when you look like Brad Pitt?) Sadly, Jordan succumbs to the mediocrity of traditional back and forth editing, cutting to Tom Cruise's less attractive and now bloody-toothed face. Gross.
But this is the way of all things vampire: the repellent and hypnotic in tandem.
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The Bloodsucking Blogs
Flickhead has capsules on five favored vampire flicks
Gallery of the Absurd imagines Interview with the Antoinette
House of Sternberg posts original short fiction The Starving
Certifiably Creative offers up Theater Des Vampires
No More Marriages on Pittsburgh as the star of Innocent Blood
Eddie on Film views Fright Night as the top 80s vampire flick
Forward to Yesterday gets political w/ Guy Maddin's Dracula
Silly Hats Only on George Romero's Martin
As Little As Possible loves Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Modern Fabulousity pays tribute to Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu
Low Resolution stays up late From Dusk Till Dawn
Stale Popcorn sings a love song for (sexy) vampires
goatdog on the dwindling House of Dracula at Universal
Cinemathematics on vampire imagery in Shadow of a Doubt
Burbanked Blame the screenwriter: blood sucking edition
...And Still More Undead
Richard Gibson goes contemporary: Martin and The Addiction
When I Look Deep... pits Drácula against Dracula
Pfangirl on a "bloody awesome trio" of lady bloodsuckers
QTA loves the ladies. And so do the ladies in Vampyros Lesbos
Cinema Fromage 'yeah baby, Dracula in 70s London'
zoom-in requests a DVD fix of The Addiction
Stinky Lulu loves Ketty Lester in Blacula
Way of Words on women: from victims to vampire slayers
Music is My Boyfriend offers tunes for the blog-a-thon
Pen15 Club "When Hilary Duff attacks"
My New Plaid Pants finds Paxton ‘finger lickin’ good’ in Near Dark
Nicks Flick Picks on Coppola's Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Being Boring on the homo-cautionary Interview…
Culture Snob resurrects and old look at Nosferatu
The Horror Blog 'fesses up to some anti-vampire prejudice
The Vampires Are Everywhere!
Tuwa's Shanty on Martin & Nosferatu
Catherine Cantieri the giant sucking sound of 1992's Dracula
The Boob Tubers asks the eternal question: Spike or Angel?
novaslim says a "vuck you" to Grace Jones in Vamp
European Films on Frostbite, a Swedish horror comedy
popbytes recommends Christopher Lee in Hammer's Dracula series
Glitterati points out the most unbelievably cast vampire…ever
100 Films the monster mashup: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
Peter Nellhaus on Brides of Dracula
Bright Lights After Dark 'Browning and the Slow Club' (Dracula)
Tim Lucas declares his half dozen favorite vampire flicks
Film Vituperatum Ninjas and Vampires --uncanny similarities!
Film of The Year 'That's Why The Lady is a Vamp'
All About My Movies Angelina Jolie IS a Vampire
Critic After Dark two vampire movies from The Philippines
Agence Eureka a vampire gallery
Cinevistaramascope finds Herzog's Nosferatu superior to Murnau's
Auteur Lust obsesses on Persona: 'The Vampire's In Us'
Bitter Cinema a treasure trove of YouTube vampire trailers
Cutting Room remembers his first time...w/ Bram Stokers Dracula
Watts With Words 'Suck Me' on homoerotic vampires
Jurgen Fauth's Muckworld a 60 second tribute to Kinski as Nosferatu
Happy Halloween! Pray for Sunrise
UPDATE: If you liked this blog-a-thon check out the two others the film experience has hosted on Michelle Pfeiffer (April 2006) and Action Heroines (June 2007)
Tags: blogging, dracula, vampire, Nosferatu, vampires, horror, film, movies, blogs, Halloween, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise