Celluloid Vampires

Celluloid Vampires

STACEY ABBOTT
Copyright Date: 2007
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/716957
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    Celluloid Vampires
    Book Description:

    In 1896, French magician and filmmaker George Méliès brought forth the first celluloid vampire in his filmLe 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 classicDracula. 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 asNosferatu,Martin,Blade, andHabit, 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79469-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: A Little Less Ritual and a Little More Fun
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1896, one year before the publication of Bram Stoker’sDracula, French magician and filmmaker George Méliès brought forth the first celluloid vampire in his filmLe manoir du diable(The Haunted Castle). In this film, a bat flies into a Gothic castle, transforms into a man who then conjures up numerous visions to horrify the other inhabitants of the castle. He is vanquished by a man brandishing a crucifix. In the century that has followed, the vampire continues to be one of the most popular Gothic monsters to haunt our cinema and television screens with hundreds of films that...

  5. PART ONE. Bram Stoker’s Dracula from Novel to Film
    • CHAPTER ONE Dracula: A Wonder of the Modern World
      (pp. 15-42)

      When the vampires Louis and Claudia search eastern Europe for other vampires in Anne Rice’sInterview with the Vampire, they find only “mindless, animated corpses” haunting graveyards, ancient monuments, and tombs. In presenting a confrontation between new-world and old-world vampires, Rice draws upon the essential differences between literature and folklore. According to Paul Barber, the typical vampire of folklore would have most likely been plump, “with long fingernails and a stubbly beard, his mouth and left eye open, his face ruddy and swollen.” He was not an elegant gentleman like his literary cousin, but a “dishevelled peasant.”² Christopher Frayling explains...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Cinematic Spectacle of Vampirism: Nosferatu in the Light of New Technology
      (pp. 43-60)

      In a pivotal scene inShadow of the Vampire(2000), a fictional film about the making of F. W. Murnau’sNosferatu(1922), the real vampire Max Schreck finds a small hand-cranked film projector amongst all of the technological equipment the filmmakers have brought into his castle. Like a child left alone with his toys, he curiously begins to crank the lever, which results in a projected image of a sunrise on the wall. He is transfixed by the sight of the first sunrise he has seen in centuries, but the sequence changes as soon as Schreck instinctively places his hand...

    • CHAPTER THREE From Hollywood Gothic to Hammer Horror: The Modern Evolution of Dracula
      (pp. 61-72)

      From the earliest adaptations ofDracula, F. W. Murnau’sNosferatu(1922) and Tod Browning’sDracula(1931), the cinema has harbored an intense fascination with the vampire and this filmic image has colonized the cultural representation of the vampire. The success of Browning’s film launched a new genre in Hollywood retrospectively called “Hollywood Gothic,” a phrase coined by David J. Skal because of the genre’s debt to Gothic literature and the visual style of German expressionism.² This genre established many of the parameters for the vampire film that would be consistently drawn upon until the emergence of the modern horror period...

  6. PART TWO. The Birth of the Modern American Vampire
    • CHAPTER FOUR The Seventies: The Vampire Decade
      (pp. 75-88)

      Bram Stoker’s nineteenth-century novelDraculafeatured a significant metamorphosis in the traditional representation of the vampire that captured a cultural anxiety over the changing perception of the modern world. While Dracula embodied the ambiguity between the occult and the scientific, he also emphasized the transitory nature of modernity itself. Dracula’s very nature undermined the definition of the modern as understood by the vampire hunters and his death paved the way for his replacement by the next wave of modernity. Stoker’s work illustrated how the vampire as a mythical creature could be a construct of the modern age, a position that,...

    • CHAPTER FIVE George Romero’s Martin: An American Vampire
      (pp. 89-106)

      While most of the vampire films and television programs of the 1970s play with generic conventions, George Romero’sMartintakes a more overt revisionist approach to the genre. One of the film’s chief methods of doing this is to present the vampire as American. WhileThe Night Stalkerdemonstrates how, in the evolution of the modern world, the past is fundamentally embedded in the present, the vampire is still an external force infiltrating, by accident or design, the modern Western world. Furthermore, films such asCount Yorga,VampireandBlaculaalso feature American vampires, but they were vampirized by European...

    • CHAPTER SIX Walking Corpses and Independent Filmmaking Techniques
      (pp. 107-122)

      In 1980, James Monaco wrote an article outlining the changes to the modern horror films that had emerged in the 1970s. He argued that contemporary cinema had become more violent and horrific. While not condemning the genre as a whole, he did critique the manner in which the films were made, their “technique,” and suggested that modern Hollywood had been taken over by “technicians.”¹ Of course, during the 1970s, Hollywood was in the throes of being taken over by a group of new filmmakers who, building upon the collapse of the studio system, were seeking to redefine the industry. Similarly,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Special Makeup Effects and Exploding Vampires
      (pp. 123-138)

      While the vampire films of the 1970s were primarily located in an underground film movement, the success of this new wave of American horror films led to the legitimization of a graphic and realistic style of filmmaking in mainstream cinema in the New Hollywood of the late 70s and early 80s. This served to professionalize the special makeup effects artists, rescuing them from their home workshops and garages, and recognizing them within the industry. The launch of the horror fan magazineFangoriain 1979 was a response to the success of the genre and contributed to the popularity and celebrity...

  7. PART THREE. Reconfiguring the Urban Vampire
    • CHAPTER EIGHT New York and the Vampire Flâneuse
      (pp. 141-162)

      By relocating the vampire to a modern urban setting,DraculaandMartinare the first steps toward the release of the vampire from superstition and tradition, facilitating a reconfiguration of the vampire from a premodern monster to an urban flâneur, increasingly at home in the city.Martinin particular self-consciously demythologizes the vampire in film by stripping away all of the familiar conventions. While films of the 1980s tend to return to these conventions as discussed in the previous chapter, they are not bound by a recognized vampire tradition. Instead the films are individually fashioned from a broad spectrum of...

    • CHAPTER NINE Vampire Road Movies: From Modernity to Postmodernity
      (pp. 163-176)

      In an inversion of Jonathan Harker’s memorable journey to meet Count Dracula, we now leave the East and enter the West. While Harker’s journey chronicled a shift from the modern West to the premodern East, this journey through the American landscape will trace the modernization and Americanization of the vampire through its integration with the western and the road movie, two genres whose shared iconographies are indelibly linked to the formation of America. This new hybrid genre emerged in the 1980s as a means of reinventing the vampire film. Its hybridity makes the vampire road movie the perfect bridge between...

    • CHAPTER TEN Los Angeles: Fangs, Gangs, and Vampireland
      (pp. 177-194)

      When Angel, the vampire with a soul, leaves Sunnydale and the television series ofBuffy the Vampire Slayerto pursue his own destiny and television program, he is drawn to the city of Los Angeles and its diversity of victims and villains, humans and demons.¹ While Sunnydale was contained and unified, Los Angeles is sprawling and fragmented. Violence erupts onto the streets every night unnoticed, not because it is hidden but because the inhabitants of Los Angeles retreat behind closed doors and choose not to see it. “War Zone” (Angel1:20) encapsulates one of the many themes of the Los...

  8. PART FOUR. Redefining Boundaries
    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Vampire Cyborgs
      (pp. 197-214)

      Hominus nocturna; virus; disease; genetic mutation; genetic experiment; a genetically engineered superrace. In the vampire films of the late 1990s and early twenty-first century, these terms have come to replace classic descriptions of the vampire: bloodsucker; revenant; succubus; shape-shifter; fiend. Vampirism is increasingly explained through the language of science, described as a disease, and in cases such asNear Dark, The Forsaken, Vampire: Los Muertos, and theBladetrilogy (Blade[1998],Blade II[2002], andBlade Trinity[2004]), a treatment or cure is discovered. This choice of language, however, goes beyond reading vampirism as a disease or specifically as an...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Vampires in a Borderless World
      (pp. 215-220)

      FromDracula(1897) toBlade(1998) and its contemporaries, the cinematic vampire has undergone a process of liberation from the boundaries of space, time, and body and, as a result, embodies a legacy of transformation that expresses the experience of modernity. But where does the cinematic vampire go from here? As we move further into the twenty-first century, the vampire continues to show its presence in the cinema with such films asBlade II(2002),Queen of the Damned(2002),The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen(2003),Underworld(2003),Van Helsing(2004),Blade Trinity(2004),Vampires: The Turning(2005),Night Watch...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 221-242)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 243-254)
  11. Filmography
    (pp. 255-258)
  12. Index
    (pp. 259-266)