Friday Favourites: Vampires
By The Hodderscape Team
Posted on March 7, 2014 in Books, Film, Friday Favourites, Television with tags Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Historian, Vampires
From pretty opposite ends of the vampire spectrum, we have Only Lovers Left Alive and Vampire Academy in cinemas at the moment. So, From haunting counts to tortured teenagers, this week we’ve sifted through the immortal hoard and chosen our favourite vampires…
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (2005)
Confession: I used to be in the vampire writing game. The main antagonist of my dark epic fantasy trilogy was one. To be honest I liked him more than my nominally ‘good’, world-saving characters. After all he had real motivation, even if it was stealing the life essences of those not blessed with the Life In Death. I got his name from a visit to one of the most haunted places in Europe, the village of Zakros on the Eastern Coast of Crete. It was once one of the four most important centres of Minoan civilization but, like Knossos, around 1450 BC the palace was suddenly destroyed, possibly by earthquakes, and never re-inhabited. A gully lined with burial chambers ran through the ruins: the ‘Ravine of the Dead.’ Faran Gaton Nekron. Had the earthquakes woken the undying from their graves? The name stuck, became the name of my vampire lord , my obsession with the Undead grew, I got writing….
Fast forward to 2005. A hot new book was on submission from the States. The Historian by debut novelist Elizabeth Kostova. There was a lot of titching and tetching from my literary editor colleagues. ‘It’s about VAMPIRES,’ they moaned as if talking of a puppy killing. Needless to say the manuscript was snatched from their genre-less fingers and devoured by me. Shades of Bram Stoker and Wilkie Collins stirred in this epic story about the search for Vlad (the Impaler) Tepes’ grave. It was a book that excited me beyond reason yet its horror was understated. Kostova promised ‘only a cup of blood would be spilled in its pages’ and so it proved. Dracula is as much present through the tainted objects of his worship as he is in person. It’s not a book about the fetishism of blood but the fetishism of documents: the old books, maps and letters, that are gateways to a mysterious and haunted past. Chilling, eerie, Gothic and erudite, the book is a modern masterpiece.
Blade from Blade (1998)
When Oliver and I were discussing today’s subject and our possible answers, I asked him if he’d ever seen the Wesley Snipes classic film Blade. When he said no (I know!) I launched into an epic rant about the vampire-hunting half-vampire and then realized that he had to be my answer for today’s Friday Favourites. It’s not that Blade himself is my favourite vampire of all time, or that the movies are cinematic masterpieces. It’s they’re both fully committed, hardcore, ridiculous pulp nonsense… and I love me some fully committed, hardcore, ridiculous pulp nonsense. Let’s start at the beginning, with the first Blade film. This film is so 1998. Raves! Tribal tattoos! Quips! A Willie Nelson look-alike mentor who wears a bandana as a headband and rides motorcycles! Wesley Snipes! I mean, there’s all of that. And it’s amazing! But even if there weren’t all that, there’d be this: the climactic battle (spoilers!) when Blade fights Stephen Dorff’s vampire (who’s just become one with the blood-god Magra*, as one does). There’s a lot of over the top wire fighting, and then Blade kicks a vial of what the villain thinks is some sort of virus (to which he’d be immune, because: blood-god), but it’s actually a vial of blood-god-killin’ anti-vamp syrum – Dorff takes it to the head and then explodes, at which point Blade utters the immortal line ‘some mother***ers always trying to ice skate uphill.’ (end spoilers)
Take a moment to revel in that, cinema’s most perfect example of pseudo-profound, profanity-laced bon mot. It makes no sense. And yet, it makes all the sense.
Or, in the golden ratio of Hollywood nonsense science, the scene in Blade II where an intrepid scientist dons her latex gloves, milks a dead vampire’s fangs for venom, sniffs the sample delicately, and announces that it’s a neurotoxin. SCIENCE, amirite?
I’ve neither read the comic (I know!) nor seen the tv show (there was a tv show?!), but I love those stupid films, and the world is a better, tribal-tattoo-ier, weirder place for them.
Eli from Let The Right One In (2008)
With so many top-notch vampires across literature, TV and film, it was tough to choose just one, but I am going for the Eli from Let The Right One In (also known as Abby in the American remake). When Eli, apparently a young girl but really something very different, moves in next to a 12 year-old, chronically bullied boy called Oskar, a unique friendship forms which is both beautiful and, of course, dangerous.
There’s something about child vampires that is both particularly creepy and particularly heartbreaking – they’re frozen in time, ‘living’ forever but never allowed to grow up and live the life they were supposed to lead, and of course it’s always especially shocking to see a cute kid suddenly start sucking someone’s blood. I think what a lot of us love about vampires is that mix of monster and humanity, and never is that more obviously – and poignantly – revealed than in a child, in that dichotomy of innocence and evil. I think that’s why the two vampire characters who have haunted me most over the years are Eli and also Claudia from Interview with the Vampire: their stories are not just scary but also very sad and, weirdly, very sweet.
Lestat de Lioncourt from The Vampire Chronicles (1976-2003)
“Don’t you see? It is a new age. It requires a new evil. And I am that new evil… I am the vampire for these times.” – Lestat
Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles was the first big obsession of my teenage years and Lestat was my first major imaginary boyfriend. Although Anno Dracula is wittier, American Vampire is more daring, Lost Souls is cooler and Buffy The Vampire Slayer is EVERYTHING, The Vampire Chronicles will always have a special place on my bookshelf.
Also Anne Rice got married in a coffin.
The Vampire Chronicles paved the way (Joss Whedon says so!) for the dangerous and dashingly introspective vampires we swoon over in Buffy… and is also a lot of fun! Selfish, murderous, seductive and angsty, 18th century French aristocrat turned immortal bloodsucker Lestat is everything a vampire should be. Through the course The Vampire Chronicles he becomes a rock star, has a love affair with the ancient Egyptian mother of all vampires, journeys to both heaven and hell and falls in love with a number of gorgeous people. All done with enough charisma to make even Tom Cruise look cool.
Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
If I was going on looks alone it would hands down go to Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries, but it isn’t, so my favourite has to be Spike from Buffy. I know what you’re thinking… Spike again!? Well what can I say folks, Joss Whedon is a genius and Spike is a masterpiece. Okay, that might be going a bit far – but he is definitely a great character. His is expertly done, slowly evolving so you realise his evil nature isn’t what defines him, it is only the demon within him. Without going on a rant about how great he is let me just say, James Marsters has got an awesome British accent, Spike is the only guy in the world who can pull off bleach blonde hair, he kicks ass like a pro and is probably one of the only vampires that actually has some depth and evolution of character.