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F@$!ing Vampires!!

A great man once said, “I don’t believe in vampires… But I believe in my own two eyes and what I saw is fucking vampires.” Oh alright, it was *really* George Clooney in Dusk ‘Til Dawn, but the operative words there (for me at least) are “fucking vampires”. They’re bloody EVERYWHERE (pun intended). And to say I’m underwhelmed is an understatement. I’ve always read A LOT of vampire scripts – and actually, one of my all-time faves was one, proving that anyone can write anything (though it’s still yet to made). But familiarity does breed contempt – not only am I seeing loads in the spec pile, they’re all over TV and film too. And to be blunt, I’m sick to death of them.

The vampire myth as we know it comes straight out of Victorian storytelling. The Victorian middle class was extraordinarily pious; even just a basic English Literature A Level education taking in the likes of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens will tell us (albeit second hand) they believed absolutely in “faith, hope and charity”; the likes of Wilkie Collins, who dared to imagine Christiantity wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – “I am an average good Christian, when you don’t push my Christianity too far” (The Moonstone) – were frankly well-dodgy, man.

Vampires have always been part of folklore but it was Bram Stoker who managed to get the idea down on paper in 1897 to extraordinary success, unlike any of the others that had come before. There have been many reasons cited for this sudden success with the Vampire myth: the idea the rich were literally sucking the poor dry and fear of sex (something Victorian brides were ill-equipped by all their governesses and female peers to deal with) are the two favourites.

There is a certain appeal to BOTH of these readings for me. Blood has long enjoyed the status of being “life”: long before plastic surgery and Botox, Queens and Conquerors’ wives were bathing in the blood of sacrificed virgins in order to “stay young”. So for Vampires to take what they need regardless – nearly always from women in the old tales by the way – what is that but a form of rape? Whatever way I look at the vampire myth, I see notions of violation and cruelty – I don’t think it was any accident Sylvia Plath called certain people before her death “emotional vampires” (or indeed that she ended up with her head in the oven, but that’s another story).

But in those old tales, those “rapist” Vampires had a certain power: they acted as cautionary tales for the women waiting for their wedding day you might argue; how to not to let a man treat like a vessel for his own use, perhaps – a useful reminder in a time when men “owned” their wives by law. Regardless, however you *see* Vampires, the likes of Dracula in the old tales were dangerous, sexy, strong – to be bewitched by them was to be damned; keep your head – or else.

But now, Vampires are part of every supernatural tale, whether TV or film – and inevitably, any “power” fiction-wise they once had is diluted. There’s even a vampire to suit everyone, such as the so-called “sparkly” vampire, Edward Cullen. Any threat they once were is destroyed by their ubiquitous nature – and the fact we appear to have forgotten the true horror of what they first represented. Now, they’re just guys and gals with fangs. Oh – and they drink blood: sorry about that. But hey! There is such thing as *good* vampires who eat pigeons and stuff instead of people.


Of course, low budget filmmakers are always going to be attracted by the vampire myth. It’s a great way of doing supernatural horror without having to splash out on costumes and make up too much. Yet now, budgets for these vampire films are getting higher and higher with the likes of Twilight; TV is becoming more and more so-called “high concept” by including them as well. But tell me: how is something “high concept” if everyone is doing it? I’ve said before that originality is overrated, but presenting the same concept over and over is surely just boring?

Of course, other people are thinking the same: “How can I make MINE different?” and I think for this reason, I’ve seen some very disturbing changes in vampire specs in the past six months. The protagonist (usually a vampire) is more and more often becoming female like in Underworld, but UNLIKE Underworld often invites her victims to have sex with her first, before she kills them. Often the nature of this sex is violent, debases and objectifies her; she also frequently encourages them, usually to do with some “trauma” in her past when she was human. Therefore this a story that was based in violation, becomes DOUBLY SO – which makes little sense to me, when the power (as the superhuman being) is supposed to be hers. It’s as if women, superhuman or not, are supposed to be victims. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been one script I’ve seen with a story like this. I’ve written about the plethora of rape in spec scripts before, but this really is taking it to the nth degree.

So next time you come up with the *perfect* vampire tale, ask yourself: what is about *yours* that is different and new to *everyone else’s* vampire script… And do we REALLY need another one?

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9 thoughts on “F@$!ing Vampires!!”

  1. Firstly, yeah – there can be too much of a good thing and, increasingly, it's not being a *good* thing anyway.

    But I blame the commissioners and execs more than the writers (apart from the ones you sound like you've been reading) – a lot of the vampire stuff around seems to be based on books, comics and specs that have been around for a few years now.

    Can there be a good vampire? Well yeah, if that's who your character is. They've been around in fiction long before Angel got his soul back or Mitchell went 'off the drink' in Being Human. I think the change (as well as making vamps the protagonists) has been the metaphor. Used to be a lot more rape or seduction in the old days where as now it's more addiction and affliction. They're the outsider.

    I think one of the main things has been their gradual genre switch from creatures of horror to creatures of the fantasy genre which opens up the audience. People don't want vampires to be scared much anymore. This also gets them past the censors a lot more as someone being killed by a mythical beastie can get a lower rating than someone being killed by Jigsaw etc. This means they can get more money.

    But that's my two cents. Yeah there's too much but I'm so glad I got to see Alan Ball make True Blood.

    But anyway, we'll be watching TV shows and films littered with angels soon anyway 🙂

  2. Vampires as protagonists leave me cold (arf). If I HAVE to watch f***ing vampires, I'd sooner see humans do battle with them like in Dusk Til Dawn.

    Having said that, I never bought Angel's "Uncle Tom" thing in Buffy, seemed like he spent all the time prancing around on the verge of crying. If forced to watch Clockwork-Orange-Style, I'd choose Spike every time over him. By the time Angel got his own series, he seemed to have forgotten he was a bloody vampire anyway.

    And sure, it could be argued the whole vampire myth has changed to the affliction/addiction/outsider thing in recent years, but that's precisely why I find it so damn dull. Affliction/addiction/the outsider is a HUMAN thing; vampires are anything but; they're supernatural, so I can't take it seriously.

    Gay vampires/vampiricism as a "coming out" metaphor… Premise-wise, that's an interesting differentiation on the whole thing and props to Alan Ball for TRUE BLOOD. But I just can't watch, I'm too saturated.

  3. I guess I like the vampire myth because it *is* so adaptable – how much humanity remains when they become the undead? Definitely debatable.

    But I don't think there's one rule to ring them all. I love watching gorgeous George go crazy on the indistinguishable dead too!

  4. I love vampires. And I love how the myth/story/legend has developed over the last few years. I'm a massive fan of Being Human. not watched True Blood yet – mainly cos Anna Paquin's sooo annoying. But my favourite all time vampire on TV show has got to be – without a doubt – Ultraviolet which was on Channel 4 about 10 years ago. A crack secret Government department know vampires exist and their job is to destroy them before they're destroyed.

    I think it was Idris Elba's last British show before he went off to do the Wire. The penultimate ad break in the penultimate episode was the most frightening thing I had ever ever seen on TV in my life.

    If you haven't seen it then I recommend you buy the box set. It's not perfect by any means (and there's some ropey acting) but I think it's fab. Plus there's no way these guys could ever be seen as the bad guys – whatever they try to tell you.

    The world will be on to a new phase soon. Unfortunately I fear it's the one which I'm developing a TV series for currently. Bugger.


  5. Sally! Been meaning to catch up with you on FB for bloody ages. How the hell are ya.

    Yes I saw ULTRAVIOLET – it was a good idea and I rmbr liking it *in general*, but unfortunately it had JACK DAVENPORT in it, an actor so bad he should be done by trading standards. How the hell has that guy had such a varied and distinguished career when he only ever plays himself?!

    I should point out, my fierce hatred of vampires comes only from reaching saturation point; if I didn't read so many scripts with them in AS WELL AS the sudden interest in produced film/TV, I'm sure I wouldn't feel so strongly. In fact, over the years there have been films I have liked – though television will always be a supernatural-free zone for me, more or less. I recall watching INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE when it first came out (even tho I was underage, lol!) and loving it – though I was left underwhelmed by the books: Anne Rice wrote some horribly misogynistic characters and a whole book of it with the deplorable LASHER.

  6. Couldn't agree more about the ubiquity – I recently saw a poster for a vampire film which said something like 'a world overrun by vampires', but it feels more like my local multiplex has been overrun by vampire films.

    I also worry slightly that people are more keen to use the vampire thread as a metaphor for something else, which is fine, but you risk ending up with what I call the 'Hamlet problem'; not necessarily the strongest of stories for the audience, but a lot for the director, cast and critics to get very excited about in terms of their approach. Lots of lurking symbolism and subtext and so on.

    Then again, my 'meh' feeling towards Hamlet could well be because there are so many versions – like the current trend for vampire films, it feels as if the source has pretty much run dry.

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