As many of you surely suspect, Santa Claus is an age-old Nosferatu that’s grown fat from preying on our children’s limitless imagination and unapologetic greed. That’s why he requires the little ones to invite him into our homes by writing formal requests for toys and such and leaving him cookies and milk on the night of delivery. Also, he lives at the North Pole, where night lasts about six months, and his garments are drenched in thick, red blood. As such, we felt it appropriate this holiday season to recommend some of our favourite oeuvres about vampires, reminding all that you better watch out indeed, lest Santa comes to town.
The Lost Boys (1987)
If I were true to myself this time around, I’d be endorsing J.R. Ward’s steamy romance novel series Brotherhood of the Black Dagger, about six vampires defending their family from literally soulless humans. The mythology is original; the characters are fully fleshed out; the action is fast, furious, and gory; and the sex is hot. However, as I am apparently a liar, especially to myself, I will instead put the weight of my words behind 1987’s The Lost Boys, which tells of two brothers moving to a small town and discovering it’s overrun with vampires, the nasty, blood-sucking, murderous kind.
Admittedly, I find everything about The Lost Boys predictable, be it the cast (both Coreys, who’d have thought?), the make-up effects, the lore, or the so-called plot twists. Only the grandfather character (Barnard Hughes) offers a few surprises, and even those veer toward the cliché. On the other hand, who can’t appreciate Kiefer Sutherland as a sadistic, sardonic killer or Jason Patric as a moody, conflicted narcissist? If you love eighties rock, the soundtrack alone ought to make the movie worth your time. If, however, your sex life needs help, I’m going back to recommending Brotherhood of the Black Dagger.
American Vampire (2010-2012)
Stick around my pad long enough, and you’ll likely hear me complain about vampires. The current trend in popular fiction is to play up the sexy factor, but I’ve always felt the more interesting aspect of the mythical pains in my neck lies in the opportunity to have an unchanging chameleon witness history unfold. In 2010, Scott Snyder, who perches annoyingly high on that long list of writers I love to hate, kicked off American Vampire, an ongoing Vertigo comic book series that does exactly that. On top of having the awesome Rafael Albuquerque providing art, the upstart somehow snagged Stephen King to contribute backup stories for the first five issues.
In this mythology, the vampire species is subject to splintering and evolution, and not all the various clans get along. The “American vampire” at the heart of this tale is Skinner Sweet, the first of an emerging breed with new abilities and weaknesses. Though a true psychopath, Sweet is written with humour, allowing us to peer past his cruelty. In fact, over time, we start to understand the character less as an agent of change than as a victim of history. Our hero, after all, serves as a symbol of the Wild West, and vampires as urban myths that once crept into our nightmares. Maybe we’ve just moved on. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be scary anymore.
Super Castlevania IV (1991)
As I haven’t yet played any of the Twilight video games, I regrettably cannot, in good conscience, recommend them. Instead, I’ll have to fall back on an old favorite of mine: Super Castlevania IV, released exclusively for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (you can tell by the “Super” in the title). Simon Belmont returns in this fourth instalment (you can tell by the “IV” in the title) of the popular series, having taken an unexplained break in the previous game. He’s on the hunt for his arch-nemesis, Dracula, who seems to have more lives than a cat, or at least as many as there are Castlevania sequels.
In his time off, Simon learned to whip in eight directions, giving players greater control and removing the artificial challenge that comes with the character not being able to strike from above or below. This constitutes a huge improvement over previous games, as do the graphics and soundtrack, which help create an eerie atmosphere as our hero fights his way through the Transylvanian countryside and Dracula’s castle. If you haven’t got a Super Nintendo to dust off (and the classic cartridge, of course), Super Castlevania IV is available on the Wii virtual console so you can reminisce about a time when vampires were vile and dangerous, not lame and sparkly.
Vampires mean sex. You know it. I know it. The old lady next door with the knitted slippers knows it. However, what exactly does that entail in this day and age, when the repressed symbols of Gothic fiction have been made obsolete by decades of sexual liberation? With Twilight, Stephenie Meyer bypassed the question by sticking to old-fashioned religious ideals. Director Stephen Norrington, on the other hand, embraced modernity in Blade, associating the pasty blood-suckers with a contemporary form of alluded sexuality: rave culture.
Consider the film’s pulse-pounding opening, one of the most iconic scenes in genre cinema. In an underground club, trendy hipsters are grooving to electronica music when suddenly the sprinklers drench the dance floor with human blood and half the patrons start munching on the other half. Blade, our heroic hybrid vampire hunter, soon shows up to open a dozen cans of whoopass, but what stays in our minds is the lurid appeal of the party scene. Later, Blade cements its analogy by linking vampirism to a virus akin to HIV. You see, vampires will remain in our consciousness as long as horny people keep bringing strangers home in the middle of the night.