in the basement apartment would be turning in his grave if he saw one of those Twilight movies that I’ve been seeing this week for purely sociological reasons.
But then, knowing the Count’s recently-acquired Red Bull-with-the-red stuff habit, he would
be turning in his grave without a wink anyway.
I don’t want to sound middle-aged and ogre-like, but what’s with kids these days and their fondness for cute vampires? Scary vampires jumping in front of ladies sloshing with hormonally imbalanced craziness was what made the Undead such a hit. The guy in a cape with hay-fevered eyes and upturned collars — black outside, red inside — appeared, and the lady in question would give a moderately terrified shriek, swoon and expose her neck for creatures far more equipped than the anopheles mosquito to penetrate.
A puncture later, arms akimbo or not, the lady in a white nightdress would ensure that “our vampire’s reputation” as a lady-killer was intact. He was like the guy the family didn’t approve of. Not by a long shot.
And if our fang-boy wasn’t scary, he could at least be funny. Think Roman Polanski’s 1967 The Fearless Vampire Killers (or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck). The vampire here was vaguely incidental. What mattered were the capers the vampire killers (or the victims in the bathtub) were up to. Bela Lugosi in the black and white era and Christopher Lee in the technicolour age may have helped to spill much popcorn.
But let’s face it. They’re quite camp and Halloweeney when we see them today. Something that FW Murnau’s 1922 classic film Nosferatu, with Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok (the Bram Stoker estate didn’t allow the ‘Dracula’ name to be used in the film), isn’t when the protagonist bends over the bed to draw damsel-blood. Nosferatu was no-holds-barred creepy with slithering shadows on the walls with elongated hands and fingers and a vampire face buck-teethed much more than any braces would allow. In other words, this was no kitschy count. This homeboy was scary.
And then we get Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight ‘saga’. They say ‘saga’ as if it’s Wagner’s Ring Cycle or the unlimited episodes of Ramanand Sagar’s television Ramayan. But let me get this straight. In the film version of the Twilight books, we have Robert Pattinson playing a heart-throbbing sensitive vampire, hair coiffed to the point of making Justin Bieber seem like a 90s’ grunge artist, and where the chap who’s supposed to go for the jugular goes for the soft alt rock set-list on his iPod. All while the forever grumpy girl Kristen Stewart plays the emo queen-in-love with the anemic Armani-clad One.
I guess before Meyer made powder-pale chocolates out of vampires in her books, there was Anne Rice. I re-read Rice’s 1976 (!) New York-gothic novel last week — the story that was turned into a Tom Cruise-Brad Pitt movie in 1994 — and there was still a bite in the book and the movie. There was an illicit charm, the original ‘vampire’ metaphor still bringing about something that was 30% seduction and 70% GQ aesthetics. But the whole thing got marshmallowed by the teen romance cavalry that worried more about whether the human among pale white couples should
be allowed to ‘turn’ (into pretty immortals, of course) or not.
Which is why I’ve decided to move from vampires to zombies. I can’t see an actor unemployed after his role in those Harry Potter movies turn to a role where his skin has melted off his face and is being assiduously wooed by a girl in college with zits. No matter how talented the writer is, a Twilight-style menagé à trois where wolf boy, powderpuff immortal boffin and girl in question mope away is unlikely to be replicated when you throw in a zombie, a girl and a — why not? — Mummy in the plot-pot.
I have nothing against vampire-human romances. Bram Stoker’s original Dracula was a cross-species, asymmetrical love story of sorts. My serious objection is to the systemic blunting of the projecting canines and turning the whole project into one grand soppy, pink Goth story that’s a morose metaphor for kids who don’t “fit in”.
All this does is make me feel sorry for kids today who have missed out on dealing with scary or funny vampires in movies and books, as opposed to the delicate, vitamin D-deficient creatures one starts to befriend as Facebook friends. Frankly, it makes me think twice about getting up from my coffin every night and looking
(Indrajit Hazra is a