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Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture
 1137583762, 9781137583765

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Postmodern Vampires

Sorcha Ní Fhlainn

Postmodern Vampires Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture

Sorcha Ní Fhlainn Department of English Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester, UK

ISBN 978-1-137-58376-5 ISBN 978-1-137-58377-2  (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2018967762 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 The author(s) has/have asserted their right(s) to be identified as the author(s) of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover image: Alex Ross. ‘Sucking Democracy Dry’ 2004 Cover design: Oscar Spigolon This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Limited The registered company address is: The Campus, 4 Crinan Street, London, N1 9XW, United Kingdom

For Léin Ní Longáin, now and forever.


No book is a solo endeavour; it takes years of support and encouragement to get through those dark nights of the soul, especially when your waking thoughts are consumed with the murmur of vampires. There are numerous scholars to whom this study is indebted, from the vampire’s folkloric origins to contemporary film and television, but in particular the pioneering works of Nina Auerbach, Stacey Abbott, Harry M. Benshoff, David J. Skal, Gregory A. Waller, and Ken Gelder, among other important critics, whose contributions to vampire studies have certainly informed in this book. I also wish to thank colleagues at Palgrave Macmillan for their support and patience, and my sincere thanks to the peer reviewers and endorsers for their time and support. Academia also has a strange link to personal biography: when I was 14, following on from a recommendation to read Anne Rice by my cool and inspirational cousin Eimear Vize, I made it my mission to see Neil Jordan’s Interview with a Vampire (1994). Being underage at the time of its Irish release, this was a pure act of rebellion on my part, and I knew it would be worth the risk of getting caught; two hours later, I left the Savoy cinema in Dublin utterly transformed by the cinematic love letter to vampirism I had just witnessed. Since that fateful day, vampires have remained my strange Gothic companions and seemed utterly entwined with my other passion, American popular culture. A whole world soon opened up to me, which would, in time, become my scholarly pursuit. To others, this may have seemed like madness; but to me, it was destiny. vii



I would like to express my gratitude to the Irish Embassy to Mexico, and the Irish Embassy to Poland, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland, for inviting me to present ideas from this book at various cultural events, festivals, and conferences on the Gothic. I am extremely grateful for your support and your genuine enthusiasm. Thank you, as always, to Darryl Jones, my mentor, and to Bernice M. Murphy, Dara Downey, and Jarlath Killeen at Trinity College, Dublin, who continue to inspire me with their dark arts. To Terry Anderson (Texas A&M) whose lectures lit a fire in my imagination years ago and inspire me still— thank you. I am extremely grateful to my friends and colleagues including Deborah Christie, Simon Brown, Stacey Abbott, Catherine Spooner, Sonja Lawrenson, Harvey O’Brien, Emily Alder, William Hughes, Xavier Aldana Reyes, Linnie Blake, Dale Townshend, and all my fellow goths at the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies; my colleagues Jess Edwards, Nikolai Duffy, and Antony Rowland, among others, at the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University, for all of their support along the way. My thanks to the CELL research group at Manchester Metropolitan University for providing funding, and precious time, to bring this book home. I also wish to thank esteemed colleagues and friends in the International Gothic Association, as collective keepers of the Gothic flame. To Alex Ross, for permitting me to use your amazing artwork for the cover of this book—I am forever grateful. Finally, I wish to thank my family, Eoghan Ó Flainn and Dimitra Kitridou, and my mam Léin Ní Longáin—she has no time for the undead, but has always been my rock of support. This book is also in memory of my late dad Micheál Ó Flainn and my uncle Liam Óg O’Flynn, both of whom we lost too soon. To John Gilleese, my husband, soulmate, and best friend (and Mao, our furry princess), thank you for your unending love and support in my obsession with ‘vampire spookies’.


1 Introduction: ‘Something from the Vampire’s Point of View’ 1 2 Secrets and Lies: Postmodern Undeath in the 1970s 17 3 Family Values, Apocalyptic Plagues, and Yuppie Undeath in the 1980s 65 4 Gothic Double Vision at the Fin-de-Millennium 115 5 Fundamentalism, Hybridity, and Remapping the Vampire Body 169 6 Vampire Intimacy, Profusion, and Rewriting Undeath 215 Index 257



Introduction: ‘Something from the Vampire’s Point of View’

In 1762, in a letter to the Archbishop of Paris, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote: ‘If ever there was in the world a warranted and proven history, it is that of vampires’ (Rousseau in Masters 1975: 243). Rousseau’s statement goes on to cite testimonials, trials, and letters from persons of good standing; evidence, he concludes, that stakes a claim for the ‘proven’ prehistory of vampires and their extensive proliferation through oral history, folklore, and in the cultural imagination. Vampires, then, enable the living to refute and refuse the terrifying notion that death may be the end. In their allegorical afterlife, suffused with symbolic richness, vampires have become familiar emblems for capitalist exploitation, fear of the invading and unknowable ‘other’, and familiar representations of social and moral corruption: they are superb indicators and documenters of social anxiety and cultural change. For me, the vampire’s point of view has always been tantalising; it promises access to secrets on the forbidden and the fantastic. In the early 1990s, a seemingly throwaway joke first primed my early desire to seek out such literature: In ‘The Otto Show’ (3. 22) of The Simpsons, school-bus driver and heavy metal enthusiast Otto Mann is evicted from his home and invited to stay with the dysfunctional yet lovable Simpson family. Perusing their sparse bookshelves, Otto enquires, ‘you got anything written from the vampire’s point of view?’ which is met with Marge Simpson’s signature disapproval. Such a seemingly flippant remark subtly acknowledges the widespread use of vampiric subjectivity, even if, as suggested in the 1992 episode, it is only set up as a joke to be © The Author(s) 2019 S. Ní Fhlainn, Postmodern Vampires,



dismissed; only Otto, an uneducated metal-head, would find something worthy in such literature. Nevertheless, it left an indelible mark in my imagination. In 1994, another pivotal biographical moment came: Irish director Neil Jordan helmed the difficult task of bringing Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire to the screen. This was my personal teenage gateway to vampire texts beyond Stoker’s Dracula: Its opening scene celebrated the vampire’s subjectivity as a marvel and an invitation—‘So you want me to tell you the story of my life?’ said Louis (Brad Pitt)— promising to disclose secrets and Gothic wonders. Opening up this rich vein in fiction and film, I began to see patterns in their metamorphosis, and how vampirism is a powerful and malleable Gothic signifier for a myriad of social and political discourses. In 2008, in the True Blood episode, ‘Escape from Dragon House’ (1.4), Alex Ross’s painting ‘Sucking Democracy Dry’, an arresting image of protest against the Patriot Act (2001) (and the most apt cover I could ever conceive of having for this book), featured behind the bar at the vampire establishment Fangtasia. The camera playfully paused over it for a mere second, enough time to register it as a wry acknowledgement that, for Ross, the presidency and vampirism had undoubtedly merged allegorically, if not literally, in his imagination and had now found a suitable place in the mise-en-scène of this exciting HBO series. This image overtly declares vampirism has spread from the margins of society to the centre of power in the twenty-­ first century, consolidated in the timeliness of Ross’s powerful art; Ross expressed what scholars including myself had, by this time, previously documented in our works, but this moment brought it together in spectacular fashion. These small but powerful moments offer a glimpse in understanding the irresistible power of the vampire in film, popular fiction, and popular culture. Of course, vampires in the American imagination come to the New World by means of mass communication; products of books and films, television, and domestic infiltration, they find American culture a suitable place to advance their evolution. They transcend their long nineteenth-century archetype as aristocrats and Counts and find their ­ place among the everyday American experience—in bars and small towns, and as neighbours, friends, protectors, and leaders. For these exemplary subjective vampires unleashed into the late twentieth century, the period of Postmodernity, of eroding certainty and voicing scepticism, offers spectacular potential. As Nina Auerbach sagely observed in the mid-1990s, ‘vampires go where power is’ (Auerbach 1995: 6). This book



is certainly inspired by Auerbach’s superb and sage vampire ­scholarship, but also vastly extends this allegorical observation by examining the Postmodern aspect of undeath since the late 1960s in the American imagination, and explores the extent to which it finds cultural catharsis in literature, film, and American popular culture. Before 1968, subjective vampires led a marginalised, and often mute, existence. Vampires were foreign ‘others’, archaic Gothic intruders perpetually symbolising the past, and arrested in their nineteenth-­ century framework as intruders at the margins of the American century. Previously represented through the vampire hunter’s narrative as one dimensional (and often solitary) beings that must be obliterated, vampires began to turn on those who wield such narrative authority, determined to claim their own undead experience on their own terms. Without the Postmodern turn, the vampire would have been relegated as a static if not ossified Gothic convention, reinforcing brittle associations with the past that are no longer relevant in the present. It is through this crucial development and identification of the vampire’s subjective voice within the horror genre that marks the vampire’s transition from modernity to Postmodernity in fiction and film. Ellen E. Berry argues that ‘[t]he modernist idea of culture was generated out of a specific sense of cultural hierarchy that divided cultural spaces and products into highbrow (true culture) and lowbrow (popular culture)’ (Berry 1995:134). As a number of its most prominent theorists, from Eliot to Adorno, maintained, modernism can be defined by its antipathy to mass culture which ‘arouses “the cheapest emotional responses,”’ as ‘[f]ilms, newspapers, publicity in all forms, commercially-­catered fiction – all offer satisfaction at the lowest level’ (Carey 1992: 7). Fredric Jameson, in his highly influential book Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), separates the modern and the Postmodern very specifically, where ‘modernism thought of itself as a prodigious revolution in cultural production, however, Postmodernism thinks of itself as a renewal of production as such after a long period of ossification and dwelling among dead monuments’ (Jameson 1991: 313). Once considered such a nineteenth-­ century static ‘dead monument’, a sepulchre frozen in time, the undead are soon quickened and revitalised in this Postmodern climate. Jameson’s distinctions are essential if we are to understand the vampire narrative as a Postmodern development, as this new subjective insight essentially destroys the boundaries between us and the monsters we encounter, a


distinction held by earlier distinguished vampire authors, most notably Bram Stoker; Postmodernism redefines and reshapes the narrative by providing a tantalising insight by the very creature that was previously marginalised. Stoker’s epistolary novel omits the voice of its own titular villain, a gap which vampires have been eager to fill since the 1970s, with authors such as Fred Saberhagan and Anne Rice championing their articulacy. Furthermore, Postmodernism rejects the sanctity of metanarratives or grand narratives, bringing forth a necessary scepticism towards such structures in an age that permits a fluid cultural blurring of these previously separate ideological frameworks. This collapsing of hierarchical structures—of high and low culture—allows for equal status, drawing together numerous strands of ‘textual’ production (as all modes of production can be read as textual entities—television, cinema, advertising, literature, new media, etc.) largely accessible and consumed in society. It denies determinist constructions or classifications of what is ‘art’ or ‘literature’ and breaks down aesthetic hierarchies: The Postmodernisms have, in fact, been fascinated precisely by this whole ‘degraded’ landscape of schlock and kitsch, of TV series and Reader’s Digest culture, of advertising and motels, of the late show and the grade-B Hollywood film, of so-called paraliterature with its airport paperback categories of the Gothic and the romance, the popular biography, the murder mystery, and the science fiction or fantasy novel: materials they no longer simply ‘quote’, as a Joyce or a Mahler might have done, but incorporate into their very substance. (Jameson 1991: 3–4)

The Postmodernist shift in the vampire narrative stems from the breaking of a prolonged silence, or complete absence of subjective interiority in earlier narratives and cinematic representations. These exemplary subjective vampires form Postmodern ‘mini-narratives’, shifting in representation, political mockery, contingent upon the political moment, and largely localised within American culture. However, Postmodernism erodes old paradigms with the rapid rise of new technology and scientific discovery, consumerism, and cultural production. As David Harvey suggests, this new terrain includes ‘the re-emergence of concern in ethics, politics, and anthropology for the validity and dignity of “the other” leading to a ‘profound shift in “the structure of feeling”’ (1990: 9); breaking away from the ‘totality’ of grand narratives and dominant discourse, it enables New Historicist approaches in documenting cultural



expression. Postmodernity presents a plural platform to foreground unheard voices, and apes other forms of established power in its playful bricolage; it upturns monstrosity as something recognisable and potentially sympathetic, allowing vampires and other creatures into our domestic lives, all the while presenting a reflection of the historical moment through a Gothic lens.

Towards Vampire Subjectivity: 1968–1975 Vampires have flourished in the popular imagination in particular since the early nineteenth century, but it was the publication of Dracula in 1897 that assured the vampire’s afterlife. In these earlier nineteenth and twentieth century tales, vampires must be kept outside our permeable social borders; so threatening in their ‘otherness’, they were pursued and finally vanquished in order to reassure and restore social norms by containing the threats they symbolise. Today vampires are among us, and in greater numbers than ever before. They are now our anti-heroes, our saviours, our protectors, our friends and lovers, and our storytellers. Since 1968, the advent of Postmodernism within American Studies, the commercial commodification of monsters bred a new form of vampire that capitalised upon the familiarity of Lugosi’s archetypical image in order to evolve beyond it. This new era of radical political upheaval and social questioning reinvigorated and remoulded a cultural monster that represented cyclical trappings of the past, which felt no longer relevant at the end of the 1960s. The late 1960s saw the end of the Hays Code (1930), the televised horrors of the War in Vietnam, and the rising tide of protest and counterculture, before the movement later soured into malaise by the early 1970s. During this transition from the 1960s into the early 1970s, vampires appeared in domestic American spaces—Dark Shadows (1966–1971) was broadcast on TV every weekday, Sesame Street (1969–) debuted the loveable arithmomanic Count von Count to help children with their numeracy in late 1972, and Count Chocula cereal graced the breakfast table—proving that gentle and sympathetic commodified forms of vampirism had established a comfortable domestic proximity and familiarity. British cinematic vampires of the early to mid-1960s, on the whole, resembled their 1950s counterparts, with most vampire tales stemming largely from Hammer studios and cast from its familiar mould. At its height, Hammer films continued apace in luscious and striking


Technicolor, updating its monsters from their nineteenth-century literary roots with aplomb, and situated its towering and terrifying Dracula (Christopher Lee) against a savant Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in repeated battles from 1958 with the release of Horror of Dracula. Lee’s Dracula became the hunted yet increasingly silent and unthreatening monster, eventually reduced to merely haunting the margins of Hammer’s quasi-Victorian settings. The films titillated audiences using the Gothic as a familiar mode for such safe fantasies without paying significant attention to its villain’s datedness. By 1976, Lee would play Dracula for the final time in Dracula and Son (1976), a French comedy that parodies Hammer’s cultural familiarity and only secured a limited release when it was crassly dubbed for American distribution in 1979 to contend with George Hamilton’s screwball comedic turn as Dracula in Love at First Bite (1979). Lee’s last turn as the Count gained infamy for its poor dubbing and eventually drifted into cinematic obscurity. Fixed into an unchanging mode where Dracula became the archetypal vampire, Hammer films and its imitators were ultimately undone by their monsters’ inability to change under the weight of palpable social upheaval. Roman Polanski’s 1967 film The Fearless Vampire Killers (also known as Dance of the Vampires, or, Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck) begins the filmic dissolution of vampirism’s fixity by parodying Hammer’s faded grandeur. Polanski’s film keeps the familiar Draculean framework of the vampire hunter and his assistant attempting to rescue a young woman from the isolated vampire castle located in the hostile environs of Transylvania but discards the necessary closure whereby vampirism is rightfully vanquished. As an overt parody, Polanski cites the exceedingly familiar tropes of cinematic vampires, including the deployment of patriarchal expertise and academia run amok as characterised through its vampire-hunting duo, in order to undo such firm expectations. The film’s satirical tone and unexpected conclusion, during which vampirism is unwittingly unleashed into the modern world, created a space that signalled the end of earlier, fixed tropes, and brought forth a new wave of vampire novels, films, and representations rooted in self-reflexivity, irony, and pastiche. As Gina Wisker observes, ‘That most ancient of creatures, the vampire, then begins to be recognised as an essentially Postmodern one – the Gothic comes of age. It is a condition of the Postmodern as it is of the Gothic that dislocation, fragmentation, irony, paradox, contradiction, and deconstruction are features of our everyday perceptions and versions of ourselves, the world, and its ideas and practices’ (2005: 198).



This book begins with Polanski’s disruptive spread of vampirism in 1967 and traces the subjective undead through exemplary texts accordingly; they have much to say about our shared world. Candace R. Benefiel also notes the vampire’s ‘dark renaissance’: In the vast dark landscape of Gothic fiction in late twentieth century America, the seminal figure of the vampire wanders in ever-increasing numbers.… The vampire was, to borrow a term from film, a McGuffin, - a device to drive the plot and give the vampire hunters something to pursue. In 1976, this changed…. Anne Rice published her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, and turned the vampire paradigm on its head. This breakthrough novel focused not on vampire hunters, but on the vampires themselves – and what a different breed they were. (2004: 261)

Benefiel recognises this shift in the vampire narrative through Rice’s influential novel in 1976, but Interview with the Vampire is not the first to do so. Fred Saberhagen’s 1975 novel, The Dracula Tape, retells Stoker’s narrative through tape recordings, highly influenced by the Nixon tapes, which were transcribed and released by the White House in 1974 before Nixon’s resignation, providing Dracula with an opportunity to document his own version of events. Earlier cultural fissures are evident and narratives spill out like secrets, but perhaps where the vampire is most proficient is in the dizzying vast spectacle of Postmodern monster narratives that flourish in the aftermath of the implosion of the Nixon presidency. In hindsight, 1975 was largely a year of endings: the policies of Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War concluded with feelings of shame and disgrace, national turmoil, and questioning. Howard Zinn notes a significant shift in public attitudes during this period of political turmoil, a series of national traumas which bred social dissent that dominated the first half of the 1970s, colouring the ‘national mood…[and revealing the nation’s] moral shame and its exposure of government lies and atrocities’ (Zinn 2005: 542). In exploring the vampire narrative through the vampire’s own unique perspective and participation in cultural and historical narratives, the geographical setting and national dialogues of this study are predominantly American. Since the popularity and importance of Rice and Saberhagen’s narratives, vampires in popular culture have largely been associated and preoccupied with American locations, identities, and cultural issues. Americans have also produced the vast majority


of Anglophone Postmodern vampire narratives since the 1970s in both literature and film, ascending alongside the undeniable visibility of American influence on the geopolitical world stage. Nina Auerbach reminds us they naturally ‘gravitate towards leadership, aping the tyrants they parody. In the vacuum of authority that afflicted and energised the 1970s, they devised innovative exhibitions of undeath’ (Auerbach 1995: 6–7): These displays, I contend, continue on well into the twenty-­ first century and flourish thanks to the ubiquity of Postmodernity. The articulate undead are now made continuously present and relevant, embracing, embodying, and tracing the current anxieties and developments of these uncertain times, and often indicating the cultural disruptions at work before it appears in any other form of popular horror representation.

Vampire Evolution Each chapter of the five chapters to follow is explicitly framed by my construction of particular cultural decades led by political and social history; this history is not entirely uniform, but rather is led by aesthetic and narrative disruptions evidenced through the vampire’s subjectivity and their undead morphology. The distorted reflection these Postmodern vampires present is scrutinised under the political terms of the American Presidency, from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump, to evidence particular undead fluctuations that document social change. Set against the dominant themes and issues within these presidencies, and conveyed through ‘appropriation, misappropriation, montage, collage, hybridization, and general mixing up of visual and verbal texts and discourse, from all periods of the past as well as from the multiple social and linguistic fields of the present’ (Benshoff 1997: 233), the articulate undead fully embrace the Postmodern style. It must be noted that the vampire has been subject to a considerable evolution within the five cultural decades discussed in this work. Vampires of the late 1960s and 1970s are extremely different from their counterparts in the early 2000s, and yet, both sets of vampires still share, articulate, and engage in our everyday world, remaining perfectly in tune with the present. As we have progressed in our developments in technology and media, vampires, in varying degrees, have paralleled these discoveries and assimilations. The evolution of the vampire has occurred



not only through physical modification, but also within the interplay seen in their awareness of pastiche and style, drawing upon previous vampire myths and narratives to debunk, denounce, and often mock their elders. Over the span of this work, we encounter vampires who are unharmed by missals, crucifixes, communion wafers, silver, or running water, with many becoming increasingly secular and/or distancing themselves from their folkloric roots. When we imagine Stoker’s Count, he is, in the twentieth-century mind, largely based on the costuming, movement, and image of Bela Lugosi in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), perhaps the most lasting image of the modern incarnations of Dracula. F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) is just as profound for its striking use of disturbing chiaroscuro shadows and adds a new vulnerability to the vampire body where sunlight becomes fatal. This allergy to daylight remains largely consistent throughout later vampire texts too. Both Murnau’s and Browning’s vampires are so influential in how we have come to know the vampire in the twentieth and early twenty-first century that one need not have read a page of vampire fiction to know of the vampire’s distinctive look, physical limitations, and unending thirst. I believe that it is because of these powerful and extremely familiar images that the vampire was cast into a very specific set of criteria, both physically and figuratively, which demanded significant Postmodern reinterpretation once these old templates grew jaded. This does not occlude the influence of these earlier traditions, but indicates why Postmodern vampires are now distinctly more beautiful, less ‘othered’, and completely assimilated within our society. As Rice’s vampire protagonist Lestat informs the distinctly outdated Parisian vampires, decrepit in their European savagery, in the coven of the Théâtre des Vampires in The Vampire Lestat (1985), ‘It is a new age. It requires a new evil. And I am that new evil […] I am the vampire for these times […] I stalk the world in mortal dress – the worst of fiends, the monster who looks exactly like everyone else […] the old mysteries have given way to a new style’ (Rice 1985: 250–1). Judith Halberstam observes that the Postmodern monster has permeated the boundary of inside/outside, an important breach of earlier narrative and psychological borders: The Postmodern monster is no longer the hideous other storming the gates of the human citadel, he has already disrupted the careful geography

10  S. NÍ FHLAINN of the human self and demon other and he makes the peripheral and the marginal part of the center [sic]. Monsters within Postmodernism are already inside – the house, the body, the head, the skin, the nation – and they work their way out. Accordingly, it is the human, the facade of the normal, that tends to become the place of terror within the Postmodern Gothic… we wear modern monsters like skin, they are us, they are on us and in us. (1995: 162–3)

Of course, vampire voices and undead bodies often vary within each cultural decade and, within that construct, can wildly oscillate in form and style from text to text and morph as vessels of the cultural mood. In Chapter 2, the 1970s introduces new-born vampires who categorically deny neither relation nor influence from Stoker’s patriarchal predecessor. While Dracula is vividly reimagined through literary texts (Saberhagen’s The Dracula Tape [1975]), miniseries (BBC’s Count Dracula [1978]), and lavish film adaptations (John Badham’s Dracula [1979]), it is, rather, this motley crew of new vampires that begin to populate the vampire narrative beyond established literary characters and conventions by recording their new un-human yet humanised perspectives. Anne Rice’s Louis and Lestat, Suzy McKee Charnas’s Dr. Weyland, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint Germain all come to prominence in a decade brimming with new characters to embody and channel new forms of undeath during a profoundly turbulent period. As Ken Gelder notes of Anne Rice’s contribution to this shift: ‘This narrative strategy emphasises disclosure (through confession or revelation) and publicity… the reader hears the ‘other’ speaking first-hand; the vampire comes out of the closet and makes himself known; he gives us ‘the real’ story (at last) about vampires’ (Gelder 1994: 109). In this period ‘marked by confusion, frustration and an overwhelming feeling that America had lost its direction’ (Chafe 1999: 430), the vampire found a fruitful opportunity to slip between the narrative cracks of officialdom and offer a competing world view. In the 1980s, as discussed in Chapter 3, during Ronald Reagan’s awakening of American populism and national pride, free-market trade and deregulation, vampires were overtly commodified and incorporated into an MTV image: both S. P. Somtow’s Timmy Valentine in Vampire Junction (1985) and Lestat in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat become rock star icons, physically incorporating the decade’s obsession with facades, aesthetics, celebrity, and consumerism. Concurrent with this



development, the vampire body manifested the horror of HIV/AIDS, problematically combining discourses of infection with conservative narratives on homosexuality, and squarely blaming the spiralling increase of divorce and the breakdown of the nuclear family on these immoral, infected ‘others’. Vampires became sick and scorched, liquefied and unstable; their bodies leaking and exploding uncontrollably as they were hunted down by their slayers. Allegorically, these vampires largely articulated the suffering of victims, representing those who were marginalised due to disease, poverty and socio-cultural disenfranchisement, and thus were largely ignored by the Reagan White House. Interestingly, this was also the period in which half-vampirism came to prominence: In the 1980s ‘family values’ vampire films, The Lost Boys (1987), Near Dark (1987), and Fright Night (1985), flirting with vampirism was akin to homosexual contamination and contact, which could only be reversed and order restored by removing the infecting vampire completely and restoring patriarchal influence. By the 1990s, vampires displayed two distinct faces, becoming fragmented as explicit Gothic doubles. Chapter 4 explores vampires mimicking a similar dark selfhood emerging in American celebrity culture, recalling the public trials of O. J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and President Bill Clinton; vampires equally embrace their celebrity and desirability in public while harbouring shadow personalities. Cult and independent vampire texts unveiled the darker side to vampirism’s gritty addictions and compulsions, while Hollywood cinema and mass published vampire narratives (such as Rice’s Vampire Chronicles) continued to convey the vampire in a romantic Byronic light. This narrative split uncovers a range of dialectic opposites under the presidency of Bill Clinton in popular film and media, exploring the Gothic doubling evident in the American nation and broadcast via Gothic TV, from ‘trashy’ talk-shows and burgeoning Internet culture to serious concerns about the ‘moral’ and ethical slippages of the Commander-in-Chief as documented in the Kenneth Starr report, and presented to the United States Congress. In the 2000s, vampires are imbued with millennial anxieties and uncertainties. Chapter 5 marks the return to religious narratives and identities, and post-9/11 traumas, which manifest in American projections of cultural ‘others’ and hostile forces during the presidency of George W. Bush. Vampires onscreen also becomes flexible, pixelated objects, combining technological advancement and malleability, which alters the composition of the vampire body and brings about new horrific


possibilities and mutations. Vampire bodies are stretched and distorted, and become unbound from their previously fleshy and sanguine bodies. We also see undead infiltration emerging at marginal borders, in Sweden (Let the Right One In), and Alaska (30 Days of Night) where vampirism slips in unchecked, reminding us that Arctic Circle vampires are capable of penetrating the very edges of our world. Vampire evolution also centres on the return of cultural myths and legends, articulating the debate on evolution and intelligent design in Teeth (2007), a satire that parodies abstinence-only sex-education, and the encroachment of religious belief into the design of science curricula in American schools. In Chapter 6, Stephenie Meyer’s adolescent fiction series Twilight remaps the vampire body as a chaste entity by converting the vampire into a conservative emblem of Mormon values and abstinence teaching, calling into question sexual independence, feminism, and past liberal agendas that seem to be (at least temporarily) abandoned. Alongside the dramatic teenage popularity of the Twilight Saga novels (2005–2008), Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries series (2001–2013), later adapted for television by HBO and rebranded as True Blood (2008– 2014), offered a unique and reflexive counter-narrative to George W. Bush’s post-9/11 America, emboldened by the assimilative plural promise of Barack Obama’s ascent to the oval office in November 2008. Harris’s multi-volume series, and in particular its television adaptation, can be read as a direct and adult-orientated reactionary narrative to the rise of the evangelical and Religious Right influences that had taken hold in the new wave of post-millennial vampire narratives. True Blood can thus be read as an adaptation and an extension of Harris’s original series, providing an alternate adult vampire narrative as a cultural response to the extreme media attention focused on the Twilight saga, its film adaptations, and its fandoms. Secular and sexually provocative in its liberal world view, True Blood provides an inclusive diegetic space in which vampires and other supernatural creatures stand in for a myriad of ethnic and social groups that have been neglected, marginalised, and wholly ignored during President Bush’s tenure (2001–2009), and demand to be heard. Vampirism becomes another fragmented form of group identity in need of recognition and protection. In turn, this power shift where vampirism becomes an allegory for another oppressed minority stirs up complex issues on identity politics, the protection of minorities, and occasionally explodes into moments of violence once the (human and privileged) status quo has been thrown into turmoil. Beyond True Blood, Postmodern



vampires ultimately return to where they began: recent vampire cinema and literature bends and folds around the rewriting of origins and finds new marginalised undead narrators to document their tales. In the end, vampires remain compulsive storytellers, all keen to share something from their points of view. Vampires are excellent receptors to change; they are constantly in a state of flux or evolution. Stacey Abbott notes that ‘vampires embrace the present and its vast array of experiences’ (2007: 4) by becoming our friends and lovers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), our heroes (Angel), and our liberators (Saint Germain of Hôtel Transylvania). Literary and cinematic vampires thrive at both the centre and at the margins of our world, from the Arctic Circle (30 Days of Night; Frostbite) to the great American cities (Angel in Los Angeles; Nadja in New York; Rice’s Lestat in New Orleans) to outer space (Dracula 3000); they solve mysteries (as detectives, and retracing history); their reach is familiar yet spectacular, and occasionally borders on the sublime and the cosmic. Furthermore, vampires combine the wonders of modern technology with their everyday existence, as do we. They no longer gaze in amazement at the moving image or computers because they have truly adapted to modern technology and have become dependent on it for their own survival and advancement, both onscreen and off. Within the parameters of this study on Postmodern vampires, it must be noted that I am being led by history. While this book is not an exhaustive survey of cultural history, it tracks the development of these Postmodern ‘mini-narratives’ under the American presidency and finds that vampires, unleashed to manifest and assimilate, are everywhere. The cultural history discussed in this book is the culture of the everyday, the historical happenings that shape and define American culture. Neither is this book an encyclopaedic vampire survey; while my use of texts is extensive throughout, it is not a complete account of all vampire literature, popular culture, or cinema, and on occasion introduces interesting non-American examples to track vampires who wander in the global Gothic terrain. There are other texts I wished to include but this would certainly have demanded a larger volume; these omissions point to the vast scale of vampire studies. My research differs from many other works on the vampire because it openly claims the vampire as a characteristically Postmodern being from its critical inception in the late-1960s; other scholars similarly acknowledge this significant shift in Rice’s fiction and other subjective vampire texts in the 1970s


and 1980s, and while vampires have persisted as documenters, historians, and subjective Gothic signifiers, their popularity may have obscured scholarly interrogations of their serious articulations. I emphasise this claim as the vampire has entered every conceivable spectrum of media and cultural mode of representation from the late 1960s, creeping in at first and soon finding suitable traction to enable their Postmodern flourishing. I treat these works as having equal importance—I make no hierarchal distinction between works of film, literature, or other media, as vampiric infiltration is evident everywhere and equally indiscriminate. My aim is to present exemplary vampire narratives that explore and investigate the vampire’s presence and renewed significance in our fragmented world. These representative vampires reveal something uniquely special about their point of view; their whispers celebrate their ‘warranted and proven history’ (Rousseau in Masters 1975: 243), which evidently continues to thrive.

Bibliography Abbott, Stacey. 2007. Celluloid Vampires. Austin: University of Texas Press. Auerbach, Nina. 1995. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Benefiel, Candace R. 2004. ‘Blood Relations: The Gothic Perversion of the Nuclear Family in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire’. Journal of Popular Culture. Vol. 38, No. 2. pp. 261–73. Benshoff, Harry M. 1997. Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Berry, Ellen E. 1995. Curved Thought and Textual Wandering. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. Carey, John. 1992. Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia. London: Faber and Faber. Chafe, William H. 1999. The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II. New York: Oxford University Press. Gelder, Ken. 1994. Reading the Vampire. London: Routledge. Halberstam, Judith. 1995. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. London: Duke University Press. Harvey, David. 1990. The Condition of Postmodernity. London: Blackwell. Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London: Verso. Rice, Anne. [1985] 1994. The Vampire Lestat. New York: Warner Books. Rousseau, Jean Jacques. ‘Letter to the Archbishop of Paris’. 1762. rpt. in Anthony Masters. 1975. The Natural History of the Vampire. St. Albans: Mayflower.



Somtow, S. P. 1985. Vampire Junction. London: Gollancz Horror. Wisker, Gina. 2005. Horror Fiction: An Introduction. New York and London: Continuum. Zinn, Howard. 2005. A People’s History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial.

Films and TV Dracula. Dir. Tod Browning, Universal, 1931. Dracula and Son (aka Dracula père et fils). Dir. Edouard Molinaro, Gaumont, 1976. Dracula 3000. Dir. Darrell Roodt, Lions Gate, 2004. Fearless Vampire Killers, The. Dir. Roman Polanski, MGM, 1967. Fright Night. Dir. Tom Holland, Columbia Pictures, 1985. Horror of Dracula. Dir. Terence Fisher, Hammer, 1958. Lost Boys, The. Dir. Joel Schumacher, Warner Bros., 1987. Love at First Bite. Dir. Stan Dragoti, American International Pictures, 1979. Near Dark. Dir. Kathryn Bigelow, F/M Entertainment, 1987. Nosferatu. Dir. F. W. Murnau, Prana Film, 1922. Simpsons, The. Created by Matt Groening, Fox, 1989–. True Blood. Created by Alan Ball, HBO, 2008–2014.


Secrets and Lies: Postmodern Undeath in the 1970s

The final moments of Roman Polanski’s film The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), which bears the telling tag line ‘Who says Vampires are no laughing matter?’, ends on an important punchline—one that would echo in popular culture for the next fifty years. Our bumbling vampire hunters Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski) succeed in rescuing the kidnapped damsel-in-­ distress Sarah (Sharon Tate) from a Transylvanian castle overrun with the undead. Barely escaping with their lives, they flee down the mountaintop, leaving the horrors of vampirism confined to the castle. In its closing scenes, during what initially appears to be a happy ending to the tale, namely the budding romance between Alfred and Sarah and the now proven existence of vampires by the ‘mad professor’, it is swiftly subverted by the revelation that Sarah has been turned into a vampire. The consequences of her transformation and the true extent of the vampire killers’ error in Transylvania are revealed in a wry closing voiceover: ‘That night, fleeing from Transylvania, Professor Abronsius never guessed he was carrying away with him the very evil he had wished to destroy. Thanks to him, this evil would, at last, be able to spread across the world’. The threat and containment of the European vampire inevitably spills outward into the modern world, slipping through the safety of old borders and folklore. Once released from the isolated geography of Transylvania, vampirism in film, fiction, and popular culture inevitably spreads outwards from this wellspring unabated. If Postmodern © The Author(s) 2019 S. Ní Fhlainn, Postmodern Vampires,



vampirism began anywhere, or its inception could be traced back to a specific or singular moment in time, it would have to be 1967. Polanski’s final joke at the end of his parodic tribute to the popularity of Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 1960s is remarkably prescient in its anticipation of the ubiquity of vampirism to come in later decades. S. S. Prawer equally reads the outward surge of vampirism as an anticipation of the coming political and social upheavals which would mar much of the social landscape in the 1970s. 1960s Hammer films continued to remake and revamp horror classics in its adaptations of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and similar macabre offerings, becoming ever-increasingly lurid in visual gore and sexual excess, but in the face of rising political and social crises, their horrors were largely safe, and felt contained within an excessive and fictional past. Hammer’s familiar style and popularity demanded a response that both played along with and subverted this formulaic studio brand. While Polanski’s film met with a rather muted commentary upon release, remaining underappreciated for many years outside of the cult film circuit, it astutely points to an increasingly uncertain contemporary mood at the end of the 1960s. Vampires (and their metaphorical horrors) in Polanski’s film spread ‘not only onwards in time but outwards into our world’ (Prawer 1980: 61), hinting at the riven decade of the 1970s on the horizon. The film’s ending also reveals an emerging theme in Polanski’s films—here imbued with a retrospective tinge of tragedy emphasised by the murder of Polanski’s co-star and future wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson Family in 1969— where the world is an uncanny and unsafe place, over which we have little control. That same year, in April 1967, the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) was introduced on the American Gothic daytime soap opera Dark Shadows (1966–1971). Proving a compelling part in the show’s increasing popularity in its second year of production, Dark Shadows, set in the fictional Maine town of Collinsport, capitalised upon Barnabas’s popularity amid the strange hauntings and Gothic histories of the Collins family. The success of the show turned its cast of fantastical characters, including ghosts, witches, vampires, and werewolves into modern and everyday Gothic encounters. Earlier Gothic archetypes on television during this decade included situation comedies The Munsters (1964–1966) and The Addams Family (1964–1966), routing the Gothic otherness of these macabre families through a comedic lens and therefore safely containing and relegating their quirky existence and



domesticity in modern America. Dark Shadows offers no such humour, but rather blends the melodrama of the soap opera with the Gothic literary tradition in its weekday instalments on long-lost love, tragedy, and Gothic decadence. Playing with familiar Gothic literary conventions, Dark Shadows cites and adapts narrative elements from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898) and other classic Gothic tales; it also included narrative leaps between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and modern-day settings in its various story arcs to imbue a pervasive mood of a haunted, Gothic past. As a highly influential vampire, Barnabas’s lasting contribution is the domestic infiltration of the sympathetic and subjective vampire, bound up in the series through his forlorn pining for his long-lost love Josette (Kathryn Leigh Scott). Tinged with romance, betrayal, and danger, the series successfully deployed Barnabas’s personal tragedy ‘to elicit viewer sympathy and engagement’ (Wheatley 2006: 155). Wheatley observes that by its very nature as a soap opera, there is a Gothic narratology of incompleteness, of suspended closure, of cycles of doomed romances and painful longing, aiding this ‘yearning of unrequited love that permeates Dark Shadows’ narrative structure’ (154). The complexity of providing Gothic characters with thematically accessible, if not universal, narratives such as romance, grief, or familial strife lends a familiar air to an unfamiliar condition. Dark Shadows humanises the vampire and attunes the audience to its subjective and sympathetic qualities. In less than a year, vampirism has migrated from the isolated castles of Transylvania to American towns on daytime television, its proximity to everyday life increasing unabated. The encroachment of the vampiric and viral undead in the American imagination owes much to Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend (1954). In Matheson’s novel, a mysterious bacterium has wiped out humanity, leaving Robert Neville as the lone survivor battling the infected undead night after night. For Neville, his immunity to the vampire bacterium confers an awful state of exceptionalism in this post-­ apocalyptic new world. Desperate in his attempt to both understand and attempt to cure this bacterium, his isolation also fuels his descent into self-loathing and alcoholism. The use of disease to chart the symptoms and global spread of vampirism is a timely variation on more traditional and localised pockets of infection. Vampirism is now represented as a biological contamination, no longer a supernatural threat but rather a distinctly physical one. This contamination is ubiquitous and


unrelenting, leaving Neville in the exceptional state of immunity and pining for a past that has been swept away. In the shadow of the atomic bomb, home-made shelters, and the palpable fear of communism in the rising tide of Cold War paranoia, undetected infection and apocalyptic annihilation pervade the novel’s positioning of vampirism as a homogenous, all-consuming and unnatural identity; to be infected, in Neville’s eyes, is to belong to a condemned legion. For Matheson, vampirism is akin to an insatiable appetite, an othering which is consumptive and anonymising, wholly abject to Neville’s traditional, patriarchal, and distinctly American individualism. Vampirism is neither sympathetic nor desirable but nonetheless is positioned at the novel’s conclusion as the evolutionary inevitability of the post-apocalyptic world. Neville is also quick to discard Stoker’s Dracula and its influential afterlife, dismissing it as ‘passé… grist for the pulp writer’s mill or raw material for the B-film factories. A tenuous legend passed from century to century’ (2001: 23). Neville’s reference to Stoker’s master vampire enables him to deploy a familiar convention in Gothic literature in order to situate the perils of his all-too-real and self-conscious apocalyptic experience. Matheson’s own apocalyptic vision of a future 1970s America awash with vampire infection spawns another cinematic Gothic creature instead—a revised and frightening reimagining of the zombie. States of undeath sharply divide in 1968, crystallised through different representations of the undead either as loners, privileging solitary or insular vampire narratives to come, or as part of an undead collective. While Matheson’s novel situates the vampire as an infected revenant that moves in hordes and zombie-styled mob behaviour rather than a solitary supernatural creature, film adaptations of Matheson’s apocalyptic tale mostly favour transforming the undead hordes into the more familiar image of perambulating zombies. The walking dead ‘ghouls’ of George A. Romero’s cult classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), which he openly admits he ‘ripped off the idea’ from Matheson’s novel (McConnell 2008), stalk the living as reanimated corpses hungry to consume the flesh of the survivors; there is nothing sympathetic about their undead state, and no meaningful glimpse to be gleaned about life after death. Crucially, there is no distinctive speech from Romero’s set of zombified creatures; their moans and groans signal their distinct lack of articulate subjectivity. Romero’s ghouls are the absolute antithesis of seductive immortality more commonly associated with vampires; immortality for the zombie is confined to physical reanimation—to live on without the release



of death—as a rotting shell of muscle memory with an unending appetite for human flesh. Concurrently, as the horrors of the zombie manifest in the conservative American heartland—the undead hordes stand in for Nixon’s silent majority and conservative social stranglehold in his winning presidential campaign of 1968—the figure of the vampire, evolving beyond the abject other of Matheson’s (and Romero’s) vision of the undead horde, splits away from this undead collective, and is increasingly transformed into a figure of sensitivity, longing, and desire, by engendering empathy with the undead condition through a pronounced and sustained subjectivity. Tragic characters like Barnabas Collins who long for eternal companionship have evolved beyond Matheson’s feral and infected undead model, becoming more humanised and conflicted than earlier vampires who embody abject transgressions and Manichean absolutes. Gaining significant prominence as romantic loners from the late 1960s onwards, vampires become increasingly articulate and offer subjective insights into their unique Gothic alterity. As Polanski’s film makes clear, the inception point of the vampire renaissance in fiction, film, and popular culture in the late 1960s opens up possibilities of new variations of undeath to come in the 1970s. Not only does this new ‘vampire circus’, as Darryl Jones terms it (2002: 94), emerge in the 1970s to shed the skins of their predecessors but also, by way of this invigorating flourishing in vampire culture, the tumultuous sociopolitical culture of the 1970s enables diverse reimaginings of classic narratives and, most crucially, inspires new vampire fledglings. No two vampires are completely alike in this new exploration of vampirism, and as a result, there are very few conclusive and rigorous rules by which they must abide. Hammer vampires are emblematic of a dusty past while American vampires point to a new diverse future, steadily evolving towards a new modern afterlife. In gaining their independence from Hammer’s iconic but largely fixed form, the subjective vampire is more reflective of our culture than ever, more illustrative of our social malaise, and crucially, becomes a thoroughly documented voice. In these new vampire narratives, according to Milly Williamson, we enter ‘a humanised terrain, which is more ambiguous in its depiction of good and evil’ (2005: 31). As an enduring literary and cinematic figure, and master vampire of the twentieth century in name alone, Dracula’s distinctive mutability enables him to update the vampire from its nineteenth-century past. When we encounter established vampires undergoing significant


updating and change onscreen, icons of the Gothic fin-de-siècle whose existence is inextricably tied to the emerging technology of cinema, their important transitions during the latter twentieth century, in particular, are crucial in understanding the vampire’s metamorphosis from distant invader to neighbour and lover. The permeation of the vampire in popular culture experiences peaks and troughs, but it never stays dormant for long. The subjective undead have a habit of enduring, bringing with them a disruption of the present by embodying dead histories that haunt the margins of the contemporary moment. After all, Jonathan Harker forewarns us that Dracula is ‘up-to-date with a vengeance… [yet] the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which mere modernity cannot kill’ (Stoker 1997: 40–41). The Dracula variations of the 1970s revise old rules and bring the Count into the contemporary world, a conduit to express and subjectively narrate specific cultural concerns. Absent from Stoker’s novel, for the novel ratifies all other accounts over the vampire’s own, Dracula’s newfound and explicit subjectivity privileges the vampire’s marginalised point of view and brings it to the narrative centre. Simultaneously old and new, immortal yet revised in this troubled decade, 1970s Draculas grant us emotional, psychological, and sympathetic insights which were previously denied or forbidden. Capturing the suppressed and marginalised voices of the late 1960s and 1970s, vampires, now emboldened, record their confessions or confirm their subjective existence through documents (novels, diaries, and letters) or recordings (oral testimonies on Dictaphones) to explicitly contest and revise the established record; it is ironic that these are the same narrative methods and strategies deployed by Stoker’s Crew of Light to contain and delimit Dracula’s narrative in Stoker’s novel. In the age of Nixon’s clandestine taped recordings in the Oval Office of the White House and Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers that revealed the Johnson administration’s widespread deceit to both Congress and the American public concerning hidden atrocities and unreported campaigns during the Vietnam War, the vampire narrative takes shape in the distrustful climate of the early 1970s as another leaked out and rebellious secret. Nixon’s corrosive political secrets infuse his presidency, if not the era itself, with a paranoid tension between old and corrupt institutions and a rebellious youth culture which foregrounds suppressed and marginalised voices, and demands transparency. The second part of this study of undeath in the 1970s concerns fledgling new vampires born into a decade of dizzying possibilities, speaking truth to



power and calling out corrupt conservative forces, in their new subjective afterlives as chronicled by authors including Anne Rice, Suzy McKee Charnas, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Alongside these literary vampires, new cinematic counterparts simultaneously rise up to question existing forms of authority and to explore new ideas of contemporary vampirism. Vampiric stereotypes are laid to rest and parodied, and ‘corrective’ texts emerge—The Dracula Tape (1975), Interview with the Vampire (1976), and Martin (1977) among them—all of which provide contestatory and self-described ‘accurate’ accounts of Dracula and his legion, and facilitate new vampire characters, unknown and faceless, to come into view.

Dance of the Draculas: Themes and Variations According to Nina Auerbach, ‘fashions determine Draculas’ (1995: 101); perfectly in tune with the contemporary moment, 1970s Draculas provided multiple fantasies of undeath to counter the decade’s corrosive political and social instabilities. Above all else, the 1970s proved that Stoker’s Dracula is a changeling, a shape-shifter, which multitudes of Postmodern revisions affirm. However, the expansion of Dracula’s possibilities as a character in the 1970s also led to his emotional, cultural, and geographical displacement; the vampire inevitably encounters the modern world as he leaves his homeland in search of companionship, while vampire hunters largely remain archaic and decidedly fixed in the past. Not all vampires embraced change; Hammer’s vampires had also become relics in their own narratives, too fixed in the past to attune to the revitalising present. In its latter years, Hammer’s vampires had become more of a soundless spectacle than a lyrical, vocal presence, a McGuffin to be hunted and destroyed rather than understood. Though deservedly credited by Hammer CEO Michael Carreras as a landmark in British cinema, Hammer’s unique style, beloved for its campy pleasures, grew weary in its interpretations of Dracula; the absence of dialogue for Dracula, particularly in later Hammer films, only confirms that these vampires had literally nothing left to say. In Dracula—Prince of Darkness (1966), Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula is merely iconic; Lee’s earlier physicality in Horror of Dracula (1958) is both threatening and explosive in its raw power and technicolour sensuality but with time gave way to an increasingly inarticulate and aged undead template that existed only to be destroyed in the final years of the studio. Reluctant to change or innovate, Hammer’s demise in the mid-1970s, following the dynamic


shift in UK and US horror cinema post-1968, motivated new vampires, and new Draculas, to cast off its passé mould. Further enabled by these varied and diffuse adaptations, the Count inevitably lives on and migrates far and wide. Finding new forms of cultural representation across various genres and styles, played by an array of unknown, cult or prestigious stars of the stage and screen, Dracula also transcends audiences moving between slapstick comedies, prestige productions, children’s television, and art-house reimaginings with ease, offering Draculas for different audiences, ages, and tastes. Debuting in 1972, the arithmomanic Count Von Count of Sesame Street (1969– present) has proven to be an influential introduction to vampires, and Bela Lugosi’s signature undead look, for many children of the 1970s. It becomes apparent that Dracula’s name alone may be considered a seal of legitimacy for some vampire films, but this is often a misappropriation or simply a commercial strategy. Dracula has been presented in terms of horror, comedy, ballet, parody, and pornography, with most variations being very loosely based on the novel, or simply discarding its literary history altogether. Not only do we see Dracula, or Dracula knock-offs, become an entity that is endlessly parodied and remade, but, more widely, vampirism becomes a lucrative Gothic brand. As James B. Twitchell notes of vampirism’s commercial appeal in the 1970s and early 1980s: We see this most clearly in film, but the vampire has also infested comics (two complete Marvel series and reams of others), the radio (Orson Welles’ Dracula for “The Mercury Theatre” is still a classic), television (there was an entire soap opera, “Dark Shadows,” back in the 1960s, a sitcom, “The Munsters,” and hundreds of made-for-TV movies, one of which, The Night Stalker, 1971, was the highest-rated feature film ever made for television), cartoons (the vampire has been on almost every animated series almost from the first), and wax museums, coloring books [sic], breakfast cereals, figurines, masks, bath mittens, erasers, stamps and decals, plastic model kits, wallets, bubble bath, bracelets, paint-by-numbers kits, costumes, kites, play money, candy, pencil sharpeners, Mon-Stirs swizzle sticks, muppets, popcorn, and lunch boxes. If a twelve-year-old can use it, the vampire has been on it (1985: 140).

Twitchell’s observations on the ubiquity of vampires illustrate how permeable and commercially viable they truly are. This commercialisation also enables vampirism to evolve beyond a closed off ‘pastness’,



facilitating an update that almost all 1970s vampire texts undertake. Truly a Postmodern creature, vampires are tamed for children’s consumption of television or lunch boxes yet equally speak to and encourage Gothic fantasies for adults. In each of these films and novels discussed in this chapter, we find a Dracula expelled from his home, signalling the end of the unknown world and the shrinking of supernatural space. Coinciding with this forced migration of Old World vampires, the early 1970s saw the slow move towards shared European borders with the expansion of the European Economic Community (EEC) through its growing membership, encouraging a commercially broadening agenda and economic integration in European communities. As part of the expansion of the European project, permeable economic and migratory borders, as set out in the Treaty of Rome (1957), allow for the migration of people between member states. In vampire fiction, migration to other countries is accomplished with greater ease while simultaneously opening up the vampire’s fictional homeland to new outside forces. As Richard Davenport-Hines notes, in 1974, one year after the UK joined the EEC, Sovereign Holidays crafted the first ‘Dracula-themed’ package holiday to Transylvania to cash in on vampire tourism, and became the subject of a BBC documentary The Dracula Business broadcast that year (1998: 353). No longer relegated to the realm of fantasy, this increased inclusivity and ease of travel (to countries within and just beyond the then EEC such as Romania) fostered new possibilities to visit these supernatural spaces, including the literary domain of Stoker’s Dracula. By 1976, beyond the borders of the growing European community, Romania celebrated the 500th anniversary and public commemoration on the death of Vlad Țepeș, under the rule of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. This celebration provided a strange and fictional synthesis of communist propaganda and nationalist heroism including the issuing of a commemorative postage stamp featuring Țepeș’s portrait. This timely historical re-evaluation of Romanian history and national propaganda provided a significant platform for vampire scholarship on the region. Despite the strong rejection of their findings in vampire studies today by folklorists, historians, and vampire critics, the publication of Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu’s 1972 academic book In Search of Dracula had a significant impact for its explicit claims that Țepeș was the historical inspiration for Stoker’s Count Dracula (1994: 9). This theory gained both public and scholarly traction,


promoting a tantalising and controversial collision of fact and fiction which continues to echo in contemporary Dracula adaptations. By publicly opening up a relatively isolated place in the grip of revisionist history and communist ideology, McNally and Florescu’s popular study enabled vampires to permeate issues of national identity beyond Stoker’s fiction which, in turn, quickly bled into popular film and fiction; such was the impact, rather than the factual accuracy, of their findings that their contested connections still linger in Dracula adaptations and the popular imagination in the twenty-first century. 1970s adaptations and reconfigurations of Draculas become ciphers to express keenly felt dissatisfaction with the present and a desire for liberation; their narratives are overtly transformed into social documents to articulate suppressed histories and forces, particularly in the face of cultural tension. Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) is certainly cast from Dracula’s mould, as Robert Quarry’s dry-witted Count combines modern-day tastes with visual echoes of Christopher Lee’s striking, and physically domineering Count. It is best considered, as Gregory Waller notes (2010: 237), as one of the short-lived ‘transitional’ Dracula films that relocates a Dracula-styled figure into contemporary America, contrasting the now seemingly stale Old World threats of vampirism with New Age mysticism, ‘loose’ morals, and youth culture. Set in 1970 in Los Angeles, the film delights in the Count’s visual disjunction with the present: it recalls elements of Roger Corman’s beloved 1960s schlocky aesthetic alongside Hammer’s transposed Gothic décor and decadence (including a basement throne room), all bricolaged within Yorga’s Spanish Colonial-style LA mansion. His victims, young countercultural dreamers, are explicitly costumed as pot-smoking middle-class hippies whose sexual liberation makes them easy prey. At times, the film threatens but ultimately avoids a descent into mere sexual titillation, yet a residue of its original pitch as a softcore skin flick is still traceable through revealing costumes and plunging cleavage shots during Yorga’s attack on Erica (Judith Lang). Another disjunction is evident when the Count accepts a ride from his unwitting guests in their VW Camper Van, a visual clash of styles that emphasises generational divide and the liberal freedom of modern youth. For if anything remains absolutely intact in this Draculean transition, it is that immigrant European vampirism (here swapped from Transylvania to Bulgaria) confirms Yorga is a true Old World patriarch; his vampire brides are showcased as stolen American prizes whose sole undead existence is to be gazed upon and to affirm



their devotion to their vampire master. The destructive and sacrificial enslavement of the young and defenceless into vampirism spreads quickly and is horrifically evidenced when Erica, following her attack, graphically devours her pet kitten. The kitten’s half-consumed body, defencelessness and fragile in the hands of a newly transformed and clearly traumatised Erica, foreshadows Yorga’s vampiric violence against the young in his ruthless desire to collect fragile and disposable female devotees. Here, we find an eerie evocation of the Manson Family cult filtered through the self-styled visual decadence of softcore pornography publisher Hugh Hefner, with Yorga’s approving yet cold gaze and overbearing control reducing the brides to spellbound and obedient hissing dolls. Robbed of their subjectivity, these women remain Yorga’s conduits beyond the Count’s own demise, concluding the film on a particular downbeat tone which infers that such generational tensions can never be truly overcome. Bob Kelljan’s Yorga films are overtly influenced by Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, particularly in its repeated signature image of Yorga violently charging towards the camera with outstretched arms, and Yorga’s vampire brides clearly mimicking the relentless movements of Romero’s ghouls. The sequel goes even further to cite Romero with the vampires also mimicking the visual motif of hands penetrating windows and doors to grab victims. Their endings also share Romero’s downbeat conclusion, with Yorga’s uncontrollable vampirism contaminating all in its path. In the better-financed and slightly glossier sequel, The Return of Count Yorga (1971), these countercultural tensions are no longer a subtle undercurrent. Amidst the haze and shady turn within the counterculture movement, both Yorga films read as texts which wholly absorb a peculiar Californian darkness. Count Yorga, Vampire, and its quickly spawned sequel articulates a conservative backlash against the countercultural movement in its destruction of an idealistic youth, and by indoctrinating them into Yorga’s patriarchal and capitalistic system without any hope of escape. Ultimately, Yorga’s lasting contribution to vampirism is the wilful destruction of 1960s innocence. The acme and sharp decline in the countercultural mood occurred in rapid succession over the latter half of 1969: the shock and political aftermath of Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick accident, resulting in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne on 18 July 1969, closed a decade of rapid political ascension and tragedy in Camelot, following the assassinations of both President John F. Kennedy (in November ’63) and his brother Robert Kennedy (in June ’68); the hope of the Woodstock festival stands apart from the shocking


Tate-LaBianca murders only one week earlier on 8–9 August 1969; soon followed by the ill-fated Altamont concert and the unmasking of Charles Manson and the Manson Family by that December. Woodstock would come to define the bright epoch of the era out East in sharp contrast with its gloaming in California. The latter months of 1969 dealt repeated and devastating blows to 1960s counterculture and closed the decade on a particularly sour note—a dark mood that pervades through both Count Yorga films. From the outset of The Return of Count Yorga, vampirism thrives through a wayward influence over the youth. In this film, it is not a young child who witnesses the vampire’s horrors but rather the mute teacher/whistle-blower Jennifer (Yvonne Wilder), who is all too wary of the vampire’s malevolence. Liberally refashioning whole sections of the plot from the first Yorga film, the sequel contains an explicit and unsettling citation of the Tate-LaBianca murders when Yorga commands his devoted vampire brides to break into the orphanage to capture teacher Cynthia (Mariette Hartley), and to murder her remaining friends and colleagues. Like its predecessor, The Return of Count Yorga invokes Draculean templates by way of Yorga’s secreting of Cynthia as a Harkerstyled hostage, while further spreading his vampiric influence on to the American youth via the dubious orphan Tommy (Philip Frame). Initially presented as kind and shy, Tommy soon forges an unspoken alliance with Count Yorga, becoming a proxy for dark-hearted infiltrators of the counterculture dream to ensure its complicit destruction from within. Sharing the exact same arrival scene as Count Yorga, Vampire, thanks to American International Pictures reusing the same footage of the Port of Los Angeles, William Crain’s Blacula (1972) provides another retelling of Dracula, in the domain of Blaxploitation cinema. Transitioning the archetypal vampire from the horror genre into Blaxploitation, a topical 1970s subgenre largely rooted in the crime film, Blacula utilises the rising trend of vampirism as visual shorthand for enslavement at the hands of a cruel white master vampire. It opens with Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall), who is quickly vampirised and imprisoned by a vicious Dracula two centuries earlier in the 1790s. The curse of vampirism here rests not on its eventual total ubiquity (as with Count Yorga) but rather on its terrible traumatic reproduction, as Mamuwalde’s contaminating thirst is unleashed in modern-day urban Los Angeles in an extension of the master/slave paradigm. As Mamuwalde is relocated to Los Angeles by way of two flamboyant gay American antique dealers



who purchase the contents of Dracula’s castle at a bargain price, his sale and importation hidden in an antique object explicitly foreground the transactional nature and commodification of the black body in the American slave trade. Released from his coffin and learning that his wife perished centuries ago, Mamuwalde discovers the terrible price of his immortality—in order to survive, he is bound to further the vampiric curse onto innocent victims, eventually including his new love (doubled as his reincarnated wife) Tina (Vonetta McGee). The antique dealers are coded as enablers of such practices, if inadvertently, because of their intent to profit off of the imported property, including Mamuwalde’s imprisoned immortal body. This ‘double curse’ of enslavement and contamination, as James and Ursini read it, also doubles Mamuwalde’s pain—highlighting the injustices of corrupt forces that continue racist and exclusionary practices in post-Civil Rights Los Angeles. While Blacula imports and remodels the vampire into a different political arena onscreen, imbuing the narrative with tragedy and prescient political commentary on blackness in the aftermath of Civil Rights, Dan Curtis’s TV movie Dracula (1974), scripted by Richard Matheson and starring Jack Palance, both borrows from and redevelops Dark Shadows and Blacula’s reincarnation of the vampire’s long-lost love. This narrative hook would later become entrenched in subsequent vampire adaptations, particularly after its infamous use as the narrative bookending in Coppola’s lush Dracula adaptation in 1992 made it a veritable cliché. So much of Coppola’s film directly references or recalls segments of Curtis’s film that it becomes an odd homage to this lesser known version. As Holte notes, by ‘incorporating the McNally/Florescu material, Curtis creates a Dracula who is a fifteenth-century Wallachian warlord undead in the nineteenth century, a vampire who is as much a warrior hero as he is a monster’ (1997: 72–73), revealing this adaptation to be informed by then contemporary vampire scholarship in its characterisation of the Count over earlier favoured adaptation styles drawn from the Balderston–Deane stage productions. It also discards and distils the main players in the Crew of Light in favour of a reduced set of vampire hunters; the bewildered Arthur Holmwood (Simon Ward) replaces Harker (Murray Brown) as Van Helsing’s (Nigel Davenport) accomplice, while Doctor Seward and Quincey Morris are expunged altogether. Furthermore, Harker, ravaged by Dracula’s barely seen vampire brides, is condemned to vampirism and a violent death, while Lucy (Fiona Lewis) shifts to centre stage as the Count’s desired target.


Mina (Penelope Horner)—annoyingly mispronounced as ‘Minna’ throughout—becomes Holmwood and Van Helsing’s decoy to flush out the Count, with both men positioned to simultaneously recall Polanski’s vampire killers and Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson through their costuming. The film, oddly perceived as a more faithful adaptation (it certainly wishes to be considered as such due to Stoker’s name appearing in its UK-release title), also strangely reverses and collapses crucial elements of the tale with abandon. Though considered a popular TV film version by scholars including Holte, and held in affection for some fans due to Palance’s distinctive looks—which directly inspired artist Gene Colan to base his drawings of Dracula for the Marvel comic series The Tomb of Dracula (1972–1979) on the actor prior to his casting in Curtis’s TV film—Palance remains, nonetheless, a strange and jarring casting choice. While his broad prominent features do add a hardened edge to his Count, the actor is inescapably mired in his Western screen persona, embodying a distinctive type of American, frontier-bound menace which visually bristles with the Count’s distinct, supernatural foreign otherness. The Count’s romantic flashbacks are also oddly uncomfortable; utterly devoted to his long-lost bride Maria, his memories of her are captured in dreamy soft-focus flashbacks in which she is a vision of costumed Hammer horror femininity, a sexy youthful contrast to Palance’s evidently middle-aged vampire. Later, while attacking Maria’s reincarnated double Lucy, this scene soon dissolves into near-identical soft-focus visuals too and scored with the same sentimental theme to elicit our sympathies for their temporary reunification across time. These techniques overtly encourage a sustained sympathy for the Count by repeating the imagery to elicit a charged sense of desperate grief and longing. Despite featuring heavily in both the story arcs for Curtis’s Dark Shadows and Crain’s Blacula, grief and reincarnation eclipse all else in Curtis’s film (including its fidelity to Stoker’s novel), foregrounding what would become an influential and often romantic addition in the Count’s characterisation in later adaptations. Most interestingly, the initial broadcast date for the TV film, 12 October 1973, had to be postponed until 8 February 1974 due to further political turmoil in the Nixon administration. Dracula was temporarily shelved to broadcast live television coverage and political press conferences following the resignation of Nixon’s Vice-President Spiro Agnew on charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion, and the announcement of his immediate successor, Gerald Ford. For the Nixon White House, Agnew’s public disgrace and resignation on 10 October



triggered an immediate and necessary restructuring of power under the 25th Amendment, as Agnew was the first vice-president to resign in US history. Gerald Ford’s swift ascendency to the Vice-Presidency is eerily prescient in its visible restructuring of power; for what transpires in Curtis’s film is the unexpected exchange of Jonathan Harker for the often-overlooked Arthur Holmwood. Both Ford and Holmwood share similar fates as (political and narrative) secondary characters now thrust centre stage thanks to a series of unexpected events. Van Helsing’s typical auxiliary Harker is openly corrupted and abandoned to a violent death in Castle Dracula early on as Dracula’s departs for England to spread his influence further. Vampirism in Castle Dracula stands in for the corrupting desire for power that spreads seamlessly from master vampire to his chosen successor. This realignment of roles within the Crew of Light also promotes a bewildered if innocent Arthur Holmwood to his new role as Van Helsing’s only deputy. Left as Dracula’s de facto second-in-command in the castle, Harker is, like Spiro Agnew, also denied any salvation or grace once dispatched during Van Helsing and Holmwood’s vampire investigations. Read this way, Curtis’s Dracula is an apt portent for the political future of the Nixon government, hinting at the ongoing Watergate scandal that would, with time, consume his presidency. Furthermore, these seemingly small character exchanges echo Nixon’s own public restructuring of presidential succession prior to his own resignation, while the vampire hunters mimic his perceived nemeses in the media. Concluding their climactic battle with the Count, Van Helsing and Holmwood as a dynamic duo stand in for The Washington Post’s journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; they join forces to seamlessly work together to (broad)cast light onto and scorch this Nixonian Dracula who attempts, and fails, to slip back into the shadows. In contrast with the odd casting of Curtis’s Dracula for American television audiences that same year, other adaptations of Dracula delighted in their faux Eurocentrism and trash aesthetics. In Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula (1974), Dracula’s (Udo Kier) outdatedness as an Old World Count is signalled from the outset; lacking a reflection, this striking and camp Dracula nonetheless likes to keep up appearances here, dyeing his hair black during its opening credits to visually reinforce his aesthetic legitimacy by aping Lugosi’s widow’s peak. Kier’s body symbolises a frail and outdated aristocracy obsessed with blood, purity, and nobility, seeking non-polluted blood to feed upon. Relying on outdated sexual mores, as ‘pure’ virginal blood is all that he can digest and in short supply, pure


blood forces Dracula’s migration from his homeland and clearly signals the fading aristocracy of an earlier, jaded twentieth-century European grandeur. Dracula’s need to successfully feed on this rare blood is not merely a peculiar quirk, but rather a continuance of an Old World, aristocratic and European order crumbling in the face of political and cultural upheaval. Blood for Dracula articulates two contemporary concerns in its trashy, gory delights: the decay of political bourgeois vampirism in conflict with a violent communist-fantasy, and the rise of vampire body politics and purification. It is evident that Paul Morrissey takes pleasure in the unusual twist on Dracula’s health and seemingly doomed task of finding ‘pure’ blood. Morrissey’s symbolic and over-sexed youthful Van Helsing, Mario Balato (Joe Dallesandro), is a misogynist, abusive, communist farm boy, who brutally rapes and defiles most of the women of the house for their own ‘protection’ from the Count. Both Dracula and Mario are shown to be part of regimes that, for Morrissey, equally ring hollow as Dracula’s destructive and archaic threat is unseated by the political terror of the present. Both are, according to Maurice Yacowar, twinned predators in their own right as ‘[w]here Dracula thrives on a woman’s purity, Mario thrives on her corruption. Morrissey shares his monster’s rue at the loss of values and self-control, though they have different reasons for regretting the virtual obsolescence of the virgin of the modern world’ (1993: 83). Morrissey’s weakened and malnourished Dracula is proud of his title and aristocracy, using it to enter the house of the young maidens by impressing their financially troubled patriarch. Conversely, Mario’s communism is explicitly symbolised by the crude mural of a hammer and sickle above his bed, and his dedication to his political cause is, at first glance, as entrenched as his aristocratic nemesis. The film’s political intentions are stark, for it exposes them both as monsters; in Das Kapital, the bourgeoisie is described as vampiric, draining the working class for their own capitalistic sustenance. Overtly engaging with Marxist rhetoric, the film extends the metaphor in its graphic visual pleasures by using the vampire not only as a potent financial and sexual symbol of brutal exploitation but more generally in how ‘capitalist industry could take on the aspect of the mythological and the fabulous’ (Baldick 1996: 122). Capitalism is driven by its own addictions, its need to propagate continuously to nourish its own existence, and, much like Kier’s malnourished and orally fixated Dracula, is ‘driven by unquenchable and destructive cravings’ (Baldick 1996: 128).



Morrissey is critical of both ideological institutions in his film, particularly of Mario’s shallow commitment to the communist cause while heavily critiquing the romantic ideals of communism held by particular film-makers and artists in the early 1970s. Maurice Yacowar notes that Morrissey was frustrated with ‘directors like Bertolucci and the actors [who would] “talk seriously” about communism’ (Morrissey 1974: 25, qtd. in Yacowar 1993: 86), but were reluctant, in Morrissey’s view, to look at its failures in politically unstable nations, particularly in the final years of the Vietnam War. It also seems strange that the division of Europe by the Iron Curtain would not dampen such communist ideals when its economic and personal cost was visible to all. Rather, Morrissey also exposes such declarative solidarity to the communist cause as a naïve romantic notion, critiquing such views held by artists who were clearly ignoring ‘an example like Yugoslavia right on their borders and they actually talk very seriously about how wonderful communism will be’ (Morrissey 1974: 25). At its violent conclusion, the film finally rids us of this brittle Hammer-styled Dracula, an icon of the aristocratic past who is no longer fit to contend with modern brutal terrors as exemplified by Mario. In the end, one monstrous figure simply replaces another—with Dracula dispatched, Mario violently ascends to power as the new ruler of the estate. Vampiric eating disorders become more visible in the wake of Blood for Dracula; the film’s emphasis on Dracula’s bloody emesis and malnourishment combined with his distressing starved physique and inability to produce new vampire fledglings echoes the disturbing rise in dieting practices and eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia— his unstable identity trapped in a damaged, fragile, and underfed body. This emphasis on vampiric eating disorders and psychological damage also coincides with increases and awareness of weight gain, cheap food production and the rhetoric of ‘fatness’ in early 1970s popular culture. Not only does the radical alteration of mass food production and ­cattle-fed corn bring about cheaper food for consumers under reforms brought about by Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz in 1971, it also significantly alters the quality of the food produced. This cheaper but nutritionally deficient food coincides with, if not directly feeds into, the explosion of the ‘diet’ industry phenomenon of ‘low-fat’ foods, and the increased popularity of radical dieting regimes (especially the Atkins diet that gained significant traction upon publication in 1972). Vampire bodies not only emphasise the social pressures of beauty and


immortality—they too, mimicking the female ideal of thinness, must seek out a clean source of nourishment. Similarly, in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, vampire narrator Louis de Pointe du Lac struggles with his recent vampiric transformation and abuses his body through radical dieting (a diet of rats) as a form of moral, near-puritanical, punishment. Controlling his newfound vampire appetite becomes an outlet through which Louis exerts a false sense of control over his confusing undead existence as a fledgling vampire, his warped sense of moral values and self-loathing correlates with his refusal to drink human blood. Kier’s Dracula endures physical distress by suffering violent tremors and prolifically sweating, his discomfort becoming visually more apparent as his sources of pure blood (or perhaps clean food?) are rendered abject and sullied. These physical expressions echo the rise of ‘dieting culture’, which is often fuelled by (and as an industry relies upon) identity crisis and notions of extreme bodily purification. Identity crisis lies at the heart Paul Morrissey’s film career, and in particular in his film-making relationship Andy Warhol. Symbolically represented in Blood for Dracula through the codependent relationship fostered between Dracula and Anton (Arno Jeurging), the vampire’s servant, it equally reflects the draining and demanding creative relationship Morrissey had with Warhol’s Film Factory. The repeated theme of master and servant across Warhol’s costume trilogy suggests that the collaboration between Warhol and Morrissey was of mutual benefit and occasional strain, whereby Warhol’s name as producer often eclipsed Morrissey’s creative vision as the project’s director. Vampirism is clearly associated with Andy Warhol’s powerful persona. His Factory nickname of Drella—‘a combination of Cinderella and Dracula’—stemmed from Factory members’ recognition of Warhol’s vampiric nature. Through ‘his activity as image producer and stargazer […] [H]is touch had the effect of draining away the life of his “found personalities” [and thus] Warhol himself was “affectionately” tagged by some of his close associates as a vampire’ (Hawkins 2000: 186). However, this metaphor of vampirism was also extended to Morrissey by his critics who accused him of being ‘something of a leech or bloodsucker, [in] attaching himself to Warhol in a crass bid for recognition and fame’ (Hawkins: 186). Warhol’s own Postmodern vampiric reworking, recycling, and rebranding of styles all reveal his particular commercial power and authorial control—after all, Blood for Dracula was also released in certain territories under its alternative title, Andy Warhol’s Dracula.



Fred Saberhagen’s imaginative 1975 novel The Dracula Tape revises Stoker’s tale from the outset; the Count emerges as a sympathetic and wronged narrator of an inaccurate and falsely documented history. Using Dracula’s counter-narrative as a suppressed testimony, The Dracula Tape positions itself as a precise rebuttal of Stoker’s version of events, succeeding in presenting a convincing alternative account for Dracula’s documented deeds. Saberhagen’s revisionism is rooted in Dracula’s own subjectivity; previously silenced in Stoker’s novel, his abilities and movements are accounted for by those who witness him, mediated through a series of very partial (and unreliable) narrators. This narrative gap in Stoker’s tale is opened up to document the mid-1970s political landscape of the Nixon presidency, which would be defined not by the president’s official denials, nor by official documents, but revealed through clandestine taped recordings and secret disclosures to journalists. Robin Wood rightly notes that in Stoker’s Dracula ‘it is up to the reader to supply the discourse of Dracula, from the manifold hints the book offers. […] The corollary is that Dracula must never be allowed a voice, a discourse, a point of view: he must remain unknowable, whom the narrative is about, but of whom it simultaneously disowns all intimate knowledge’ (Wood 1996: 368). The narrative ellipsis—the official seal of his monstrosity in the tale—is imaginatively redeployed by Saberhagen to enable Dracula to align his subjectivity with marginalised and censored voices, those who question and protest against previously held sacred seals of patriarchal authority. Van Helsing, Stoker’s man of academic honours, is ultimately unmasked as a power-hungry zealot desperate to retain his version of events at all cost. His true motives and expertise on vampires and vampirism is unmasked as a desire to exterminate vampires across Europe, including condemning Lucy Westenra to a terrible fate whereby she is experimented upon with blood transfusions. Repositioning Dracula’s point of view to that of ‘the benevolent protector of his human friends’ (Zanger 1997: 19), the novel deploys a series of reversals whereby Dracula, in turn, unmasks Van Helsing’s true menace and abusive malpractice, confronting the malevolent vampire hunter with his wicked deeds in revealing ‘you have done it before, butcher!’ (Saberhagen 1975: 156). Van Helsing’s righteous actions are sanctioned through religious dogma and patriarchy, chiefly presented through his associations with medicine and fatherhood (as he is often made the father to either Lucy or Mina, in Postmodern variations of Dracula), whereby his knowledge bestows authority and power. The missal (a book of texts used throughout


the year for Catholic Mass) Van Helsing usually wields is largely lost to Postmodern Van Helsings. Religion and faith become totems to repel vampires but no fear of God is present among the characters. Van Helsings become ravaged by time, their authority quelled by their ferocious thirst to expel vampires. As a result of this violent crusade, subjective Draculas elicit sympathy and in turn cast doubt on the representatives of the church, the academy, and practitioners of pseudo-science as dubious ‘experts’ in vampire fiction. Saberhagen’s novel is not only timely but in fact necessary for Dracula to transcend his nineteenth-century mythic status. It enables a public recuperation that is central to this Postmodern subjective shift (more typically attributed to Anne Rice in the popular imagination) which, in turn, enables monstrosity to become knowable, subjective, and almost human. Such monsters, previously held at the margins of literature and culture, now move centre stage. Other leaked discourses emerged in the media: the taped communiques from fringe political groups such as the Weather Underground movement, alongside other violent and politically motivated groups, gained media traction. Other terrorist activities including hijackings (most infamously, Black September’s murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics) and numerous national and international bombing campaigns all sought to highlight suppressed political frustrations, largely in the name of causes that many dismissed all-tooglibly as hangovers from the 1960s counter-revolution. Confessions and counter-narratives by previously unknowable ‘monsters’ abound during the 1970s. Perhaps the most infamous and influential political figure aligned with surreptitious infiltrations and national corruption, Richard Nixon retreated from public life following his resignation in August 1974. Becoming the definitive example of interviewers chasing vampires, Nixon was temporarily coaxed back into the limelight for financial reasons and desired to publically rehabilitee himself by granting a series of exclusive interviews to British journalist David Frost. Nixon’s vampiric subjectivity in these interviews reveals an attempt to justify his illegal and polarising actions as the most despised president in US history at that time. Broadcast in four parts in May 1977, Nixon’s decision to permit the interview is perfectly in tune with Saberhagen’s Count, offering a blow-by-blow counter-narrative to his critics. While Saberhagen’s Dracula uses a tape recorder to capture his account—a wry nod to the subpoenaed Nixon White House Tapes (including the infamous ‘Smoking Gun’ tape) that conclusively became the president’s undoing by revealing direct White House knowledge and a directed



cover-up in the Watergate investigation, leading to charges of obstruction of justice and articles of impeachment—Frost’s medium of television was another reminder of Nixon’s previous public image failure during the Nixon/Kennedy presidential debates in 1960. Like Dracula, Nixon’s eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap on the White House Tapes (a botched recording of the 20 June 1972 discussions in the Oval Office directly concerning the Watergate burglary and arrests at the hotel complex) creates a narrative gap wherein the public can only imagine the depths of his knowledge and involvement in the cover-up. This narrative gap, which Saberhagen’s novel appropriately utilises to position Dracula’s counter-narrative to Stoker’s novel (as Dracula’s subjective account is wholly absent), opens up a tantalising Postmodern speculative space. Truth is obscured and replaced with a subjective point of view. Unlike Dracula, however, Frost’s repeated confrontations with Nixon, calling him to account for documented evidence and testimony which contest his version of events, including atrocities in Cambodia and Vietnam, the Watergate scandal and his abuses of power, ultimately deny Nixon his desired public rehabilitation. His defence of his illegal operations, ‘when the President does it, it is not illegal’ (The Nixon Interviews 1977), recalls Dracula’s exceptionalism, in his peerless and puissant position as president to impose his will accordingly. Nevertheless, confessions demand acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and Nixon, like other subjective vampires, must pay a public penance for these disclosures. In the most infamous moment of the interviews, Frost extracts a mild apology to the American people during the explosive ‘Watergate’ episode; Frost reminds the former president that, without due acknowledgement of the suffering he caused the national psyche, he would, in explicit Gothic terms, ‘be haunted for the rest of [his] life’ (The Nixon Interviews 1977). The dialogism of these interviews also exposes both Frost’s and Nixon’s personal ambitions—Frost’s desire to scoop the interview of the decade in the face of widespread criticism and Nixon’s attempt to challenge his critics and regain public dignity—and, crucially, hollows out Nixon’s former image as the previously unknowable, secretive, and plotting arch villain of White House; the interviews consign the disgraced president to a twisted form of immortality as a nemesis of the American people which even subjectivity cannot redeem. Later subjective explorations of The Nixon Interviews further underscore connections between 1970s Draculas and Nixon in the popular imagination via Ron Howard’s film Frost/Nixon (2008), based on Peter Morgan’s 2006 Broadway play,


in which Frank Langella, the seductive Count Dracula in Universal’s 1979 film, starred as the hubristic yet strangely vulnerable Nixon. Perhaps the most visually interesting TV adaptation of Dracula in the 1970s, the BBC extravagant two-part production of Count Dracula (1977), starring Louis Jourdan as the Count, is a lavish concoction of borrowed filmic styles, Victorian decadence and on-location shots of Whitby. To highlight the horror of Dracula’s vampirism, Jourdan does bring a particularly brutal physicality to the Count, recalling Christopher Lee’s masculine violence in Horror of Dracula (1958). Jourdan looms over his female victims with a ferocity that speaks of real danger rather than of expectant eroticism. In the graveyard at Whitby where Lucy (Susan Penhaligon) wanders in her sleep, the force used by Jourdan in feeding on her is an undeniable metaphor for rape; there is neither eroticism nor a forbidden dark kiss to be found here but rather a brutal expression of power. Dracula embraces these women in an overtly sexual if not utterly disposable manner, separating himself from other 1970s Draculas who long for romantic companionship—he is too monstrous, too other to be tamed. The depiction of the vampiric face is striking in its brutality: shots of Dracula’s face at heightened moments of menace are solarised, producing a monochrome, nightmarish visage with deep-set pupils, retaining only the colour of his ruby red lips. The use of such camera trickery, through ‘mattes, step-printing and other optical effects whenever Dracula’s vampirism manifests’ (Silver and Ursini 1997: 144), does give this Count an eerie and otherworldly quality, and while it is quite arresting and uncanny, it also strongly dates the production. Jourdan’s facial expressions hint at an evil that is brimming beneath the surface, which ‘visually reinforce the sense of a parallel world of unnatural urges and behaviour existing side-by-side with well mannered, Victorian society’ (Silver and Ursini 1997: 144). Inasmuch as the production is largely faithful to its source material, Jourdan’s Count nonetheless feels quite out of step, if not wholly retrograde, when compared with his contemporaries whose attractiveness and vulnerability form part of their distinctive cultural appeal. Nevertheless, the production does address contemporary anxieties of mistrust and deception in its interesting characterisation of Renfield (Jack Shepherd). Dracula’s acolyte turned whistle-blower rejects the Count’s bribe to finally consume a human life to become immortal. Mina (Judi Bowker), perhaps in its most tender scene, urges Renfield to consider the existence and value of his soul and the souls he has consumed; no longer



Dracula’s agent and now compelled to rebel, he takes up his Cassandra quest, which, as Auerbach also observes, seals his fate: ‘Like other post1960s culture heroes who vanished after giving fragmentary warnings – the Black Panthers, Karen Silkwood – Renfield becomes a silenced seer’ (Auerbach 1995: 142). His warnings unheeded, and sharing the fate of many whistle-blowers in the late 1970s, Renfield is too easily dismissed and ignored, and quickly dispatched for his insolence. Both Karen Silkwood and Renfield act as political barometers in their respective warnings of corruption and negligence, and denial of knowledge becomes a shared response to their claims. While Silkwood’s sudden ‘silencing’ in 1974 while travelling to meet a New York Times reporter with incriminating evidence (which vanished) consequently highlights her story—missing documents that alleged wilful corporate negligence and doctored safety records, alongside assertions of intentional plutonium contamination of workers at the Kerr-McGee Nuclear plant in Oklahoma—Renfield’s voice remains tainted by madness and violently suppressed in both the BBC TV adaptation and John Badham’s 1979 film. In the confines of the Seward madhouse in these successive adaptations, Renfield’s death goes unquestioned by the asylum’s authorities, a warning quickly rejected and utterly silenced. These successive and popular adaptations both highlight marginalised voices which deeply resonate with their time and culture. John Badham’s lavish film, an adaptation of the 1927 John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane play based on Stoker’s novel, opens with a similar call to marginalised women to speak up. Set in 1913, the film opens in the midst of a storm aboard the Demeter, the disarray and chaos on board is directly mirrored in the bowels of the Seward home, which houses the asylum. The film’s most interesting aspect concerns the rise of female independence; our introduction to Lucy (Kate Nelligan) and Mina (Jan Francis) concerns questioning male authority from the offset as Lucy reads aloud a letter from a solicitor and queries their domain of power: ‘Don’t you think we ought to have some influence, some say on things? After all, we are not chattel!’ Her querying of the law emphasises an unspoken participation in the Suffragette movement in 1913, signalling to 1970s viewers that Lucy’s single-mindedness is as much in tune with women’s rights to secure the vote as it is for second-wave feminists to continue to speak out for their rights in the late 1970s. By choosing the Count as her suitor and abandoning her oppressive family of ageing Edwardian patriarchs, Lucy claims her independence, refusing to be held back by stifling


propriety. Patriarchal rot lies at the heart of this film, for it is the precise failures of these men which enables Dracula (Frank Langella) to infiltrate the asylum with ease and unmasks both Seward’s (Donald Pleasance) and Van Helsing’s (Lawrence Olivier) strange ingrown families as doomed in the face of women’s progress. Seward laments, ‘It’s been so long since I practised real medicine’ after incapacitating (and effectively dooming) Mina with laudanum, and frequently scolds and tuts at Lucy for expressing her opinion as though she were a misbehaving child; Van Helsing, clinging to religious dogma to reassert his duty in his twilight years, and believing his faith alone will maintain the privileges of patriarchy, boldly wagers, ‘If we are defeated, then there is no God!’; the wager is lost. Dracula, emboldened by Lucy, survives this final encounter with a depleted Crew of Light, with Van Helsing perishing at the Count’s own hand while he, charred and burned by the scorching daylight nevertheless escapes back to Romania. Harker (Trevor Eve), stiff, conservative, and passionless, is bested from the outset—needing to ‘persuade Lucy to settle down’, his influence falls away at the first instance of the Count’s thrilling passion. Langella’s Dracula smoulders onscreen as the decade’s most alluring Count but it is his desire for strong women—women ‘full of life’— rather than mere nourishment that drives this romantic narrative along. The film reconfigures Stoker’s novel by swapping around roles, names, and relationships: Lucy and Mina are interchanged and become the daughters of Doctor Seward and Professor Van Helsing, respectively. In the same vein, familiar spaces collapse inward such as the Seward Madhouse and the (formerly Westenra) family home become one space, while Dracula’s castle and Carfax Abbey are fused into one Gothic and decrepit mansion; these contractions mirror the scale of the 1927 Balderston–Deane play which was revived for a successful Broadway run from 1977 to 1980, starring a Tony Award-nominated Langella as the Count. While the film contracts its spaces to more domestic settings, it expands the sympathetic reach of its vampire. Langella’s casting speaks to the genuine sexual thrills now instilled in the Count’s characterisation by the late 1970s—the film visually oozes sexual desire in a brief sequence when Dracula and Lucy passionately embrace bathed in a siren-red glow. This burst of colour at their union signifies the intense passion conveyed onscreen—it is one of the few moments of overpowering colour still evident in a film often criticised for its extremely desaturated look, altered by Badham for the 1991 Laserdisc and later



DVD re-release. Gilbert Taylor’s cinematography is rendered eerie by this post-production colour bleed out, giving the appearance of strange apertures and unusual film stock, which now visually foreground a delicate slippage between a luscious colourised present and the desaturated past of Universal’s monochrome 1930s horror films. Despite desiring a strong visual link to Browning’s 1931 film—Badham’s version is also based on the Balderstone—Deane Broadway production and was mooted by the director to be shot in monochrome to visually connect with Browning’s masterpiece (Fischer 2000: 74), a proposition that was rejected by Universal—Badham’s film nonetheless yields to contemporary tastes and marketing by foregrounding Langella’s overt sexual magnetism, wholly eroticising the vampire as the focal point for female empowerment and uninhibited sexual desire. Stan Dragoti’s Love at First Bite (1979) is a comedic representation of an out-of-date Dracula in desperate need of modernisation and affection. This Dracula (played by George Hamilton, brilliantly spoofing Bela Lugosi at every turn) longs to be reunited with his long-lost love, now reincarnated as model Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James) in 1970s New York. Comparisons can be made here with Udo Kier’s Dracula being forced to leave his castle in search of sustenance from virgin blood in Blood for Dracula (1974), and David Niven’s bride Vampira (Teresa Graves) in Vampira (aka Old Dracula) (1975), an almost bloodless entity, who requires a blood transfusion for her survival which results in her transformation into a black revenant. For 1970s Draculas, political, social, and sexual progress is vital to their survival, even if such endeavours are to be temporary or fleeting attempts at modernisation. As it happens, Hamilton’s Dracula is evicted from his castle in Transylvania in order to facilitate contemporary nationalist agendas—the Communist Romanian gymnastics team’s preparation for the 1980 Olympics. This is, of course, a direct tribute to the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who became an international sensation for Romania for winning five medals and scoring seven perfect tens, at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. While the Count remains an intrinsic part of Romanian culture, folklore, and tourism thanks to Stoker’s novel, international athletic success and national politics overpower him in this instance. Being evicted from Transylvania is a recurring theme for Postmodern Draculas, forced to move for sustenance or displaced by political powers, the movement of Draculas to the New World coincides with the shrinking of supernatural and unknown spaces. Indeed, the whole film


is about displacement and cultural alienation. In one particularly humorous moment, the Count attempts to update his vernacular, only to realise the book he consults dates specifically to Roosevelt’s New Deal era—self-mocking, he comments aloud in a satirical nod to Bela Lugosi, ‘This book is as out of date as I am!’ New York’s darker realities are in evidence upon his arrival but are either promptly and humorously neutralised or ignored: urban black poverty, crime, and drug abuse are all secondary to this Dracula’s inability to adjust to an odd and dangerous new world, a world Cindy, in its closing frames, essentially renounces to remain with him. In so doing, Cindy’s initial feminism gives way to a regressive desire return to traditional roles as the only viable option; by the decade’s end, foreshadowing Ronald Reagan’s neoconservative ascent looming on the horizon, Dracula retreats from the New World, sensing the coming dawn of neoconservativism. Werner Herzog cleverly reinvented F. W. Murnau’s German Expressionist classic film Nosferatu (1922) in his beautiful and haunting art-house remake, shot in German and English (for international release) which offers a serious counter-vision to Universal’s sweeping romance and Dragoti’s lampoon. Herzog makes clear his desire to connect with Murnau’s silent masterpiece, reinstating Orlok’s name to Count Dracula as Stoker’s copyright had expired, and reconstructing specific shots (such as the Count’s arrival by ship to Wismar) in which he subtly modifies Murnau’s captivating shots with an increased ‘uncanny force’ (Prawer 2004: 45). The tour de force of the film is physically channelled through Klaus Kinski’s penetrating stare and elegant hand gestures which expressively convey the Count’s subtle and nuanced strangeness. Herzog was refused permission to shoot in Romania by Ceausescu, who proclaimed his direct lineage from Vlad the Impaler; as a critique of communist culture, Herzog’s film presents rational sameness as a nullifying influence which robs us of joy—a grotesque carnival which destroys rather than nurtures creativity and imagination. The film’s overt meditation on death and immortality is a depressing one; the film rejects American joys of vampiric immortality and instead philosophically entreats a mournful yearning for humanity by Kinski’s Count Dracula, which can only be bestowed through death. The opening frames on mummified bodies foreground the film’s ruminations on death as a human inevitability, wholly denied to the Count who longs for release. This Dracula embodies a European gloom on the horrors of immortality; Dracula reveals his torment where ‘time is an abyss,



profound as a thousand nights […] Can you imagine enduring centuries and each day experiencing the same futilities… the absence of love is the most abject pain’ (Herzog 1979). The last of his kind, this misery is briefly eclipsed in his encounter with Lucy Harker (Isabelle Adjani) whose eroticism ensnares him to feed on her and forget the threatening dawn. Unlike Murnau’s Orlok, Kinski’s Dracula in Herzog’s reinterpretation does not fade away in a phantasmagorical effect, but rather physically petrifies and perishes on the bedroom floor. Here, the tensions between the rational and the supernatural are sharply drawn. While the reverence of the original is openly admired, re-enacted, and expanded, the film draws on the powers of its origins to restore vampire imagery back to its roots in German Expressionism. Not only is this film highly nationalistic in its desire to replicate and further Murnau’s film, it is also a fierce critique of the rational and its attempt to erode supernatural influence in German folk stories, myths, cultural beliefs, and practices. Here, Von Helsing (as opposed to Van Helsing) is also undone in clinging to the rational, and refusing to believe in vampires, in spite of Lucy’s prophetic warnings of Dracula’s invasion and pestilence. Too little is accomplished too late, as Von Helsing stakes the Count after Lucy perishes and is promptly arrested for murder. In dismissing the existence of supernatural evil, the townspeople and the incompetent Von Helsing provide the space needed for the vampire’s conquest by refusing to acknowledge the power of supernatural influence and the intrusion of the fantastic. Despite the Count’s demise in the harsh dawn light, Herzog’s ensures vampirism endures by way of the infected Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz), who rides back to Transylvania to assume the Count’s place. They share an explicit duality onscreen, a supernatural exchange which psychically fuses in the film’s final frames. Sick from the vampire’s bite, Jonathan soon forgets his relationship with his wife Lucy, while Dracula grows increasingly obsessed with consuming her. In a spectacular sequence involving shadows and the absence of a reflection, the Count visits Lucy as she stares into her bedroom mirror. His absence in the glass provides a rational dismissal of his existence while her acute awareness of this supernatural disturbance enables her to see the dangers in subscribing wholly to rationalist strategies which had doomed Wismar; by acknowledging this supernatural intrusion, she can succeed in thwarting the vampire plague. Yet, while Dracula is bested, his supernatural powers endure as Jonathan is now vampirised in his place. This supernatural means of survival ensures that while the rational may not permit


or tolerate the existence of the supernatural, it cannot fully destroy it either. As with Langella’s and Hamilton’s Draculas, Herzog’s new vampire (the transformed Jonathan Harker) must return to the homeland to ensure his survival and supernatural continuance. All that has occurred is exchanged for a renewed form of supernatural survival, providing a temporary containment to the contagion unleashed in the final frames of Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers—Dracula returns home at the decade’s end after unleashing his influence on to the world.

New Vampires, New Rules: 1970s Fledglings The 1970s not only contributed to the multiplicity of Draculas; it also provided ample opportunities for new voices to emerge. In 1976, two major works in the vampire genre broke away from Dracula as the source novel for the vampire narrative and instigated a powerful shift that would greatly contribute to their newfound identity as tragic narrators of their own immortal tales. Anne Rice published her best-selling novel Interview with the Vampire while George A. Romero, father of the revived ghoulturned-zombie narrative, completed his confrontational take on the contemporary vampire in Martin (1977); both texts, in radically different ways, emboldened the narrative interest in the vampire’s point of view. Shot on the streets of Braddock, Pittsburgh, Martin captures the economic, spiritual, and social malaise of the 1970s in its blighted urban landscape and criminality. Recasting the vampire as sympathetic and misunderstood outsiders, burdened with their own form of spiritual darkness, both Rice’s Louis de Pointe du Lac and Martin (John Amplas) uniquely confess their sombre existence under Gerald Ford’s brief but gloomy tenure. It is through this awareness of ‘“new” vampire[s] whose cravings and motivations have become individualised and personalised’ (Williamson 2005: 31), that these vampires stake their place within the contemporary moment. Joining the cacophony of voices of dissent in the fragmented and ideologically poisoned decade post-Watergate, and particularly following Gerald Ford’s public pardon of Nixon’s conspiratorial crimes, vampire subjectivity becomes rebellious—speaking truth to power which would rather it was hushed up. Dracula certainly represents political frisson and disillusionment during the ‘leaderless 1970s’ (Auerbach 1995: 165) but, as with Nixon, he too evades formal justice and slips out of sight.



Drained of confidence, Ford confirmed in his first State of the Union address on 15 January 1975 that ‘[t]he state of the union is not good’ (Ford 1975). As the vampiric condition opens up to new forms of interpretation, from a revision of established forms of undeath to human sanguinarians (blood drinkers), Gothic imagery and all-too-­ human depressive states become conflated with sexual deviance and familial ostracism. Romero’s Martin directly addresses the tensions between the Gothic imaginary surrounding vampire performativity and its joyless reality for the youth of the mid-1970s. As Harry M. Benshoff suggests, ‘George A. Romero’s Martin, is exemplary in this respect, contrasting the black and white Gothic vampire fantasies of a troubled young man with his actual practice of attacking women with razor blades in order to drink their blood’ (Benshoff 1997: 234). Given that these new vampires clearly differentiate themselves from, and frequently mock, their vampire elders (often in direct reference to Dracula as the legitimate target of this new legion), the rules governing undeath are opened up for radical interpretation, while costumes and trinkets are frequently abandoned. While Martin never conclusively proves that its central ‘slacker vampire’ (Latham 2002: 73) is truly undead, amidst the decay and despair depicted in the city streets of Braddock, Latham’s observation considers the vampire’s futility and lack of productivity during the 1970s recession as its central tenet, dismissing Martin’s monochrome Gothic fantasies as magical escapism. Belief and faith are contested forces in the film: Cuda’s (Lincoln Maazel) church is being rebuilt following a fire, a mirror of national political and social crises, while Martin’s rejection of the ‘old’ vampire myth as nothing more than fantasy is best captured when he spits out his over-pronounced fake vampire teeth in front of Cuda, declaring this form of vampirism as merely a costume. It doesn’t really matter if vampires exist in contemporary America when the crushing reality of debt, ‘stagflation’, and economic gloom erode the possibilities of the present. As an immigrant, Cuda brings with him the faith of the Old World, and this also suggests the struggle of immigrant identity and assimilation into American culture more widely. Martin, as a home-grown American, does not bear the scars of Old World beliefs and superstitions. The dismissive treatment of older, traditional (usually European) vampires evidences a strict bifurcation of the undead in this period, celebrating new forms of American difference from the opening pages


or frames in novels and films where the new fledgling attempts to claim their unique status, while firmly relegating vampires of the Old World, often styled as variants of Dracula, to a barbaric and folkloric past. In Neil Jordan’s 1994 film adaptation of Rice’s 1976 novel, Louis (Brad Pitt) reduces the iconic image of Dracula to bad penmanship by way of an excellent in-joke (given that Jordan is an Irishman) when he dismisses Dracula as nothing more than ‘the vulgar fictions of a demented Irishman’. In the novel, Louis dispels popular theories on a vampire’s limitations as superstitious folly: ‘Oh, the rumour about crosses?’ the vampire laughed. ‘You refer to our being afraid of crosses?’ ‘Unable to look on them, I thought’, said the boy. ‘Nonsense, my friend, sheer nonsense. I can look on anything I like. And I rather like looking on crucifixes in particular.’ … ‘The story about stakes through the heart,’ said the boy, his cheeks colouring slightly. ‘The same,’ said the vampire. ‘Bull-shit’ he said, carefully articulating both syllables, so that the boy smiled. ‘No magical power whatsoever’. (Rice 1994: 27)

The dismissal of magic as an influence or source of power is vital for Rice and Romero—to subjectively humanise the vampire, magical exceptionalism must be erased or rebuked as it links too closely with the transmogrifications and impossibilities of the decade’s Draculas. ‘There is no real magic!’ Martin implores time and again to his uncle Cuda, who trusts in the power of mythological vampire repellents to control him. To prove the lack of magical power the items possess, Martin looks into mirrors, bites into raw bulbs of garlic and rings bells but none of these ancient ritualistic antidotes prevent him from committing his crimes or control his movements. Worse still, Cuda and Martin ultimately enable and feed off of each other’s paranoid fantasies, both of which are presented as subjective narrative ‘truths’. Ultimately, then, it rests on the audience to decipher whether Martin is a fully fledged vampire or a human blood-drinking predator, perfectly in tune with other deranged young men in post-1968 horror cinema. As with Louis’s interview, Martin comes alive and begins to explicitly communicate with the outside world when his cousin Christina (Christine Forrest) insists on installing a telephone in Cuda’s home, enabling them to forge social connections beyond Cuda’s strict rules. Calling into a radio show, Martin publicly confesses his thoughts and opinions about the modern world, broadcast in a manner that feels entirely apt



in an age of the vampire confessional via audiotape or transcribed by an interviewer. Nicknamed ‘The Count’ by the radio show host, Martin dismisses popular culture’s clichéd costuming of vampirism onscreen as untrue, but nonetheless indulges in these same Hammer-styled fantasies onscreen when preparing to attack his female victims; recasting them in lush Hammer-esque costuming in monochrome flashback-styled quick cuts, these inserts have the women beckoning him into their willing embrace, a fantasy through which Martin temporarily romanticises his brutal violations as willing sexual trysts. Ultimately, Martin explores the fissures between Old World fantasies of vampiric existence, the violence of self-delusion and depressing contemporary culture which isolates him, and his uncle’s equally oppressive and unquestioning belief in religion and folklore, and their Old World origins. This split is much more apparent in Interview with the Vampire, as Louis’s narrative is a particularly gloomy account of his vampiric association with his maker and immortal counterpart Lestat, a cruel and self-absorbed sire whose dominance in their ‘family’ is undeniable. Louis feels both fascination and abhorrence for Lestat, wholly dependent on him as his maker despite his repeated neglect and emotional cruelty. Their cohabiting relationship is symbolically indicative of spousal abuse, with Louis becoming the effeminate, emotional, and mournful partner longing for his mortal life. However, Louis’s response to this abusive relationship emerges in his frustration with his self-image and results in self-harm. Fleeing Lestat with Claudia, their vampire child, to the Old World of Europe, this escape, or perhaps regression, to the past (as the vampire past is always geographically cast as the Old World of Europe for Rice) leads Louis to find vampire trysts, covens, and decrees far more archaic and violent than in New Orleans. Europe may be the cultural site of origin for the vampire and confer perceptions of vampiric legitimacy as the defined seat of immortality, but it remains an untamed and violent space, and considerably less civilised than America. Louis’s depressive split between self-loathing and lingering humanity is acutely evident in his attitude to feeding. Louis ‘diets’ on the blood of animals in an attempt to survive and purify his body and soul by rejecting human blood. As Sandra Tomc notes, the entire novel ‘contains all the signal features of the diet narrative—its characters are preoccupied throughout with hunger and food and with the manipulation of their bodies’ (Tomc 1997: 97)—and is structured in such a style of wanton feeding, gluttony, and guilt that it can only be associated with


the destructives tones of radical dieting. This act of dieting can be decoded in two ways—it is an attempt to deviate from the usual nourishment the vampire requires, and it is an exercise in body dysmorphia, in an age when the ‘super-diet’ is promoted in order to retain beauty. As noted earlier, a direct link between starvation and bulimia is evident in Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula where Dracula’s malnourished body reveals the severity of his rigid dietary requirements. Radical diets such as the Dr Atkins Weight Loss Diet (1972) and the Virginia Slims Diet (1968) became powerful symbols of success by endorsing severe eating regimes that were aimed at women in order to regulate their bodies. As disempowered vampire bodies, relying on servants and patriarchal leaders to help them source their sustenance, both Louis and Kier’s Dracula illustrate the horrors of the abused body, which is stigmatised and feminised by the increasing demands of patriarchy’s violent performativity. Vampire narratives which privilege the need to control appetite and retain beauty mimic the language of dieting manuals and techniques, where value and self-worth are complexly linked with the vampire’s humanity. Staving off the desire for human blood with inferior animal blood for survival, dieting vampires instead talk of (but rarely experience) relief in denying themselves human blood, striving instead for the nourishment of the soul which is preserved by the refusal to kill humans. Of course, it is only a matter of time before their appetites outweigh their self-imposed moral codes. Anne Rice’s vampires must be beautiful in order successfully to survive immortality, and Louis’s dieting is a potent metaphor for striving for physical beauty and perfection as an act of rebellion under Lestat’s abusive eye. Rice’s celebration of male and female beauty is a reoccurring feature which becomes, over time, a necessary qualification for entry into her vampiric societies. Beauty, across Rice’s vampire fiction, is a form of establishing evolutionary and class superiority which further distances her vampires from their bestial European ancestors. When Rice writes of the European vampire, they typically take on a decrepit, antecedent form, a corpse reminiscent of a memento mori figure, or a bestial vicious other. To underscore their striking difference, Louis and Claudia encounter this visceral past as an abject corpse: ‘…she was probing the mass of hair and bone that had been his head. She was scattering the fragments of his skull. We had met the European vampire, the creature of the Old World. He was dead’ (Rice 1994: 207). More invested in the beauty and exceptionalism of her select



legion, Rice’s reinforces European decay, putrefying vampirism’s possibilities by revealing its rotten, fleshy, and porous remains. Yet, while underscoring their physical differences, home-grown American vampires as Rice and Romero portray them, only temporarily mask their monstrous capabilities; both texts contain striking levels of physical and psychosexual violence turned inward on the family unit. Where Louis refuses to challenge Lestat for power, Claudia, their vampire child, cannot threaten Lestat herself because of her underdeveloped body; she is as doomed as her Hammer counterparts from the outset by her ‘arrested development’ (Auerbach: 154) in this unending cycle of abusive patriarchy. Claudia’s emotional torment as an eternal doll, unable to develop into a grown woman, feeds her seething hatred which explosively results in her ‘murder’ of Lestat. As Keller notes, ‘No vampire is born a vampire. Every vampire is converted through a forced encounter, a rape. All vampire encounters include unwilling participants, some of whom also become vampires…. This explains the resentment of the vampires towards the individuals who create them’ (Keller: 28). Louis, seeing Claudia as an unknowable mystery—she is, as Auerbach notes (154), not given much depth in the novel despite her dramatic displays—functions as an extension of his self-hatred and confusion as an immortal; Claudia antagonises him to act rather than while away his immortality wallowing in directionless guilt. In a direct provocation, she compares Louis to a domestic slave, longing but unable to free himself of his maker’s stifling bond over them both; ‘[Lestat] would no more be a slave than I would be a slave… and you’ve been his slave… and I shall free us both’ (Rice 1994: 135). Locked into this stifling patriarchy, after her failed attempt to murder Lestat, Claudia is condemned to burn in the sunlight, doomed by the ancient laws held by the European Vampires. In seeking out his immortal antecedents, Louis finds yet another ugly truth about the brutality of the ancient world, another form of enslavement which strips him of his last meaningful connection to his vampire family. The central focus of the Postmodern condition opens up all rules for re-evaluation and re-interpretation. According to David Harvey, ‘Postmodernism swims, even wallows, in the fragmentary and the chaotic currents of change as if that is all there is’ (Harvey 1991: 44)— the blurring of neatly defined templates and categories in which Postmodern vampirism celebrates its mutability in the 1970s. Rice, alongside Romero, taps into the growing contemporary multiplicity


of the vampiric condition and insists the audience must do the same. What does the vampire of the late 1960s and 1970s do, if not challenge authority? Unlike the vampires Martin and Louis, who are tortured by their emotional duress, both Saint Germain in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Hôtel Transylvania (1978) and Dr. Edward Weyland from Suzy McKee Charnas’s The Vampire Tapestry (1980) exude an enjoyment and self-­ understanding when examining their vampire nature. Saint Germain is a romantic hero; in no way does he pose any threat or any harm to the human race but, rather, uses his vampire senses to protect and help the helpless. Yarbro constructs her vampire hero around the historical Comte de Saint Germain, whose past is shrouded in mystery and considered himself to be the rightful heir to the throne of Transylvania. Saint Germain apparently claimed to be the son of Prince Rakoczy, who ‘was forced to yield his crown to the Austrian Empire after a prolonged and bitter struggle’ (Butler 1993: 187). His noted appearances throughout Europe’s courts and diplomatic circles garnered him quite a reputation and a lasting prestige. According to Butler, ‘He was also a brilliant conversationalist and raconteur, so widely travelled, so deeply read, so learned, so light-hearted, so urbane, and withal so lavish and so splendid, that he outshone even his own diamonds and sparkling precious stones’ (Butler 1993: 189). It is therefore unsurprising that Yarbro transforms Saint Germain into a successful vampire character given his mythic appearances and knowledge exudes a quasi-magical quality. Butler also makes this correlation between Saint Germain’s mythic life and immortality, in that, while in the annals of history he is ‘worth hardly more than a footnote… [he] is adored in theosophical circles as an immortal being with angels at his command and unquestioning belief at his disposal’ (Butler 1993: 268). The obscurity of this mythic, ostentatious character lends Yarbro the opportunity to further the influence of Saint Germain’s real-life exploits while repackaging his history into that of a righteous vampire. Saint Germain, like Joss Whedon’s vampire protagonist Angel (who also ‘helps the helpless’), becomes the Wandering Jew, who must walk through eternity righting past sins until the second coming of Christ. Symbols identifying the Wandering Jew are also shared in a multitude of vampire novels and films: the mark of a burning cross is imprinted unto the wanderer’s forehead to instil fear, though it is hidden from view by wearing a headdress or band. This mark is, according to Marie Mulvey-Roberts, ‘a sign of the Almighty’s vengeance’



(Mulvey-Roberts 1990: 75), and familiar in vampire iconography as crosses are often used to repel, burn, and scar the (blasphemous) vampire body. In Yarbro’s novel, Saint Germain is a figure of honour, valour, and redemption, surrounded by thieves, murderers, rapists, and Satanists who populate the fringes of these historically-set novels. His vampirism provides a means by which he can be seen as a guardian of humanity for humanity, a struggle for justice and righteousness which continues across centuries. Brian Stableford recognises these attributes which accurately align with Saint Germain’s particular set of skills and talents in Yarbro’s series, noting that ‘vampires…can function as heroic symbols of philosophical enlightenment, scientific progress, and sexual liberation while those who hunt them down can be portrayed as bigoted psychopaths’ (Stableford 1997: 74). This is particularly evident in 1970s vampire fiction as vampire subjectivity contests conservative forces on issues ranging from sexual politics and scientific discovery, channelling political and cultural dissent through various undead outcasts. In essence, Yarbro’s Hotel Transylvania is a prolonged sexual fantasy, incorporating the language and structure of a romance novel, a historical fantasy, and traditional Gothic tropes (cults, castles, forbidden knowledge, and strange immortals) complete with erotic displays focusing on women’s bodies and their orgasmic fulfilment. Madelaine, Yarbro’s heroine, is independent and unbridled, and the central object of lust for the novel’s satanic cult, led by the sadistic Saint Sebastian who schemes to rape and torture her in a satanic ritual. In a manner similar to the plot and language of a romance novel, Saint Germain not only reveals himself to be an immortal capable of rescuing her but in reward for his gallantry, becomes the novel’s idealised male for his sexual worship and fascination with the female body. Saint Germain’s vampire body poses no threat to the women in the novel; while his reluctance to feed is similar to Louis’s constant hunger throughout Interview with the Vampire, animal blood is an adequate substitute. It is Saint Germain’s embarrassment at this prerequisite that draws our attention to his feeding needs, unlike the psychological disturbances that haunt Rice’s Louis or Romero’s Martin. Furthermore, Saint Germain does not truly question his immortality, nor does his narrative become overtly self-indulgent. His pleasures lie in satisfying the loveless women he saves: eroticism in Yarbro’s historical fantasy is a celebration of women’s multi-orgasmic capabilities beyond procreation, sexual fulfilment through which ‘…the ecstasy that


bound them, exalted them, consumed them with a fervour that fed on its own satisfaction’ (Yarbro 1978: 244). Championing one of the first overtly romantic vampire icons in vampire literature, Yarbo’s novel is in tune with feminist female desires, embodied in the non-threatening, non-phallic body of Saint Germain. Nancy Friday notes the evident hostility towards female sexuality and sexual pleasures for its own sake during the decade, particularly in sexual fantasies which reject non-phallic sexual desires and the function of biological procreation: As late as 1973, the noted ‘permissive’ Dr Allen Fromme … [wrote] “Women do not have sexual fantasies” and went on with a patronising kindness: ‘The reason for this is obvious: women haven’t been brought up to enjoy sex… women are by and large destitute of sexual fantasy’. (Friday 1994: 3)

As Friday highlights, the denial of independent female sexual fantasy also denies women the capacity of sexual fulfilment beyond stereotypes: ‘The portraits of women it evokes is too new, too frightening – above all, too much at war with all our past stereotypes of women as maidens, mothers, “ladies”’ (Friday 1994: 3). To her credit, Friday’s findings on women’s sexual fantasies debunked the absurd patriarchal presumption that women are incapable of sexual fantasy for its own sake. Friday’s findings were met with significant hostility from male medical doctors and other male-dominated professionals whose dismissals became increasingly aggressive when ‘the medical mask would slip, and I would find myself facing not the calm professional but the outraged man… with ill-concealed anxiety and dislike’ (Friday 1994: 3). American attitudes to sex underwent significant revision by the 1960s—with important studies by sexologists Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson in the 1940s and 1950s, respectively—which, with the medical approval of the contraceptive pill (in 1960), further enabled women to actively choose reproduction, to express sexual desire unburdened with biological consequences, and to retain their bodily integrity. According to historian William Chafe, Prior to the 1960s, rates of premarital intercourse conformed to the patterns established in the 1920s, with engaged women having the highest frequency of premarital sex…. Most indicative of changing mores, perhaps, was a mid-1970s survey of eight colleges that showed that 76 percent of women had engaged in intercourse by their junior year… other poll data



suggested that college students, in particular, had changed their underlying approach towards sexual behaviour and attitudes. (Chafe 1999: 436–437)

Hôtel Transylvania positions the 1970s vampire as the provider of sensual experience for women without reciprocal male obligations, hinted at in its subtitle: ‘A tale of forbidden love’. Auerbach notes, ‘[f]eminists in the 1970s were discovering, just as the vampire lovers do, the multi-orgasmic versatility of women’s eroticism, which, despite the admonitions of male experts, requires no penis for arousal’ (Auerbach 1995: 149–150). Saint Germain’s status as an enlightened man is elevated further by focusing his desires solely on exploring female sensuality and vampire procreation beyond the realm of phallocentric eroticism. As an immortal aiding and liberating women from their confined and repressed sexual desires under the violent gaze of patriarchy, under which Madelaine (among others) is reduced to the status of gratifying sexual chattel, Yarbro begins her series with a prolonged quest for her vampire hero, to which there is no conceivable end. Yet the novel also conforms to generic romance tropes as ‘a story whose central vision is one of total surrender where all danger has been expunged, thus permitting the heroine to relinquish self-control’ (Radway 1991: 97), but in a manner which does not betray its core feminist ideals or to simply exchange one form of patriarchal constraint for another. At its conclusion, by transforming Madelaine into a vampire, Saint Germain passes on the knowledge of female eroticism independent of patriarchal satisfaction and penetration to continue this new feminist movement across the series’ nonlinear historical epochs. However, the final goal of Yarbro’s vampire narrative series is rooted in an idealised version of a male immortal, he who stands apart from the lusty violence of brutal human patriarchy, and understands and nourishes the suppressed voice and desires of women through the supernatural romance genre, which ‘finally recognises the intrinsic worth of the heroine’ (Radway 1991: 97). The eternal wanderer Saint Germain becomes a dislocated romantic time-traveller of sorts, wandering through historical eras and cultural epochs in Yarbro’s sprawling series, defiantly rallying against the horrors of human history. Yarbro uses Saint Germain as a transgressive alternative to the contemporary anxieties around female sexuality, positioning the vampire as a moral standard who ‘embodies civilised values vampires ordinarily reject such as restraint, self-control, and respect for human life’ (Day 2002: 52). As an example par excellence of the chaotic


political and social frustrations borne of the wake of the Vietnam War abroad, and the aftermath of Watergate in the homeland, Yarbro’s vampire hero ‘hinges on the assertion that the vampire is misidentified as perverse and dangerous because ordinary society is so monstrous and irrational’ (Day 2002: 52). Contrary to the romantic Saint Germain and the increasingly sympathetic Draculas which populate the latter half of the 1970s, Suzy McKee Charnas’s Dr. Edward Weyland does not wish to right the wrongs of humanity. Interestingly, both characters would eventually feature in ‘Advocates’ (1991), a short-story co-written by Yarbro and McKee Charnas in which, tellingly, Saint Germain defends Weyland for his crime of human exceptionalism in a world overrun by vampires. For Weyland, while he certainly has evolved beyond humanity, human interaction remains a source of nuisance and irritation. A true predator, Weyland enjoys hiding in plain sight: a college professor in anthropology, he is an expert on human evolution while also being a literal embodiment of exceptional evolutionary development. Consequently, Weyland does not bear characteristic protruding fangs—he admits that ‘[f]angs are inefficient for blood sucking’ (McKee Charnas 1981: 26)—but rather conceals a stinger under his tongue to draw blood, akin to a folkloric Russian vampire which, according to vampire anthropologist and folklorists Paul Barber and Dmitrij Zelenin (1927: 394), bears a distinctively pointed tongue to puncture the skin of its victims. Barber notes, Although the vampire’s teeth are an essential characteristic, distinguishing him from other monsters, in folklore, the teeth are not especially prominent. Only occasionally is it remarked that his teeth had grown while he was a vampire. Some vampires do not even use their teeth to draw blood. Zelenin, for example, reports the belief that the Russian vampire has a pointed tongue, which he uses to puncture the skin of his victims. When a vampire’s teeth are remarked on at all, it is usually as the observation that children born with teeth are destined to become vampires. (Barber 1988: 44)

Rejecting supernaturalism for atypical evolutionary advancement, McKee Charnas’s vampire is a cold predator who relies on emotional detachment above all else to survive interactions with the human race. While his 1970s counterparts strive to make emotional, if not romantic, connections to other humans, or other vampires in their narratives, Weyland finds such needs to be counterintuitive to survival. Being the only one of



his kind, in his refreshing confession, his detachment proves to be a source of sympathy for the reader, and, despite the brief human connections he does forge—through which he experiences human cruelty and physical intimacy—he avoids the familiar depressive, mournful tones of his undead contemporaries. McKee Charnas’s novel positions Weyland as a quasi-fantastical spectacle, close to human/animal biology but equally imbued with myth and legend. Metaphorically aligned with a unicorn in the novel’s centrepiece section, ‘The Unicorn Tapestry’, Weyland’s transformative journey through the novel recalls the capture, killing, and resurrection of a unicorn in ‘The Unicorn Tapestries’ (1495–1505), an early-modern period collection of seven tapestries housed in The Cloisters museum, New York. In the depicted tale, a unicorn is tamed by a virgin, only to be captured and killed by huntsmen, and brought to a castle. The unicorn, resurrected in the final tapestry, is confined in a pastoral scene and fenced in (but easily capable of escape), surrounded by ripe fruit and blooming flowers which, according to the gallery’s experts, represent the taming of the creature by his beloved as symbolised in the array of flowers which hints at devotion and sexual joy. Weyland’s taming and devotion to Floria as a result of his vampire confession reflects his biological exceptionalism and the ecstasy of their intimate union, a pattern consciously deployed by McKee Charnas not only in her ‘tapestries’ but also in the biological liminality Weyland and the unicorn share as fantastic extensions of evolutionary adaptation. Witnessing the vampire is transformed by McKee Charnas from a dark endeavour into a spectacle of wonder. Similar to the earlier segments of Louis’s interview in Rice’s novel, Weyland addresses the absurdities and limitations of the rules of vampirism in a public lecture; in effect, this is his public pronouncement of his predatory exceptionalism, buried under the protective language of anthropological and academic postulation. What is most intriguing about McKee Charnas’s novel is its explicit rejection of the political sphere by its subjective vampire. For Weyland, it is imperative that ‘[w]hile [the vampire] must adapt sufficiently to disguise his anomalous existence, he must not succumb to current ideologies of the Right or Left – that is, to the cant of individual license or the cant of the infallibility of the masses – lest either allegiance interfere with the exercise of his predatory survival skills’ (McKee Charnas 1981: 27). This attempt to eclipse contemporary political leanings aside, McKee Charnas permits her vampire


to talk freely and be psychoanalysed (surely the most in-vogue narrative choice in the novel) as the bearer of accumulated cultural pain, punctuated only by restorative slumbers which erase each lifetime before, permitting Weyland to opt out of human integration for his own survival. At the crucial moment of the novel, psychotherapist Floria dares to probe Weyland’s confessional limits: ‘Can you talk about being a vampire: being one now?’ to which he replies, ‘You won’t like knowing’ (McKee Charnas 1981: 124). Through Floria, who contemplates writing about Dr. Weyland’s exceptionalism, McKee Charnas acknowledges her fashionable narrative choice by blatantly calling our attention to the saturation of the vampire narrative by the end of the decade: ‘There’s a lot of vampire stuff around right now – plays on Broadway and TV, books all over the place, movies. They’ll say I’m just trying to ride the coattails of a fad’ (McKee Charnas 1981: 127). In the end, Dr. Weyland’s predatory nature explicitly detaches him from his mournful contemporaries— he may experience the ‘ache and joy of memory’ (McKee Charnas 1981: 294) as he succumbs to another repressive slumber, but must choose to forget his brief human companions as emotional affection compromises his predatory nature and survival instincts. While some contemporary predators go to ground to free themselves of human interaction and the constraints of modern American life, other revenants come alive with the prospect of new terrain to conquer. According to Stephen King in his 1999 new introduction to his vampire novel ’Salem’s Lot, the idea took hold initially as an off the cuff remark shared with his wife Tabitha King; teaching the novel to high school students had led the author to the tantalising idea of ­reimagining Dracula’s invasion of 1970s America, and in particular, the vampire’s domination of a small town in Maine. King’s 1975 novel ’Salem’s Lot contrasts heavily with the sympathetic evolution vampires experience by the decade’s end, more indebted to Dracula’s true horror than any vampire’s sympathetic confessions. Sure enough, his master vampire Barlow, ‘operates with lethal ease’ (King 1999: xi) in quickly transforming the townsfolk from their normal, if unpleasant, everyday existence, into a brutal legion of devoted revenants. For King, undeath in smalltown America merely uncovers a collection of nefarious appetites and unrestrained prejudices; while the overtly masculine novel stresses the importance of male bonding to fight the forces of evil, such relationships and allegiances are secretly regarded with suspicion and homophobic disgust by many of the townsfolk. Barlow and Straker in particular trouble



the town as European antique dealers; their purchase of the Marsten House ‘invoke[s] the stereotype of the homosexual who will soon tame even the town’s dreaded haunted house with frivolous drapes and flounces’ (Eads 2010: 83), which alongside their perceived uncanny ‘queerness’ openly violates too many traditional pillars of the small-town community. Nevertheless, as Tony Magistrale notes, ‘the whole community hides behind a collective false front that parallels the “antiques business” Barker and Straker employ to disguise their nocturnal activities’ (Magistrale 2003: 180), which enables King to thoroughly dissect smalltown hypocrisies ranging from ‘traditional’ forms of masculine enterprise to shared American values more generally. In its assembled Crew of Light, a ‘band of men’ including ‘…a teacher, a doctor, a priest and a schoolboy’ (Sears 2011: 18) and led by returned-resident and writer Ben Mears, King foregrounds patriarchal pillars of the community left to rot under the weight of national disillusionment, now the targets of ‘growing disrespect’ (Carter 1979) as identified in President Carter’s ‘Malaise Speech’ by the close of the decade. Populated with ‘as vile a bunch as you’d care to meet, a motley collection of wife-beaters, sadists, racists, paedophiles, homophobes and “preeverts”’ (Jones 2002: 95), there is little sympathy to be gleaned for King’s layered microcosm of contemporary America: Jerusalem’s Lot is no Eden, nor is it simply a new terrain for vampire manifest destiny; rather, in as much as the vampiric threat is an illegally imported problem, the evil that enables the destruction of the town is borne of American complacency and rampant destructive individualism, which erodes this small-town community from within. Most evident of all is King’s disillusionment with the state of the nation under President Nixon. Crafting the novel during the near-daily drip-feed of wrongdoing and complex webs of malfeasance in the Watergate scandal in the media, which exposed abuses of power and deception at the highest levels of government (recalling the resignations of both Vice-President Agnew and President Nixon for tax evasion and threat of impeachment respectively), the novel thematically situates the Marsten House as a thinly veiled metaphor for Nixon’s White House, particularly in their shared status as beacons of influence over the town/nation, and sites of wrongdoing, suspicion, and corruption. Looming over the town, the Marsten House is a source of awe and contamination; ever-watchful of the town’s inhabitants, it is a locus of equal dread and fascination, a supernatural siren calling out to the turned disciples of the King-Vampire, who resides in its


murky bowels. For Victor Sage, the tenancy of these dark houses become physical extensions of the ‘soul’s dark cottage’ (Sage 1988: 4), each habitat takes on the attributes of its occupier’s Gothic self. Invited into the nation through the shady dealings of town realtor Larry Crockett, Barlow is smuggled in via the docks at night without a custom’s stamp. Nixon had to be invited back into the public realm too; re-elected for a second term with the aid of covert operations and secret slush funds for his personal re-election war chest, Nixon’s paranoia to secure his seat of power and national influence as president was also achieved (and ultimately undone) by illegal means (as documented by Woodward and Bernstein 1974). By bringing in Barlow as an illegal alien, King acknowledges the fragility and permeability of national borders and the necessity of political checks and balances. Evil, as it manifests in ’Salem’s Lot, is not merely a night-time pursuit undertaken by vampires; for King, the town’s many evils and conspiracies menace during the daylight hours, in familiar places by familiar people, and is too frequently overlooked. American fears of political and psychological invasion were heightened significantly during King’s childhood in the 1950s when Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare swept through the nation, only to rise up again during the turbulent national mood surrounding the Vietnam War. Barlow’s vampire acolytes are imperceptive followers to a nullifying cause which robs them of their identity and purpose, reducing them to unquestioning devotees. Crushed by the monotony of their unfulfilling everyday lives, the citizens of the Lot are soon blinded by vampirism as a temporary release, however joyless the outcome. Once Barlow is staked, the Lot’s vampirised residents endure in a leaderless vacuum, for there is no-undoing their ghastly transformation, sharing the same fate as the ‘survivors’ of Jack Finney’s McCarthy-era novel The Body Snatchers (1955). In the aftermath of numerous political shocks, the energy crisis, the ‘agony of Vietnam’, and the violation of national trust in the Father(s) of the nation, King’s text captures the growing malaise and social disenfranchisement of the 1970s more generally, offering what President Jimmy Carter bluntly delivered as ‘not a message of happiness or reassurance, but … a warning. The growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives, and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation’ (Carter 1979). Sears describes ’Salem’s Lot as ‘a novel of failure, and despair; of the failure of belief and faith, the failure of consumerism as a social ideology, and the failure of Fathers to rule and of heterosexual love to redeem and,



in its representation of the undead and their uncanny persistent afterlives, a novel of the failure of endings’ (Sears 2011: 18). The double bind of failed leadership and failed attempts of national and social unity has led to a version of the American dream which imprisons its citizens; by opting out, disaffected citizens gain temporary relief but permit the malaise of vampirism to spread unchecked. Though initially offering a false alternative to the failures of 1970s realities, Barlow’s undead cabal of followers ultimately destroy fundamental American values such as individualism and personal freedom, which cannot be restored. Similarly, in Dracula, the political threat to the British Empire evidences similar anxieties. As Arata notes, Dracula’s twin status as vampire and Szekely warrior suggests that for Stoker the Count’s aggressions against the body are also aggressions against the body politic. Indeed, the Count can threaten the integrity of the nation precisely because of the nature of his threat to personal integrity…Dracula imperils not simply his victim’s personal identities, but also their cultural, political and racial selves. In Dracula vampirism designates a kind of colonisation of the body. Horror arises not because Dracula destroys bodies, but because he appropriates and transforms them. Having yielded to his assault, one literally ‘goes native’ by becoming a vampire oneself. (Arata 1997: 465)

In Tobe Hooper’s 1979 made-for-TV adaptation of ’Salem’s Lot, vampirism becomes a visible condition reminiscent of Count Orlok (Max Schreck) in Murnau’s Nosferatu; turned victims of vampirism are demarcated by their glowing eyes and blueish pallor, yet their subjectivity is irretrievably lost in their transformation. Vampirised victims speak only to lure out their prey and to reiterate their devotion to their undead master in parroting phrases that unmask their physical and psychological subjugation. Barlow’s (Reggie Nalder) infamous blue visage (credited with terrifying a whole generation of TV viewers) is wholly alien and dangerously foreign, abject enough (considering censorship restrictions for television broadcast) to sufficiently terrify all who witness him. This decision to pare back on revealing the vampire-king may have been in part due to the timing of the production as, by 1979, a glut of Dracula adaptations— Badham’s sweeping epic, Dragoti’s vampire comedy, and Herzog’s arthouse reimagining of Nosferatu—had saturated cinema screens. By virtue of its two-part broadcast format, Barlow’s silent and snarling form serves as a return to older, purer tensions, harking back to Max Schreck’s


physicality as a suitable cinematic antecedent to embody absolute malevolence and infiltration, transmitted directly into the family living room. Despite his memorable appearance, Barlow’s own voice is utterly lost in its transition to the small screen: deploying Straker (James Mason) as his human acolyte and mouthpiece, the TV movie recasts the vampire-king as a snarling, animalistic, and reactionary creature, a controlled monster in the nostalgic guise of Mark Petrie’s (and Stephen King’s) childhood horror comics but stripped of his keen mind, and pre-meditated wickedness. In the novel, Barlow’s ‘bon mot’ to the remaining Crew of Light is particularly vivid, proclaiming that Ben’s girlfriend Susan was ‘very toothsome’, while also assuring Mark Petrie that he ‘shall enter my church as a choirboy castratum’ (King 1999: 380–381). On screen, such frightening attacks and suggested horrors are replaced or overwritten with jump cuts and prosthetics which fail to capture the full force of Barlow’s malevolence. Straker, King’s playful nominal echo of Stoker, is amplified in the adaptation to suppress Barlow’s visibility, providing this human familiar with baleful powers of observation over the town during daylight hours to increase tension on screen. By the decade’s end during which time ‘the vampire myth has been thoroughly dissected’ (Hogan 1986: 162) and made familiar, Hooper’s film and its retrograde ‘master-vampire’ is a refreshing reminder that ‘retro’ vampirism retains a timeless threat of violence and destruction that can infiltrate if national interests and outside forces are left unchecked. Hooper’s film, as Hogan argues, ‘expresses a purity of vampiric evil that is very nearly the ultimate extrapolation of the myth’ (1986: 162), a national warning that marks the end of Carter’s presidency and signals the failure of his efforts to lead the country in the wake of so many political, economic, and social upheavals. Carter’s best intentions as a moral national leader in the aftermath of Nixonian political corrosion shine through in Hooper’s TV adaptation, as the restoration of order is never truly accomplished by vampire hunters Ben and Mark; all they can do is continue on their unending journey to contain the horrors that have contaminated the nation. As cultural mirrors, 1970s vampires undergo radical transformations, unearthing hidden histories and questioning reigning hierarchies, reflecting revolutions and enabling marginalised voices to gain meaningful ground at the heart of popular culture. Emboldened ‘with powers of their own which mere “modernity” cannot kill’ (Stoker 1997: 41),



vampirism underwent a renaissance under Postmodernity’s flourishing influence. From secret testimonies to cultural ubiquity by the decade’s end, the Postmodern undead continue to prove themselves to be ‘up-todate with a vengeance’ (Stoker 1997: 40).

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62  S. NÍ FHLAINN Hogan, David J. 1986. Dark Romance: Sex and Death in the Horror Film. Northamptonshire: Equation. Holte, James Craig. 1997. Dracula in the Dark: The Dracula Film Adaptations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. James, Henry. 1898. The Turn of the Screw. London: William Heinemann. Jones, Darryl. 2002. Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film. London: Arnold. Keller, James R. 2000. Anne Rice and Sexual Politics. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. King, Stephen. [1975] 1999. ’Salem’s Lot. London: New English Library. Latham, Rob. 2002. Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Magistrale, Tony. 2003. Hollywood’s Stephen King. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Matheson, Richard. [1954] 2001. I Am Legend. London: Gollancz. McConnell, Mariana. 2008. ‘Interview with George A. Romero on Diary of the Dead’. Cinema Blend. 14 January. new/Interview-George-A-Romero-On-Diary-Of-The-Dead-7818.html. Accessed 21 September 2016. McKee Charnas, Suzy. [1980] 1981. The Vampire Tapestry. New York: Pocket Books. McNally, Raymond T., and Radu Florescu. [1972] 1994. In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Morrissey, Paul. 1974. Dialogue on Film. American Film Institute. Vol. 4, Issue 2 (November). pp. 20–32 . Mulvey-Roberts, Marie. 1990. Gothic Immortals. London: Routledge. Prawer, S.S. 1980. Caligari’s Children: The Film as a Tale of Terror. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Prawer, S.S. 2004. Nosferatu – Phantom der Nacht. London: British Film Institute. Radway, Janice A. 1991. Reading the Romance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Rice, Anne. [1976] 1994. Interview with the Vampire. London: Warner. Saberhagen, Fred. 1975. The Dracula Tape. New York: Tor Publishers. Sage, Victor. 1988. Horror Fiction in the Protestant Tradition. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Sears, John. 2011. Stephen King’s Gothic. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. Silver, Alain, and James Ursini. 1997. The Vampire Film. 3rd ed. New York: Limelight Editions. Stableford, Brian. 1997. ‘Sang for Supper: Notes on the Metaphorical Use of Vampires in The Empire of Fear and Young Blood’. In Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture, edited by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 69–84.



Stoker, Bram. [1897] 1997. ‘Dracula’. In The Norton Critical Edition of Dracula, edited by Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal. London: Norton. Tomc, Sandra. 1997. ‘Dieting and Damnation: Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire’. In Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture, edited by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 95–113. Twitchell, James B. 1985. Dreadful Pleasures: An Anatomy of Modern Horror. New York: Oxford University Press. Waller, Gregory A. 2010. The Living and the Undead: Slaying Vampires and Exterminating Zombies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Wheatley, Helen. 2006. Gothic Television. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Williamson, Milly. 2005. The Lure of the Vampire. London: Wallflower Press. Wood, Robin. 1996. ‘Burying the Undead: The Use and Obsolescence of Count Dracula’. In The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film, edited by Barry Keith Grant. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. pp. 364–78. Woodward, Bob, and Carl Bernstein. 1974. All the President’s Men. New York: Simon & Schuster. Yacowar, Maurice. 1993. The Films of Paul Morrissey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn. 1978. Hôtel Transylvania. New York: Saint Martin’s Press. Zanger, Jules. 1997. ‘Metaphor into Metonymy: The Vampire Next Door’. In Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture, edited by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 17–26. Zelenin, Dmitrij. 1927. Russische (Ostslavische)Volkskunde. Berlin and Leipzig: de Gruyter.

Film and TV The Addams Family. Created by David Levy, ABC, 1964–1966. Blacula. Dir. William Crain, American International Pictures, 1972. Blood for Dracula. Dir. Paul Morrissey, 1974. The Criterion Collection, 1998. DVD. Count Yorga, Vampire. Dir. Bob Kelljan, American International Pictures, 1970. Dark Shadows. Created by Dan Curtis, ABC, 1966–1971. Dracula. Dir. Dan Curtis, CBS, 1974. The Fearless Vampire Killers. Dir. Roman Polanski, MGM, 1967. Interview with the Vampire. Dir. Neil Jordan, Warner Bros, 1994. Martin. Dir. George A. Romero. Laurel Entertainment Inc., 1977.

64  S. NÍ FHLAINN The Munsters. Created by Ed Haas and Norm Liebmann, CBS, 1964–1966. Night of the Living Dead. Dir. George A. Romero, The Walter Reade Organization, 1968. Nosferatu the Vampyre. Dir. Werner Herzog, ZDF, 1979. The Return of Count Yorga. Dir. Bob Kelljan, American International Pictures, 1971. ’Salem’s Lot. Dir. Tobe Hooper, Warner Bros, Television/CBS, 1979.


Family Values, Apocalyptic Plagues, and Yuppie Undeath in the 1980s

Family Values: 1980s Horrors and Home Video If the 1970s offered a dizzying array of vampires to openly explore new forms of Postmodern undeath, the 1980s turned inward and refocused vampirism as a significant ‘problem’ in need of reform. The turn of the decade, which saw out President Jimmy Carter’s turbulent term in office in favour of the tough-talking neoliberal Republican Ronald Reagan, would soon embolden a cultural backlash against those marginalised and diverse voices championed in vampire narratives during the 1970s; the ‘morning in America’ which characterised Reagan’s presidential re-­ election campaign by the mid-1980s effectively scorched vampire bodies and cultural difference in its wake. The decade also saw the eclipsing of Dracula as the master template for vampire narratives, as, by the end of the 1970s, many felt his presence was so ubiquitous and culturally saturated that there was simply no new version to tell, nor a desire to revisit his narrative domain. The decade also saw the timely maturation of the horror film, pushing the aesthetic and artistic boundaries of the genre from its former haven of grotty theatres and double-features in the mid– to–late 1970s to its substantial economic viability and corporate adoption by film studios by the end of the 1980s, thanks largely to the success of VHS distribution and home video rental markets. Above all else, the 1980s was a period of rapid economic transformation, and screen vampires, as with the halcyon glories of earlier horror cinema, had to adapt to meet modern tastes and studio demands. © The Author(s) 2019 S. Ní Fhlainn, Postmodern Vampires,



In horror cinema, the slasher cycle reigned supreme—following on from proto-slashers such as Psycho (1960), Peeping Tom (1960), Black Christmas (1974), and The Last House on the Left (1972), which preceded the cycle—invigorated by the success and substantial word of mouth which dominated the release of Halloween (1978); the form peaked in popularity during President Reagan’s first term in office (early 1981–late 1984), spawning numerous imitators all keen to cash in on the subgenre’s financial success and its quick and cheap production cycles. In short, these films adhere to a series of plot rules from which they rarely if ever deviate: a particular date or event in the past where a wrongdoing occurred; a (typically masked) killer who uses blades, knives or penetrating objects to pick off his victims who are ‘sinners’, and a ‘final girl’ whose chastity and intelligence allow her the opportunity to best the killer in the finale. Bound up in conservative plot devices, the slasher’s formal structure and style not only became patently familiar, spawning numerous sequels which would by the end of the decade become wholly exhausted in pursuit of bigger and better spectacles, but it also, in effect, made sex a punishable, and frequently fatal, act: Whenever you see two young people about to frolic in a slasher film, you know within minutes they will be sliced, macheted, garrotted, pierced with an arrow, a spear, a pitchfork – whatever is handy, sharp and primitive enough to evoke primal punishment. In slasher films, there are no petites morts. (Edmundson 1997: 16)

The slasher genre was to have a short but important shelf life as it eclipsed all other popular modes of horror in the early part of the decade. Its formula could only allow a certain amount of interpretation or deviation from ‘the rules’ from film to film and, by 1986, the subgenre inadvertently sealed its fate through self-parody and market-­ saturation via aggressive corporate sequelisation (see Rockoff 2002: 160–3). This renewed emphasis on blockbuster sequels transformed Hollywood film studios’ economic models in the late 1970s in particular, recycling known formulas and brands through which they could spin off seemingly endless repetitive material and extend the narrative and economic universe of the franchises. By the end of the 1980s, sequels abound in science fiction, fantasy, and horror titles, instilling a firm expectation of further instalments to any economically successful film title. It may seem strange, then, that in this period of recycling familiar



formulas and necessary repetition—for what are sequels if not familiar characters and scenarios extended by slight narrative progression— that the reigning vampire king Dracula should fall silent in this decade. Where the 1970s offered narrative familiarity in its numerous Draculas, the horrors of the 1980s demanded a lot more spectacle and violence and a lot less Gothic romance; serial murder and slasher titles seemed dangerously prevalent and culturally cathartic to adolescents, given the increasingly sensational media coverage of serial killer activity, than dashing and articulate encounters with the undead. Vampires may be beautiful, articulate, and desire to be understood, given their narrative trajectory in the 1970s, but encounters with near-mute slasher killers, or concerns about active serial killers (the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and others) invoked real terrors vampirism no longer held. This frustration is best exemplified by vampire hunter Peter Vincent’s outburst early on in Tom Holland’s suburban vampire film Fright Night (1985): ‘I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently, all they want are demented madmen running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins’. As Darryl Jones notes, Vincent’s outburst provides ‘an accurate account of the dominant mode of horror movies in the early and mid-1980s’ (Jones 2002: 113) that favoured masked (or similarly disguised) murderers over more traditional and popular 1970s Gothic competitors. Compared with the increased visibility of gore and bodily destruction in the 1980s, vampires and zombies fell out of vogue when dominant media discourse on horror fuelled moral panics to limit child exposure to these ‘corruptive’ influences. The video nasty crisis in the UK and the controversy surrounding the introduction of the PG-13 rating by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) in the US responded to horror’s seemingly revived powers of corruption and depravity, eventually resulting in legislation (the Video Recordings Act 1984 in the UK—see Egan 2007), and the recalibration of existing film classifications for home viewing formats in the US (see Kendrick 2009). Targeting the youth market with its beautiful victims, masked villains, and final girl heroines, and frequently positioning its horrors firmly out of sight and influence from parents and authority figures, slasher films reinvigorated horror as a catharsis for 1980s teenagers experiencing their physical and emotional maturation, through narratives which emphasised and rewarded final girl protagonists for their selfregulation and self-reliance. Further still, excessively violent spectacles


including slasher films were denigrated by parent groups and media spokespersons and political parties on the Left and Right in the US and UK, quick to condemn but slow to comprehend that the public was not in need of governmental protection, lest they are turned into depraved persons by the simple virtue of watching a violent horror film. In the UK, Mary Whitehouse, founder president of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, became infamous in registering her profound displeasure at every media opportunity and in so doing invited direct provocation by those seeking her public vehemence as a lucrative badge of honour to promote their titles (such was the provocative tactic by the UK video distributors for Cannibal Holocaust [1980]). The sustained coverage of horror’s power to corrupt and destroy young minds clearly demarcated these films as perfect conduits to foster teenage rebellion. After all, these titles were not your mother’s kind of horror films. In its increasingly accessible and repetitive pleasures, adolescents (and horror fans) had found a formulaic limit experience to share with their peers—a visual roller coaster consisting of rules, narrative formula, some mild nudity, tension, and violence—only to be able to extend and repeat the process again with similar subgenre titles available for VHS home viewing. Videotape became the crucial mode of repetitive viewing, a circulatory and shared means to quickly gain narrative fluency and genre exposure without relying on broadcast television or local cinemas; this boom also prompted the economic re-modelling of studio outputs due to demand in the rental and sell-through (direct purchase) markets. Video rentals, in particular, became a crucial means to build and sustain audiences for future releases and sequels. For horror fans, it became a means of collecting, re-viewing, and sharing titles—bestowing a second life to films no longer screened in cinemas or simply unavailable elsewhere. In the wake of Halloween and Friday the 13th (1980), the slasher’s sustained popularity spawned many imitators and quickly greenlit further horror productions, leading to a boom cycle between cinema releases and direct-to-video titles for the remainder of the decade. This changing climate in horror film production was led in part by filmmakers’ creative ability to stretch small studio budgets and strong consumer demand facilitated through these new technological modes of home viewing; all of these factors aided the steady growth and maturation of the horror genre in the early part of the decade.



Fright Night: Teens, Vampires, and Vampire Killers Vampire films in the 1980s are a wholly different matter. The teenage vampire films that emerged after the slasher’s market-saturation mid-decade included parents from the outset. Vampires preyed upon parental insecurities of being unable to protect the child from outside influence, and, worse still, vampires not only attempt to usurp the lone parent by acting as a potential replacement parent to the wayward teen but also try to form undead families of their own. In Fright Night, Near Dark (1987), and The Lost Boys (1987), each family is in turn exposed to vampiric invasion to illustrate the vulnerability of the single parent family left open to moral corruption and destruction by absent fathers or dead mothers. Vampirism in the 1980s differs from its 1970s romanticism, in that vampirism becomes a fragile state, which is fully reversible. Half-vampirism is a state of contamination, visually tainting teenagers who are deemed to lack responsibility, or who have been tempted away or sexually experimenting with unknown others. If the slasher genre was to signify the perils of teenagers who were abandoned, unsupervised, or beyond parental reach, the teenage vampire film, then, thrives on the exposed fissures within the disintegrating traditional American family which parents cannot prevent. Reaganite family values, a moral code packaged as an outdated 1950s Norman Rockwell ideal, emphasised a ‘replay of the past’ (Britton 2008: 115), a nostalgic cultural rewriting of the present to ‘deny the cultural disruption of the 1960s, or the political backlash of the 1970s ever took place’ (Ní Fhlainn 2010: 6). Neoconservative anxieties about the perceived erosion of American values, including rising divorce rates and the disintegration of the traditional two-parent family, second-wave feminism, the cultural hangover of ‘Vietnam Syndrome’, and the perceived precarity of the future as cultivated by a ‘permissive society’ that had enabled these corrosive turns, all stood as testament to America’s wrong turn in history, which must be swiftly corrected under Reagan’s watch. American suburbia in 1980s horror films held the promise and revealed the horrors of Reaganite values. Presenting the image of a wholesome middle-class community founded on family values and consumerism in popular culture, the Reaganite glossy surface cracked with dark secrets and abject eruptions of repressed horrors, and crimes committed to preserve the false veneer of the suburban dream, as evidenced


in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and similar suburban horrors (Murphy 2009: 136–65). However, the price for protecting the sanctity of the suburban illusion is visited upon the children who pay for their parents’ hypocrisies and sins, either through buried community secrets such the vigilante murder of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in A Nightmare on Elm Street, or the desire to date again by single mothers Judy Brewster (Dorothy Fielding) in Fright Night and Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) in The Lost Boys. This mirrors President Reagan’s self-cultivated image as the ‘good patriarch’ of America, the ever-­present good father of the nation whose watch was rhetorically dominated by warding off Soviet invaders in a period of intense Cold War paranoia. More troubling, the economics of the decade shifted wildly in the upkeep of American military might (which trebled the national debt), and access to cheap credit and financial deregulation permitted parents in the 1980s to borrow against their own children’s economic future for decades to come. As John Kenneth Muir observes, Freddy Krueger’s declaration ‘you are all my children now!’ in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) echoes the economic enslavement to suburban perfection (Muir interviewed in Monument 2009), an economic pretence to sustain the surface of the American dream of virtue, consumerism, and conservativism against the previous generation’s moral slippages and the economic stagnation of the 1970s. Ironically, Reagan was deemed by critics to also be ‘an absent doddering father… offering warmed-over homilies and down home wisdom’ (Muir 2007: 13). National distractions such as ‘Libya’s Muammar Quadaffi and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega’, or serial killers such as ‘Gacy or Bundy’ were abstractly singled out as personifications of danger, all of whom publicly served to cover the cracks or divert attention away from complex national problems (Jenkins 2002: 5). In the most popular vampire films of the decade, best considered as an informal trilogy or loose triptych thematically imbued with the symbolic currency of the family, Fright Night, Near Dark, and The Lost Boys all share the commonality of an absent parent, and, due to this perceived lack of moral structure, they unwittingly invite horrors—be it vampires, queer sexualities, or other such ‘monstrosities’ (Benshoff 1997: 250)—into the family dynamic. Fright Night opens with a familiar, clichéd scene; an enormous full moon accompanied by the sound of a wolf howling in a suburban neighbourhood at night. From the offset, the set-up is one of expectation and misdirection—the howl originates from a TV set, which is



duly ignored by a young couple, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) and Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse), whose relationship teeters on the cusp of sexual fruition. The TV screen in the background of Charley’s bedroom shows a (camp) theatrical re-enactment of Dracula in which Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) stars—the Van Helsing-styled host of the late-night television revue ‘Fright Night’ and self-proclaimed vampire killer whose name is an evident homage to horror legends Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Citation and nostalgia lovingly dominate the film in its pining for old Hammer film aesthetics (Leeder 2009: 191) especially in its opening moments, setting up clichéd expectations only to subvert or misdirect the viewer. The film mourns the perceived passing of the vampire film while staying within familiar teenage horror film conventions like suburban infiltration and sexual maturation. Alongside this sense of horror literacy in its opening scenes, sexual anxiety is equally evident: Mina’s off-screen screams and staking by Peter Vincent in ‘Fright Night’ lead directly on to Amy’s refusals of Charley’s sexual advances, the aural cues explicitly reinforcing the firmly held horror formula of sex equalling death. The Hammer horror tone and production values of Peter Vincent’s ‘Fright Night’ is a hilarious cheap homage to so many clichéd vampire encounters—Vincent’s stake, for example, is pointed the wrong way when in pursuit of the female vampire, and her hiss highlights the ill-fitting fangs and soap-opera performance of the actress. Despite acquiescing to Charley’s desires to consummate their relationship only moments later, Amy loses Charley’s sexual interest when he inadvertently spies his new neighbours carrying a chrome coffin into their basement. Upon further investigation, Charley becomes convinced that his stylish and suave neighbour Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire, protected by a human familiar. Dealing in old houses and antiques to the outside world, Jerry and his manservant Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark) recall Stephen King’s vampire king Mr. Barlow and faithful manservant Mr. Straker in ’Salem’s Lot, who were also, as Benshoff observes, suitably queered by their living arrangements, their dilapidated home, and their ‘feminising’ profession (1997: 251). Leeder notes that Vincent and Dandridge trade on past glories is explicitly evidenced in their respective homes. For Dandridge, his home and antiques (of which the vampirised Amy is an explicit extension) are another means of collecting and appropriating the past, while Vincent keeps his film ephemera in a similar fashion as ‘a well-ordered catalog’ [sic] (2009: 195) of his various accomplishments. While Vincent lives among relics of his acting past,


Dandridge is an embodiment of the past now deemed unfashionable, but overlooked at their peril. The film pays homage to horror and suspense films of the past, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), mimicked in the moment where Charley first sees Jerry Dandridge bare his teeth to feed on a female prostitute through his bedroom window. Like Rear Window’s Jeff (James Stewart), Charley uses binoculars to witness Jerry’s sexual spectacle next door and initially enjoys this sexual voyeurism. As Jorg Waltje observes, ‘a sexual conundrum’ (Waltje 2005: 97–8) is present throughout the film. The question is whether Charley is looking at Jerry or the woman the vampire is slowly undressing in front of the window; the shot leaves both interpretations wide open for speculation and brief titillation. Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), Charley’s best friend, also hints at his potential ‘queerness’ in taunting ‘did [Amy] finally find out what you’re really like?’; immediately following this taunt, in frustration, Amy registers her anger with Charley’s continued sexual disinterest in her by thrusting a sloppy joe into his face, the smeared food suggesting the texture of faeces in the shot, and reads as her outright refusal to acknowledge his potential queer leanings. Charley’s sexuality is not the only one to be queried as nearly all of the male characters in Fright Night strongly hint at private queer desire: Amy exclaims that Charley loves Peter Vincent when he first appears onscreen during their make-out session, to which Charley playfully replies ‘but I love you more!’ before jokingly biting her neck; this sets up vampirism as means to unleash one’s inner sexual desires without inhibition, but only Charley’s love for Amy can save them both at its conclusion. This gains further traction when writer/director Tom Holland notes that in the first draft of his screenplay, Amy was entirely absent from the story (Holland interviewed in Griffiths 2016), rendering it an all-male ensemble, save for Charley’s mother, at its genesis. The inclusion of Amy as both Charley’s girlfriend and eventual sexual conquest re-orientates his heterosexuality at its conclusion and permits the codification of vampirism as sexual pluralism, as Dandridge seduces both Ed and Amy by appealing to their individual repressed feelings and desires. Evil Ed’s queerness is barely suppressed in the film. In a pivotal scene, Ed is confronted by Dandridge in an alley and, soothed of his initial terror, is seduced by the potential freedom vampirism can provide. Dandridge’s offer of understanding and safety seems irresistible to any lost teen: ‘You don’t have to be afraid of me. I know what it’s like to



be different. Only they won’t pick on you anymore, or beat you up. I’ll see to that. All you have to do is take my hand. Here, Edward, take my hand’. Once Ed reaches out to Dandridge and is enveloped in the vampire’s coat, the shot becomes a beautiful queer twist on Lugosi’s signature caped embrace. Here, Ed the outsider is comforted by vampirism’s unrepressed desires, and, by embracing it, he can now unleash his unrepressed self without fear of being ostracised by bullies and overbearing heteronormativity. Once turned, he immediately confronts Peter Vincent, already queered by McDowall’s casting but also by Vincent’s pronounced and fussy bachelorhood, phallic props and costumed past glories, to admonish him for remaining in the closet—‘I used to admire you, you know that? Of course, that was before I found out what a fake you were’. Vincent rejects Ed’s taunt to come out of the closet in favour of a more covert existence by warding off Ed’s attack, blistering his forehead with a cross which visibly marks Ed’s body as unclean and unnatural. Vampirism in Fright Night is complex and has contradictory meanings—it is fatal to some, but powerful for others—and, much like Leeder’s observation on the neglect of the vampire genre in general during the mid-1980s, a lull which enables Dandridge to spread his influence undetected, Fright Night posits vampire queerdom as ‘liberation for Dandridge but professional death for Vincent’ (2009: 196). Hiding in Charley’s mother’s bed, Ed re-emerges in ‘clownish female drag’ (Benshoff 1997: 251) and giddily confronts Vincent by transforming into a werewolf (a sheep in wolf’s clothing) to finish the job. Once turned, Ed becomes rather undomesticated; leaping about with careless abandon, he defenestrates himself as he recoils from Vincent’s burning cross in Vincent’s apartment, only to later impale himself on a baluster in Charley’s house. Where once he was cautious and shy, the vampirised Ed leaps into the symbolic unknown and is fatally penetrated for it, the baluster doubling as an enormous protruding phallus later in the scene. In a genuinely tender moment following this final confrontation with Peter Vincent, Ed, dying and transforming back into his human form, pleads with Vincent to save him, moving the vampire hunter to tears of sympathy and remorse as he gazes down on Ed’s naked and bleeding body. The penetrating baluster is smeared with blood, and its grooves, briefly gripped by Ed’s clawed hand, complete the sexually fatal image of an engorged phallus. If vampirism reveals Ed as hyperactive and untamed in his unbound sexuality, it manifests as a sickening condition in Amy; her shark-toothed castrating mouth and slick sweating body is a nightmarish


combination of Charley’s sexual fantasies and anxieties—her hair grows longer and more distinctly tousled and feminine, her breasts enlarge, and her voice seductively deepens, while her gaping mouth, stretched beyond its girlish sweetness, is deformed with vagina dentata fangs. Charley seeks both to protect his lone parent mother and to prevent a replacement father figure from invading his family. In the end, Charley chooses Peter Vincent as a temporary and unthreatening replacement patriarch, while maintaining his position as the man of the household with his single mother. For these invaded families, the prevalence of erotic triangles becomes increasingly evident whereby women (namely mothers and girlfriends) become conduits through which exertions of power and influence are channelled, only to be swiftly discarded, by warring homosocial males. Dandridge attempts to consume Charley by making separate attempts to lure both his mother and girlfriend away to exert his power and sexual control. Resisting vampirism and its forbidden experiences, Charley ultimately sides with Peter Vincent’s form of defiance while Ed succumbs to Dandridge’s tantalising influence; Ed’s repressed sexuality is abandoned in the film’s closing frames as we hear Ed laughing in the old Dandridge house—his Gothic survival suggests he has found freedom beyond his previously closeted human existence. Looking back at Fright Night’s legacy since the 1980s reveals a sustained and interesting cultural afterlife. Favoured as the hit horror film of 1985 (in an admittedly slow year for horror releases in Hollywood), it has retained a diehard following enriched by its desire to invigorate vampirism at a time when horror cinema had all but abandoned the undead. Despite the evident nostalgia for the film and its affectionate treatment of vampirism in the face of gorier contemporary slasher cinema, the film has remained peculiarly understudied in its pushback against dominant trends in favour of more traditional horror pleasures. While the film remains somewhat reactionary (as many 1980s horror films are) in that, as Benshoff notes, ‘queerness is monstrous’ (1997: 252), Fright Night is notably less puritanical than its contemporary counterparts where such sexual anxieties elicit damning consequences; one need only look at A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge to see these perceived horrors writ large. Furthermore, the screen biographies and personal lives of Fright Night’s cast, including Stephen Geoffrey’s career in gay pornography (under the screen name Sam Ritter), and Amanda Bearse’s public coming out in 1993 while starring in the Fox sitcom Married… with Children (1987–1997), build upon the film’s existent queer tinge



established through Roddy McDowall’s casting and Sarandon’s Oscarnominated transgender portrayal of Leon in Dog Day Afternoon (1976). This particular combination of personal biographies and screen personas lends Fright Night an augmented and nuanced queer coding that eclipses most of its 1980s contemporaries. Near Dark—The Westering Undead Near Dark, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, drastically revises the traditional generic setting for the vampire film. Its Western-style blend of highways fading into the horizon, and emphasis on a borderless American south aimlessly traversed by an ‘alternative’ nomadic vampire family, marks the film as a timely counterpoint to Reaganite suburbia so familiar to the slasher genre and equally contrasts with its vampire film predecessor Fright Night. The plot unfolds as a teenage cowboy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) is seduced by a young woman, Mae (Jenny Wright), who lures him away with her (seemingly) girlish vulnerability and luminescence. The generic Western codes are instilled from Mae and Caleb’s first encounter, from their costumes recalling a twist on traditional clothing in the genre to her telling Caleb she has come from Sweetwater (recalling Jill’s [Claudia Cardinale] idealised inherited farm in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West [1968]). Driving together in the wilderness of the southern landscape, Caleb insists on a kiss from Mae, holding her to ransom in his truck as she becomes increasingly fretful of the oncoming dawn. Acquiescing to his demands, Mae’s kisses quickly turn vampiric. Left wounded and sick by the experience, Caleb soon shows signs of infection with his sweating and blistering skin. Attempting to return home to his father and sister, he is kidnapped by Mae’s roving vampire clan in their blacked-out RV, leaving his sister and father to helplessly witness his kidnapping. The vampire clan—Jesse (Lance Henriksen), Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), Severen (Bill Paxton), and Homer (Joshua John Miller)—hold Caleb prisoner until he earns his place among the clan as a killer; while he cannot bring himself to kill (but consumes blood by sucking from Mae), he earns their approval by helping them escape a bloody shootout with the police at high noon. Blinded by his love for Mae, Caleb chooses to stay with the vampires but clings to his humanity and conscience. When his father Loy (Tim Thomerson) finds him and the vampire gang, Caleb realises that he has been living a fantasy. Sickened and near death, Caleb escapes the clan


and asks his father, a veterinarian, to give him a blood transfusion to restore him by reversing his vampire contagion. At the film’s climax, the vampire family returns to Caleb’s home to kidnap his younger sister in revenge for his abandonment. Leading the vampires out into the daylight, Caleb and Mae rescue his sister Sarah (Marcie Leeds) and leave the vampire family to scorch. At its conclusion, Mae is given a blood transfusion to reverse her vampirism, ending the narrative on a pensive still shot of her embracing Caleb while staring out in trepidation at the sunlight. Bigelow’s film has many elements that separate it from other vampire films in the genre. It is the first vampire road movie of its kind in which vampires are not portrayed as supernatural beings but as a forgotten nomadic people. In a promotional interview for the film, Bigelow reveals that in her script (co-written with Eric Red), the vampires (a term never used in the film) were inspired by people suffering from the disease porphyria rather than embodying the more traditional, supernatural qualities of the vampire; from the outset, both Red and Bigelow were keen to strip the vampire of its Gothic accoutrements and signifiers including reflections (or lack thereof), garlic, crucifixes, or holy water and instead focus on vampire fundamentals, namely the need to acquire blood and the fatal consequences of sunlight. Bigelow’s cast, featuring Henriksen, Paxton, and Goldstein, links her work very strongly with (her future spouse) director James Cameron, who directed the three actors in his film Aliens (1986) the previous year. To further draw attention to this, Aliens is clearly displayed on a cinema marquee as a backdrop in the town’s main street when Caleb crushes Severen with a semi-trailer truck in a sequence which overtly nods to Cameron’s The Terminator (1984). As with Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and Cameron’s Aliens, Bigelow’s vampires also ensure their survival by killing and feeding indiscriminately; in their embodied otherness, Bigelow resists providing either explanations or rules beyond sunlight’s fatal consequences to govern her immortals. Bigelow infuses her Western vampiric vision through then contemporary theories surrounding the disfiguring genetic disorder porphyria, which garnered national media interest when it was reported to have links with medieval diagnoses of vampirism. In 1985, two years before the film’s release, chemistry professor David Dolphin presented a paper arguing that bloodsucking vampires in the Middle Ages were sufferers of the disease porphyria, which affects fifty thousand Americans (Dolphin 1985: 527). Noreen Dresser notes the ‘symptoms of the disease include



skin lesions, respiratory difficulties, sudden severe pains…patients with porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT), the most common form, have skin problems, typically fragility and blistering in areas exposed to sunlight’ (Dresser 1990: 171, 176). Dolphin contends that these symptoms are due to the sufferer lacking a particular enzyme in the gut, involving the synthesis of haem, which could be alleviated by injecting a ‘component of hemoglobin [sic] and related substances, found in largest amounts in the bone marrow, red blood cells, and the liver’ (Dresser 1990: 171–2). Garlic also has a negative effect on some porphyria patients, occurring because ‘its principal constituent is dialkyl disulphide, which destroys heme (Dresser 1990: 172)’. Symptoms of the disease vary between sufferers, the most serious of which recall Gothic and folkloric signifiers that certainly contribute to the theory’s longevity and media interest: Where milder symptoms include photosensitivity, excessive hair, an excess iron count in the blood, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and constant vomiting, extreme symptoms include blistering of the skin when exposed to sunlight, the appearance of sharpened teeth with reddening stains, hallucinations, mutilation affecting the nose and fingers, and a loss of the fingertips. Contesting this seemingly all-encompassing explanation for vampirism, anthropologist Paul Barber disputes Dolphin’s links between porphyria and vampirism: ‘As a universal theory (previously used to explain […] werewolves) this explanation presents the same difficulties as the live burial theory: it sounds plausible as long as you do not look at it too closely’ (Barber 1988: 99). Despite this diagnostic inaccuracy which captivated media attention to the detriment of porphyria sufferers, the documented horrific afflictions of porphyria enable Bigelow to sidestep the increasingly complex rules of vampirism in the horror genre and enable her to strip it back to fundamentals. In the end, vampirism in Near Dark is a visceral sickness kept in check by scorching sunlight. Stoker’s Dracula also bears an influence for Bigelow in that, unlike Van Helsing’s botched blood transfusion that failed to heal Lucy Westenra, Caleb’s father successfully reverses his vampirism through the same process. The restorative blood of the patriarch is enough to claim this wayward son back. Caleb’s father does not seek companionship to complete his family unit, making him less vulnerable to vampiric invasion than other 1980s single parents during the decade. When Caleb feeds from Mae, he draws blood from her wrist, symbolically suckling from her as a replacement dead mother and lover. The familial bloodlines


in both families also bear importance, as Sara Gwenllian Jones notes, for it is a ‘cipher both of family […] and of racial difference […] and revulsion at the notion of miscegenation’ (2003: 64). This pollution of bloodlines underpins her convincing comparative analysis of the film’s ethnic anxieties with those expressed in the Western genre in the eradication of ‘untamed’ uncanny Native American others. Family relations in Near Dark are convoluted and twisted due to physical arrested development and the asymmetrical begetting of each member of the clan which mocks the nuclear American family in its faux generational mimicry. Both families in Near Dark underscore the trope of civilisation and wildness as established in the Western genre (as outlined in Kitses’s taxonomy—2007: 12) and embody the tensions between the folkloric past and the scientific/medicinal present found in Stoker’s Dracula. Furthermore, the ferocity of the vampire bite contrasts with Loy’s profession as a veterinarian, as his civilised medical practice of puncturing animal flesh with needles and the ability to perform a blood transfusion is the only evident (and elegant) solution that cures the contamination transmitted by the vampires’ fierce tearing of flesh with their teeth. The calm of Caleb’s family home and the tamed horses in their stables, along with the plentiful food presented on their dinner table, underscores the polarising ferocity of the feral vampire pack’s hunt in an isolated bar and their enjoyment of torture and mayhem during their blood hunt. Caleb’s bond with Mae and his new alternative vampire family becomes queered and unstable—feeding on Mae to survive as a newly turned vampire reinstates a limited nurturing bond and facilitates his primal sexual urges, yet it is a limited wellspring ensuring only a temporary form of sustenance. Framed in shot by an oil rig, Caleb drinks from Mae’s wrist, but it is of limited supply—much like the drilling for oil in the south, Mae’s ability to nurture Caleb’s suckling is finite and his dependency on her could quickly become fatal, as he greedily drains her rather than commit a kill of his own for the sake of the vampire family’s survival. This inability to cast off his human conscience to kill as necessary relegates Caleb to the purgatory of half-vampirism, which, while revealing him to be an ineffectual vampire, instead shields him from its visceral traumas. This is particularly evident in both Caleb and Mae’s separate reactions to their restored humanity following their blood transfusions: While Caleb’s reversal is tonally presented as relief and human rebirth, Mae’s visible apprehension in the film’s freeze-framed final



shot zooms in on Mae’s sunlit face, following the erasure of her vampirism, is based on a decision that ‘has really been made for her, by Caleb’ (Schneider 2003: 87—italics in original). To break Caleb’s traumatic queer association with the nomadic vampires, not only does Loy’s blood ‘turn Caleb back again, away from the vampiric bonding, just by pumping his own blood through him. Caleb is reborn again, as father’s son […] [and has] aborted the funereal maternal relation’ (Rickles 1999: 219) with Mae, who must now also be either recuperated or destroyed; the film does not permit vampirism’s liminal condition to continue unabated. Rather than read the ending as one of satisfying restoration, Mae’s rebirth reads as a tragic realignment at the hands of righteous, traditional patriarchy—‘I brought you home’ Caleb reassures her as he deprives her of the joys of the night. In quizzical disbelief, Mae’s first words following her transformation back to humanity are ‘I’m afraid’, her fretful stare in the final freeze frame of the film suggesting that she is aware of what she has irretrievably lost. Bigelow’s film critiques the destruction of alternative identities (however violent and misunderstood) which is politically and socially nullified by the homogenising glare of the Reaganite sun. Auerbach argues that the scorching of the vampire body becomes commonplace in the 1980s, unlike the mere inconvenience it was to many vampires in the 1970s, contending that ‘the sun is less selective in the Reaganesque years: now associated with fire and explosives rather than glory, it becomes an effective agent of mass destruction’ (Auerbach 1995: 177). Bigelow’s vampires are systematically dispatched with horrific close-up shots of burning and charring flesh. As a drifting family unit, they are lost to modern American ideals, situated in the nation’s gunslinger past rather than to its then Cold War suburban present. Aptly, as the third act of Near Dark opens, Caleb’s father and sister encounter the transient vampires at the motel ‘Godspeed’, where ‘America the Beautiful’ blares on the television. This foretells the imminent destruction of the vampire clan by the ‘good’ god-fearing, southern family to which Caleb quickly returns. Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’—his infamous TV campaign during the 1984 presidential election, which overtly affirmed national growth, hegemony, and prosperity—is a siren of imminent mass destruction to vampire others, vagrants, homosexuals, and disobedient youths. The ‘fun times’ that Diamond Back mourns as she and Jesse burn to death are truly over under Reagan’s scorching rule.


The Lost Boys—‘The Bloodsucking Brady Bunch’ The Lost Boys (1987), directed by Joel Schumacher, is one of the most iconic 1980s vampire films. Achieving hit status since its release for its dynamic soundtrack, biker chic aesthetics and a youthful all-star cast, it has since served as inspiration to numerous filmmakers and musicians (such as the Finnish Goth rock band The 69 Eyes) due to its combination of MTV youth culture, 1980s consumerism and comedic turns. As with Near Dark and Fright Night, Schumacher’s film centres on creating multiple forms of the family in the wake of a divorce through legitimate and illegitimate blood bonds. Lucy, mother to teenagers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), uproots her family from Phoenix, Arizona, to Santa Carla (a fictional take on California’s Santa Cruz) to unite them with their grandfather and, like the risen Phoenix from the ashes, to begin their family fortunes anew. Michael soon becomes transfixed by hippie girl Star (Jami Gertz), who in turn lures him to David (Kiefer Sutherland) as a potential vampire initiate. Convincing Michael to join the group after jock tactics and a promise of teenage belonging, David offers him immortal life by coercing him into drinking his decanted blood from a decorative bejewelled bottle. Vampire transformations are largely presented through suggestion in the 1980s due to the politics and contagions associated with the drinking and eroticisation of blood at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. While it is common for fledgling vampires to be transformed by drinking from the wrist of their vampiric sire (as seen in Near Dark or as described by Rice in Interview with the Vampire), the transmission of vampiric infection becomes increasingly opaque onscreen. In Near Dark, Mae directly feeds on Caleb and permits him to suckle from her wrist once he is transformed; in Fright Night, Amy and Ed are bitten, but we do not witness them consume Dandridge’s blood directly to enable their full transformation. In The Lost Boys, the act of vampiric infection through sexualised bites and blood drinking becomes entirely separated from its bodily fount. The boys’ bejewelled bottle replaces traditional representations of infection and takes on multifarious symbolic meanings, doubling as an infecting phallus and supernatural vial, and rendered so abjectly dangerous that neither blood nor semen can be ingested directly from its physical source. Most crucially, the blood bottle is a shared queer phallus between the gang, suggesting fellatio as initiation act to gain entry and acceptance. Transformation too becomes a two-part process which fosters



half-vampirism as a tainted first step that can be annulled. Michael’s desire for blood physically manifests as sickness, similar to Caleb’s fevered body in Near Dark, his contamination confirmed by Sam’s reading of Michael’s now sickly green-tinged translucent reflection as a ‘shit-sucking vampire’; once he makes his first kill (a thinly veiled code for his first consummated queer experience), Michael will be beyond familial and cultural redemption. At first, vampirism in this film represents an avoidance of responsibility such as indulging in rebellious fun, getting high, or committing petty crimes, all at a significant remove from parental guidance and rules. The film’s tag line—‘Sleep all day. Party all night. Never get old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire’—and its dreamy aerial vampire POV shots (a savvy move initially deployed to save on production costs) reinforce undead subjectivity as a tantalising carnivalesque existence alongside moments of horror as victims are hunted from dizzying heights; to be undead in Santa Carla is to become an extension of the town’s boardwalk funfair, recapturing childish excesses while ignoring the fatal cost of its seductions. For all of its celebration of eternal youth, from the outset the cost of vampirism is documented at the margins of the boardwalk—flyers for missing children, homelessness and hunger, crime and disaffection, absent parents, and murder—all of which fuel this prolonged consumerist vampire fantasy. Max (Edward Herrmann), Lucy’s would-be suitor and espouser of Reaganite values, advises her that ‘boys need discipline’ and require family structure, which he is all too keen to provide not only as Lucy’s employer, but strikingly as a capitalist patriarch in opposition to the romantic ‘flat broke’ 1960s hippie culture of the Emerson family. As an extension of their nineteenth-century namesake poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Emerson family possess elements of Emerson’s poetic over-soul in their artistic and creative expressions represented through 1960s counterculture, arts, and music. As with Emerson’s over-soul, the souls of those infected by half-vampirism (Star, Laddie, and Michael) are saved through extended familial bonds and human decency, which trumps vampirism’s dark capitalism. Schumacher’s examples connecting the Emerson family to 1960s idealism and the arts are explicit at key moments in the film: It is more than mere stylistic suggestion that Jason Patric’s uncanny resemblance to Jim Morrison is match dissolved over a poster of The Doors frontman in the vampire cave as he is being inducted into the gang (along with his earlier joke about almost being named ‘Moonbeam’ thanks to his hippie


mother). Sam’s obsession with comics and visual storytelling—a jibe at Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent (1954), as Sam discovers the means to protect his family from vampires from the very source Wertham deems dangerously corruptive with its excessive violence and suggested homosexuality—initially emphasises his innocence and childish regression as a likely gateway for him to be co-opted by the vampires. Rather, for Sam and the Frog Brothers, popular media is a means to decode contemporary horrors and danger and to acquire the necessary survival tools to navigate adolescence when traditional authority has been eclipsed. While Lucy’s own optimism, unspoiled following her divorce from which she refuses to financially benefit, is juxtaposed against popular depictions of divorce culture in the 1980s more generally and presented as bordering on cluelessness, it is Grandpa’s (Barnard Hughes) unhinged and seemingly backward belonging to 1960s idealism (complete with Willie Nelson-styled braids) which disguises his astute canniness. Schumacher’s film positions hippies and romantics not merely as victims ripe for the taking but rather as innocents capable of protecting the genuine institution of the family (however fractured its state) for the right reasons over capitalistic and political imperatives. Indeed, Grandpa’s use of natural products—the cultivation of marijuana and his taxidermy practices—foregrounds the use of real materials rather than synthetic and commodified products; not only does his taxidermy allude to life after death as a repeated joke of comical horror trophies, but also reveals his nuanced understanding of the town’s true nature all along. Ironically, it is Sam’s place as the younger 80s teenager exposed to (and overtly craving) capitalism’s accoutrements of MTV, music video chic, and overt fashion victimhood that marks him an obvious target for vampire initiation, a tactic which is playfully reversed when he solicits the help of the Rambo-styled Frog Brothers to help him ensnare the vampire gang. In stark juxtaposition, Max’s role as potential patriarch to the Emerson boys and proprietor of the boardwalk video business, like vampirism’s own consumptions, contributes to the selling of manufactured empty dreams and mass entertainment in youth culture, which Rob Latham decodes as an extensive form of vampiric infiltration: What Max represents, beyond the obvious threat of a usurper trying to supplant the boys’ absent father, is the incarnate power of consumer culture itself…his glitzy video parlor [sic] vends mass fantasy to all… Significantly, Lucy’s father, who thwarts Max’s plot in the end



does not – and indeed refuses to – own a TV set, a refusal that is part of a hippie-style rejection of modern consumer society (Latham 2002: 62).

Max’s invasion of the domestic space is achieved through the consumption of technology, be it via a VCR/VHS culture or TV, as suggested in his introductory scene in which he is framed by rows of television monitors to reinforce his consumerist agenda. In stark contrast, it is Grandpa’s refusal to indulge in TV, let alone the fashion victimhood of MTV culture and the false illusions Max and the Lost Boys peddle, which ultimately saves the Emerson family at the film’s conclusion. Max’s final unveiling as the head vampire and undead patriarch is hardly surprising, given his expressed desire to merge and extend the pretence of the Reaganite ‘family values’—sardonically mocked as ‘the bloodsucking Brady Bunch’ by vampire hunter Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman)—which ironically reveals the horrific cost of cookie-cutter Reaganite idealism in popular media. Nevertheless, for all of the film’s ironic jabs at Reaganite culture, MTV consumerism, and family values as a means to blame the previous generation for the failures of 1960s and 1970s feminism and hippie sentiments, vampirism’s queer positioning becomes the locus of 1980s anxieties which must be conquered by the film’s climax. Not only does Michael impale David on a set of stag antlers, symbolically destroying him in a fatal symbolic sodomy to reinforce the rejection of such a lifestyle, but the taunts they exchange reveal the contagious depths of vampire contamination which must be reversed, a queer violation that must be undone. For all of David’s jibes about his blood coursing in Michael’s veins and encouraging Michael to ‘stop fighting’ his vampiric nature, it is the shared dialogue of retorts and ‘taking turns’ throwing each other about which thoroughly imbues its queer inflection, with David primed as Michael’s Gothic dark half. Furthermore, the description of this same scene by Craig Shaw Gardner in his tie-in novelisation, based on the shooting script, furthers the perilous sensationalism in a description akin to sexual assault: ‘David was on top of him again, and the two of them wrestled mid-air. David’s claws ripped open his shirtfront and gouged the skin on his chest. Michael knew he couldn’t weaken. Not again. If he did, he was dead’ (Shaw Gardner 1987: 208). Benshoff observes (1997: 254) that there are numerous linguistic substitutions which reinforce the film’s queer-phobic rhetoric, ranging from a ‘shit-sucking vampire’ to ‘death-breath’, appropriating


contemporary teenage slang to present queer vampirism as abject and shameful. The soundtrack, ranging from pop songs to Thomas Newman’s carnivalesque score, reinforces religious and tonal suggestion at crucial moments, an active signifier foreshadowing a seductive fall from grace. At its most prominent use, save for the memorable title credit sequence, Michael’s initiation is scored to the film’s theme track ‘Cry Little Sister’ performed by Gerard McMann, which contains religious lyrics that repeatedly warn of the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’, concluding the sequence with David whispering his name over and over in dissolve edits to demonstrate the power of his physical and mental magnetism; Michael’s first sighting of Star is soundtracked with Tim Capello’s ‘I Still Believe’, the lyrics of which focus primarily on the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the desert, only to directly sound bridge with Lucy’s first interaction with Max which extends into the diegetic use of ‘Power Play’ by Eddie and the Tide, foreshadowing Max’s true intentions. In the end, vampirism is rendered perilously mortal and frail in the face of the conservative forces it apes and mocks; The Lost Boys, ever beautiful in chic undeath, ultimately perish under the scorching sunlight of Reaganite hegemony, their ‘passing attempt’ as a family is simply not enough to ensure their survival in such perilous times. If The Lost Boys is a teenage reimagining of Peter Pan with fangs, The Monster Squad (1987) does little to disguise its desire to be considered a comedy–horror in the guise of Richard Donner’s highly successful pirate adventure The Goonies (1985) with monsters. In The Monster Squad, Dracula (Duncan Regehr), alongside Frankenstein’s creature (Tom Noonan), The Gill-man (Tom Woodruff Jr.), The Wolf Man (Carl Thibault), and The Mummy (Michael MacKay) arrive in 1980s suburban America to retrieve an amulet that maintains the balance between the forces of light and dark in the universe. The monsters are highly suggestive of Universal’s licensed monsters but were specifically redesigned by Stan Winston to avoid duplication and copyright infringement. Winston removed Dracula’s widow’s peak, relocated the Creature’s bolts from his neck to his temples, and reshaped the Wolf Man’s lupine ears; these small redesigns trigger echoes of familiarity but move beyond Universal’s established designs. In this short and thinly plotted but nonetheless adorable film, the squad kids outwit their parents from the outset, forming a horror appreciation society to test each other’s knowledge on horror and monster lore and to impart necessary monster trivia as a valuable survival guide for young 1980s suburban children. Much like



the broken families of other 1980s vampire films, Sean’s (Andre Gower) family is rapidly falling apart, going so far as to feature a scene in which Sean’s father, Detective Crenshaw (Stephen Macht), admits to his son that they are attending marriage counselling, an emotional strain later confirmed by audible parental disagreements. Such sad realities echo the divorce-led plot of Spielberg’s E.T. (1982), in which the disappointing failure of the seemingly ideal suburban American family inadvertently permits the opportunity to directly encounter the fantastic. The most worthy monster of note featured is Tom Noonan’s kind version of Frankenstein’s Creature, who becomes fast friends with the youngest squad member, the adorable yet savvy six-year-old Phoebe (Ashley Bank). Through Phoebe and the Creature, The Monster Squad sweetly revises Whale’s 1931 narrative in which Maria (Marilyn Harris) drowns at the hands of the Creature (Karloff), a controversial scene that was restored to Whale’s film in 1986 upon its release on VHS (Mank 1994: 51). Phoebe’s friendship with the Creature and, crucially, her survival in the narrative evidences that 1980s suburban kids understand monsters (and inversely that monsters understand children) in a manner that is wholly lost to their parents and the local authorities. Dracula, the leader of this infiltrating brigade of cinematic monster history, spearheads this Gothic motley crew to wage war on the peaceful suburban neighbourhood to destroy the temporarily vulnerable amulet before its protective capabilities are fully restored. Much like Reagan’s own scorching sunlight, the amulet’s diamond fire sparkles as an unrelenting emblem of Reaganite influence; its mere existence diminishes this 1980s Dracula to impotence and eventual destruction at the film’s Gooniesesque conclusion.

Apocalyptic Plagues and Perishable Immortals: AIDS and Undeath in the 1980s HIV/AIDS can be described as the most devastating disease of the past fifty years, affecting people in every geopolitical sphere. Its very nature as a disease is vampiric; it feeds on and drains away the body’s natural defences until it becomes perilously weakened against common bacteria and viruses, eventually killing the host. Arrested ‘in a state of suspended animation, virus particles wait for a living cell which they can infect in order to replicate themselves… viruses, like vampires, cannot reproduce on their own, but require a host which they can infect’


(Stephanou 2014: 62). HIV/AIDS was first discovered in Los Angeles in January 1981 (CDC 2001: 429), when Dr. Michael Gottlieb noticed that young gay men were visiting his clinic with severe lesions and respiratory infections with little or no natural immune system responses to such an aggressive infection. The media initially coined the acronym gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) to describe this new disease as most of the initial sufferers were sexually active gay men. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) officially recorded the disease in June 1981 which, in consultation with French medical researchers, was classified and defined in 1984. The links between HIV+ infection, and its progression to AIDS if left untreated over time, are aligned with vampirism explicitly due to fears of contamination through contact with infected blood and sexual fluids, and in turn, the violence the virus bears upon its host. Similar to the abject destruction to the body in mainstream horror cinema of the early 1980s, the body of the victim is severely mutilated and scarred, often presenting with swollen lymph glands and lesions, which are highly physically and emotionally distressing. Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) is the most common tumour associated with AIDS—it often appears as purplish nodules on the skin but can affect other organs, especially the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and lungs. The body becomes a site of extreme horror wherein its own life force, ‘blood, sexual fluids – is itself the bearer of contamination’ (Sontag 1991: 159). Often, sufferers of the disease were horrifically labelled as sexual perverts or depraved people. One member of the gay community recalls that a Republican state convention held in the early years of the epidemic had bumper stickers printed up declaring ‘AIDS: It’s killing all the right people’ (Frontline 2006). Religious and political leaders frequently used poisonous rhetoric about sufferers whose ‘immorality’ directly contributed to their contraction of the illness. While the government, including President Reagan, failed to publicly acknowledge the scale of the crisis until 1987 (it was disclosed the president had not even met with the Surgeon General about the crisis at all), Reagan’s address to the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1987 called for compassion and education on the virus, but also decreed in the same paragraph that immigrant sufferers could also be denied residency status in the USA. Tellingly, it would be the president’s only speech on AIDS crisis. While Rock Hudson’s death of AIDS-related illness in 1985 spread awareness for some, and outright panic for others, organisations and activists promoting sexual health and infection



prevention were financially hamstrung, ignored, or decried by religious groups, all of which furthered falsehoods about modes of infection (swimming pools, toilets, and water fountains) and prevented the distribution of clean needles to intravenous drug users. In a particularly vicious turn, the Helms Amendment Law (1987) prohibited any federal funding for AIDS prevention programmes that were deemed to promote or encourage any homosexual activity of any type; in censoring educational information on HIV+ prevention through forms of what he classified as ‘un-Christian’ sexual contact, the Helms Amendment further suppressed vital federal support to already marginalised groups to prevent further infections. Risk groups were formed through examination of the known infected in Western countries, further marginalizing those who were already afflicted, as they ‘were already victims of prejudice and discrimination. No social manipulation of facts was necessary; the disease struck directly at groups who were already marginal’ (Van der Vliet 1996: 53). Denial of the risk of infection inevitably followed, where whole swathes of people, and in some cases nations, were keen to distance themselves from perceived ‘at-risk’ marginal groups within Western society: ‘China denied it was at risk because AIDS was a disease of the decadent [W]est. Romania’s Ceausescu dismissed it as a ‘capitalist’ disease [and] some even believed that Asians were biologically immune to AIDS’ (Van der Vliet 1996: 53). Methods of ingesting blood varied in 1980s vampire films and novels, as did the increased coding of relationships and vampiric infection shown onscreen, for vampirism quickly lost the dizzying promise of immortality and ab-human dominance, quickly reduced to a poisonous and mortal transformation in the wake of the discovery and fears surrounding the AIDS virus. In Whitley Strieber’s (1981) novel The Hunger, and Tony Scott’s 1983 visually sumptuous film adaptation, the vampire body is graphically rendered as fragile amidst a clinical backdrop of disease and the fear of an unknown blood contagion. Strieber’s novel focuses on the medical aspects of blood, its capacity for nourishment and vitality, and linking vampirism with primal instincts, and genetic/evolutionary lineage. This pseudo-medicalised interpretation of vampirism also informs the 1979 Australian film Thirst, in which medical experiments can create or replicate vampirism in ‘off grid’ laboratories. In Thirst, vampirism is medically simulated where humans are screened for infections, exsanguinated at regular intervals and farmed in a ‘free range’ environment


for consumption. Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri), a descendant of Countess Elisabeth Bathory, undergoes blood testing by Dr. Fraser (David Hemmings), the director of the vampire ‘dairy farm’, in order to reawaken her vampire genetics. Fraser, a mad doctor in his own right, believes that, by re-awakening Kate’s powerful vampire lineage through his hubristic medical practices, he can liege this vampire cult as a superior race. Blood, in this pre-AIDS crisis film, is ranked according to cleanliness, lineage, and production, with explicit capitalist overtones of leeching on the helpless in society to create vampire progeny. In Tony Scott’s The Hunger, Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) studies the medical implications of sleep deprivation on chimpanzees to prove conclusively that the ageing process is linked to sleep therapy. She wishes to prove that immortality of sorts can be achieved—to beat the ‘internal body clock’—in order to slow down or potentially halt physical maturation and eventual decay. When a sleep-deprived laboratory ape spirals into a rage in an act of barbaric cannibalism—a scene that is intercut with the vampire couple, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John Blaylock (David Bowie), murdering their victims—the accelerated ageing process for both the ape and John begins, an unseen trigger has been set in motion. Strieber’s description of the ape’s death and a vampire’s destroyed body onscreen bear a remarkable resemblance, recalling the dusty deaths of many screen vampires which are finally scattered by the elements: The now-dead ape’s skin cracked along the bones and began to fall like tissue to the floor of the cage. Soon the skeleton, still held together by tendons, lay amid a pile of rubble. Then it collapsed, and what had been just alive just minutes before was reduced to dust … The dust in the bottom of the cage became finer and finer and at last was whisked away by an errant breeze. (Strieber 1981: 75–6)

AIDS was discovered to have been transmitted to humans through contact with chimpanzees in the Congo—by way of eating chimpanzee flesh in some tribal communities—and passed on in the community by sexual contact and bodily fluids. With the rise of immigration and international travel, the disease spread quickly and quietly in its initial symptom-free dormancy in communities in Haiti, the UK, and the USA. While striking references to AIDS are drawn from animal testing, disease, homosexuality, and vampirism, it is in Tony Scott’s 1983 film adaptation that these



images and topics are fused to form a Gothic narrative on the disease. However, the narrative gives a political edge to the ‘sexual deviance’ of these vampires and indicates that such transgressions will not go unpunished. As Benshoff writes, the lesbian sex between Sarah and Miriam is shown at first to be erotic, then horrific and contaminating ‘as ominous bass tones sound discordantly under soothing classical music, and flash cuts of red corpuscles punctuate the lovemaking’ (Benshoff 1997: 244). What begins as a scene of desire and female bonding ends in violence and contamination in which ‘blood flows, and what had begun as a beautiful scene of making love ends as yet another monstrous horror: the ‘foul disease of the vampire’ has been passed on once again’ (Benshoff 1997: 244). Taboos of lesbian sex and blood drinking become more pronounced as the love scene progresses between vampire mother and progeny, reinforcing ‘the abject nature of this relationship … because the boundary between heterosexual and homosexual love is also transgressed’ (Creed 1993: 71). John’s horrific discovery that his immortal body is crumbling is perhaps the film’s most memorable scene to underscore the vampire’s corporeal fragility. His rapid decay illustrates the onset of AIDS symptoms betraying his once immortal body; he notes liver spots on his hands (which double as lesions) and the rapid degeneration of his skin cells; his hair begins to fall out and his once lithe body is rendered feeble and weak within hours of the diagnosis. The symptoms John suffers mimic the onset of the ageing process, but, as these symptoms occur rapidly and inexplicably, they are more redolent of early AIDS pathology as best understood in the early 1980s. Unlike other vampire mythologies (most notably Rice’s Chronicles) where the vampire body heals after exsanguinating a victim, the blood of victims offers no such salvation. Seeking out two youthful victims—a roller-skater and his prepubescent neighbour Alice—John ‘clearly assumes that only by imbibing the literal substance of youth can his waning potency be restored’ (Latham 2002: 113). After realising that his self-administered ‘cure’ has failed, he is swiftly entombed by his immune lover Miriam in the attic of their lavish Manhattan residence, shut away to rot alongside her other previous lovers across time. Not quite dead but rather abjectly cast off from the realm of the living, John’s decay reduces him to the final stages ‘walking death’—the AIDS victim cruelly shut away from society’s gaze. Similar persecutions persisted in local communities in the UK and USA, in the scrawling of obscene graffiti—one haemophiliac man


discovered ‘BEWARE AIDS IN HERE…daubed in two-foot high letters on the wall outside his Hartlepool home’ (Davenport-Hines 1990: 348)—or the educational exclusion suffered by schoolboy Ryan White in Indiana, USA, which culminated in heated legal battles and, eventually, gunfire on the White family home which forced the family to leave the community; members of so-called risk groups were publicly harassed, bullied, and socially rejected as potential contaminators. This alignment of blood, contamination, and sexual predation furthered a ‘blurring of the image of the homosexual with that of a vampire. Homophobes had long held that gay people were evil predators with Draculean powers to corrupt and transform the sexually straight and virtuous’ (Skal 2001: 346). Predictably, tabloids including The Sun newspaper featured headlines such as ‘Gay Vampire Catches AIDS’ that alleged ‘the merry neck-biter who swished his way from town to town luring gay lovers into this world of vampirism, apparently consumed disease infected blood along the way’ (Dresser 1990: 104), presenting an offensive caricature of an infecting Pied Piper of Hamelin whose sheer corruptive ‘vampiric’ practices and supposed ability to lure victims from town to town, reveal the depths of this prejudicial alignment of sexual and societal contamination, predation, and an implied retribution for such transgressions. Anne Rice distilled this reactionary attitude to AIDS and its victims in her continuation of her Vampire Chronicles series during the 1980s. Introduced in The Vampire Lestat (1985), in which Lestat seeks out the mythical origins of his kind, Akasha, the queen of damned, is revealed at its conclusion as an abject evil ‘Mother’ to all bestowed with vampirism’s dark gift. Cursed with immortality by fusing her soul with the spirit Emel two thousand years earlier, Akasha is awoken from her petrified statuesque sleep by Lestat’s vampiric revelations to the modern world. Lestat’s arrogant disclosure of ancient vampire secrets via his song lyrics and the self-same Vampire Chronicle and ‘autobiography’ The Vampire Lestat provokes Akasha’s return and unleashes her ferocity to enslave the world anew. Her ancient blood, the matrilineal fount of all vampire lineage (a metaphorical Patient Zero), necessitates her existence in the vampire domain; to conquer the modern world of 1980s America, she schemes to wipe out all men ‘save one in a hundred’ (Rice 1988: 64) to ensure her reign over a new dark age, taking Lestat as her new consort to realise this divine cleansing to reinstate a lost Garden of Eden.



Given the inflamed conservative rhetoric concerning gay males spreading the disease within their communities (and the links established between blood-borne contamination, risk groups, and invocations of metaphorical vampirism), there are striking parallels and inversions at work in Akasha’s misandrist genocidal impulse and apocalyptic proclamations. Gore Vidal notes in his seminal essay ‘Armageddon?’ that Reagan’s secretary of the Interior, James Watt, openly acknowledged to Congress in 1981 the administration’s belief in the Coming of Christ and the Evangelical Rapture: ‘This world is simply a used up Kleenex, as […] I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns. So why conserve anything, if Judgement Day is at hand?’ (Vidal 1987: 102). Reagan’s presidency was laced with the sanguinary language of a looming ‘End of Days’, contextualised with the backdrop of plagues (AIDS), nuclear threats in international politics (The Cold War), and, most notably, crime panics including serial killing and mass murder, labelling these issues as ‘products of 1960s liberalism and its departure from ‘traditional’ Christian family values. Other panics focused disproportionate attention on child abductions by strangers, ‘satanic’ cult crimes, and the detrimental effect of rap and rock music on American Youth’ (Milligen 2006: 9), all of which underscored a call from the conservative right to ‘clean up the mess’ left over from the 1960s counterculture. Vidal reads the end game of such cleansing would bring about a fantasy of ‘a joyous millennium of no abortion, no sodomy, no crack, no Pure Food and Drug Act, no civil rights, but of schools where only prayers are said, and earth proved daily flat’ (Vidal 1987: 106). Further still, according to Stephen Milligen, ‘[w]hile in office [Reagan] was reported to have remarked to his friend Jerry Falwell that “I sometimes believe we are heading very fast for Armageddon right now”’ (2006: 7). Falwell, the fiery leader of the ‘Moral Majority’ movement and national broadcaster, whose rabid declarations included AIDS as a divine punishment not only for homosexuals but also for a society that tolerates homosexuality (see Falwell’s obituary in Reed 2007: n.p.), formed part of this invigorating evangelical alliance with Republicans and in effect found a sympathetic president who shared a similar ‘Old Testament zeal’ (2006: 9). In Chris Hedges’s study American Fascists, Reverend Dr. Mel White, a conflicted closeted gay man and colleague of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, recalls the shared rhetoric of ‘cleansing the nation’ of such


targeted groups and ‘of all persons who might disagree with their political, religious and social agenda for our country’ (Hedges 2007: 110). White distanced himself from such hateful demands but foresees a time when the New Right (with enough political power) will lobby for gay registration, cessation of gay adoptions, a military ban, reinstating sodomy laws, removing children from their custody, special medical attention and treatment, quarantine, and dissolution of personal and property rights. In the eyes of the New Right, ‘Gays and Lesbians, like other enemies of Christ, are not fully human; they are “unnatural”’ (Hedges 2007: 110–12). Declaring homosexuality as blasphemous and contrary to divine law, the Religious Right and followers of Falwell rationalise their hateful proclamations by framing sufferers of the illness as transgressive sinners at the mercy of divine retribution. For Rice’s queen Akasha, her status as both the undead Patient Zero and instigator of fundamentalist genocidal violence closely imitates such religious cleansing ‘solutions’: My love, this is divine war. Not the loathsome feeding upon human life which you have done night after night without scheme or reason save to survive. You kill now in my name and for my cause and I give you the greatest freedom ever given man: I tell you that to slay your mortal brother is right. (Rice 1988: 340–1)

Akasha’s quest for purity within the community itself reads as a microcosmic version of American society with a figurehead determined to cleanse it of moral disobedience. What is interesting about Akasha’s extermination programme is that it does not include vampires (who are allegorically presumed to be faithful, if not fully saved) but mere mortal men. This position is hardly surprising for the Radical Right as it is an exact reversal of gendered power used in Dominion theology, a radical wing within the New Right that maintains women have no claim to equality and express extreme racist and violent ideas to restore America to God’s glory. Linda Badley rightly attests to Akasha’s extremism as a combination of several politically polar paradigms to highlight extremist forces during the decade’s culture wars: Rice meant to evoke an image of AIDS’s devastation of the gay community and AIDS panic as well – referring to fundamentalist and neonazi gay-bashing. Akasha is the Third Reich, Jerry Falwell, and Andrea



Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon rolled into one abstraction that even Lestat worships for a time. (Badley 1996: 125)

Rice’s Akasha warns against such political figures rising to power with seductive promises of a better, cleansed world, revealing such proclamations by radicalised voices to be simply ‘stuffing the vacuum which is themselves with their own manic will and fundamentalist dogma. […] Power loathes weakness, since it brings to mind its own frailty […] This is why hell endures for ever and ever’ (Eagleton 2005: 120–1). Conversely, there were contentious reports of subcultural practices geared towards seeking out HIV infection, including a highly controversial and contested article by Gregory A Freeman in Rolling Stone. In Freeman’s (2003) article, ‘Bug Chasers: The Men who Long to Be HIV+’, HIV infection was reframed, for those who sought it out, as a spiritual gift of sorts, a radicalised ‘othered’ state to reclaim their ‘cast out and cast off’ bodies; if infected, they would also reject any form of medical treatment, and some interviewees claimed their desire to be infected as an erotic pursuit; another report attempting to temper the extent of ‘bug chasing’ and the blurring of fantasy and fact in this practice also featured in BBC news reports and a documentary ‘I love being HIV+’ in 2006 (see Pendry 2006). Sharing the use of the term ‘gift giver’ for both HIV+ infection and vampirism recalls Rice’s term for being vampirised, the ‘Dark Gift’, during which fledglings often experience a parallel erotic moment or swoon while being drunk from and simultaneously infected. Reframed as a choice to be sought out with intent, rather than a traumatic event through random infection, both HIV+ and vampire infection align in numerous late 1980s and early 1990s texts as a Gothic form of extreme othered identity which is, for a select few, actively sought out. The disenfranchised and abjected seek out a means to realign their power and view infection as a pis aller to reclaim some form of personal status ‘in the grip of the death drive […] clinging to their agony is their only alternative to annihilation’ (Eagleton 2005: 120). Milly Williamson suggests that vampire fans and blood-drinking practitioners read vampirism as a potent metaphor for regaining lost social control and status because ‘the vampire suggests an attractive outsiderdom – even a bohemianism – in a culture where a dominant experience for the self is predominantly marginalisation and outsiderdom’ (Williamson 2005: 35–6).


Less popular vampire texts also mimic this reoccurring theme of AIDS infection and insatiable sexual desires which are treated as fatal contaminants. Both My Best Friend is a Vampire (1988) and Jeffrey McMahan’s novel Vampires Anonymous (1991) position homosexuality as a viral disease which must be suppressed for the good of humanity. While My Best Friend is a Vampire mimics the plot line of the 1985 film Once Bitten— in both films, a teenager sexually engages with an older female vampire resulting in his vampiric transformation—the former film is an overtly homophobic film concerning ‘the misunderstood other whose ‘disease’ could infect untold millions by the early nineties if not checked’ (Schopp 1997: 237). In McMahan’s novel, Pablo, a vampire intent on ‘going straight’ and foregoing human blood, confesses to a room full of vampire men attending a Vampires Anonymous meeting that his practices are both secretive and insatiable: My condition has taken me pretty low… Details are – painfully disgusting… midnight trysts in secluded places. I’ve taken on six in one night. I sought more than their blood…. Sometimes, just the chase, the seduction lure me [sic]. Sometimes, the thrill of holding one man’s life – his death – in my hands is my nourishment. (McMahan 1991: 16)

McMahan’s thinly veiled allegory of addictive vampiric feeding and multiple homosexual encounters, resulting in the spread of a pandemic contagion, echoes homophobic accusations levelled at carriers of HIV+ infection as sexually insatiable deviants determined to infect the masses and bestow their affliction unto the unfortunate and beguiled. The societal threat of unfettered vampire contamination is deployed in the novel by echoing the fears and rhetoric of the Religious Right, writ large by McMahan to ‘privilege heteronormative paradigms for sexual expression …[by] us[ing] the vampire world as a space for interrogating the ‘real world’s’ contemporary gay community and its practices’ (Schopp 1997: 238). With rare exception, 1980s vampire initiates tend to experience some form of seductive contact with ‘harmful’ homosexual vampires as undeath is transformed from sexual liberation to fatal contamination in its transgression of moral codes and sexual propriety, a dangerous form of decadence that, if left unchecked, could sweep away whole nations. Dan Simmons’s Children of the Night (1993) deliberately bifurcates its representation of vampirism and AIDS in post-Communist Romania.



Where the novel acknowledges issues around AIDS infection through medical malpractice and state negligence (but does not exploit aspects of sexual transmission), it amplifies vampirism’s dominance as a historical and infecting thirst for power. Blood becomes a political conduit that can continue the infection of Communist nationalism and prolong its ancient familial bloodlines or, if scientifically studied and retooled, can open up new political realities for the children of post-Communist Romania. The dominant metaphor of the 1980s, where vampirism stands in for all forms of physical and moral infection and decay, is reconsidered by Simmons as a timely metaphorical and political extension of Ceausescu’s government and its fanatical nationalism and corruption; vampirism, as a state of genetic exceptionalism, may actually present a panacea to AIDS and other devastating diseases, if engineered the right way—a means of refashioning an old and failing state system into a new functioning governmental democracy. The procedure to restructure the genetic coding in the blood of the novel’s exceptional Romanian baby, Joshua, can be engineered to eradicate disease (or halt Communism’s political sway) under cutting edge American supervision. Simmons’s use of blood as a political tool is simultaneously bound up in the Romanian past of ethnic history and identity and, during the novel’s crucial timeline of the post-Communist restructuring of the country, may also hold the key to its freedom from political oppression. Blood flows in this novel as an established signifier of a heraldic imprisoning past to a new form of generational release for the children born free of Ceausescu’s reign—a new generation whose identity is not bound to Communist nationalism but rather with the potential to transform national tragedy into future opportunity and prosperity, if utilised correctly and deployed under occidental supervision (namely the USA). The novel situates most of its action within Romania’s borders, zig zagging across the country in an attempt to map a terrain that may be visible, but operates under the shadow of unknowable codes, secret police, and double-agents at each perilous turn. Dr. Kate Neuman, a brilliant medical physician working for the Centres for Disease Control in Colorado, adopts baby Joshua to provide him with the care he needs and discovers that his unique genetic vampirism can be treated with synthesised blood substitutes; further study of his unique genetic material reveals that his blood can be engineered to act as a medical panacea. Explicitly foregrounding Ceausescu’s national politics of cruel state-sanctioned reproduction and panoptic monitoring of women’s


reproduction under Decree 770, which severely restricted women’s access to contraception and abortion from 1966 to 1989, the industrial-scale breeding and subsequent abandonment and neglect of Romania’s orphans (many of whom were placed in state facilities by parents who could not cope) informs the novel’s most sympathetic and tragic moments. The novel also inter-splices its thriller structure with a subjective account by Dracula—the voivode Vlad Ţepeş, who also masquerades as an ageing American venture capitalist, Vernon Deacon Trent—whom, it transpires, is nearing death and wishes to ‘modernise’ his family with new methods for treating their blood thirst. His ongoing subjective entries, entitled ‘Dreams of Blood and Iron’ recalls Otto von Bismarck’s Prussian ‘Blut und Eisen’ speech (1862) of political power plays stretched out as biographical memory and egotistical military glory. Romania’s former status as a closed off machtpolitik state—putting national interest above international cooperation—is, by Dracula’s account, drenched in the blood and soil of the nation, requiring the dissolution of older European war games and dynastic infighting for status, in favour of new modes of transnational immortality. His role as Ceausescu’s ‘dark advisor’ (Simmons 1993: 24) suggests that his influence directly led to Ceausescu’s demise during the 1989 revolution, hinting not only that Dracula and Ceausescu’s once shared consolidation of power through the ‘Blut und Eisen’ of national history has come to an end; it also points to Dracula’s has a deep understanding of survival in this new age of science, disease, and technology, and of international and post-Communist political progress. By the novel’s end, Dracula destroys his own spiteful family—the strigoi—a cruel assemblage of the violent excesses of national history who collectively embody ‘an immense conspiracy stretching back through Communist and Fascist regimes to at least the fifteenth century’ (Glover 1996: 147) which must be snuffed out for the nation to begin anew; this is, in effect, Fukuyama’s theory of the End of History (1989) in action, the national transition away from dictatorial political regimes in favour of new forms of liberal-democracy in Romania’s fledgling post-Communist years. Joshua’s adoption and subsequent rescue when he is kidnapped from his adoptive American mother and returned to Romania by the strigoi articulate the political tug of war between the promise of the future and the hold of the past during this post-revolutionary period of renewal. Simmons’s novel emphasises the occidental nature of Romania’s supervised transition from



Communism, a move which Marius Crişan describes as a form of implied ‘superiority of American democracy over Communist dictatorship […] and the immature nature of Romanian democracy and the need of supervision from a more experienced democratic system’ (Crişan 2014: 71). Revitalised by the CDC’s manufactured synthetic blood in its closing pages, Dracula now considers relocating back to Westernised democracy (this time to Japan), wholly renewed by synthetic blood that firmly lays waste to the haunting ‘bad dreams’ of his history (Simmons 1993: 450–1) in order to put the legacy of his country (and the turmoil of the 1980s more generally) behind him. As Crişan observes, Simmons’s novel, ‘written in the period of the rebirth of Romanian democracy (a process which undoubtedly had its own difficulties) […] is a story obsessed with the shadows of the past […] [and] is veiled with pessimism and suspicion’ (Crişan 2014: 72). Synthetic blood offers tantalising new horizons for the undead as early as Simmons’s 1992 novel which would also later, in the early twenty-first century, enable the ‘Great Revelation’ of the true existence of vampires in Charlaine Harris’s popular series, The Southern Vampire Mysteries (2001–2013). Blood, imbued with terrors of disease and rot in the shadow of the AIDS crisis, is repurposed into a synthetic and political commodity to infuse the undead with new vigour and potential salvation. The queering and ubiquitous sickness evidenced by these 1980s vampires foregrounds their considerable fragility in the Reagan era. Representing a vast array of societal and cultural ‘wrong turns’, including sexual diversity, leftist ideologies, and non-traditional familial structures, vampires are cast aside to die. The horror projected onto the vampire body is so acute, violent, and reactionary that the mere gaze of the vampire could prove fatal, and to admit to sickness, in a time dominated by fitness and health as forms of elevated status, was equally damning. Sontag notes that even Reagan would not admit to being sick with cancer, as it would, in his mind, indicate personal weakness and potentially harm his presidency. She notes, ‘[w]hen asked how he felt after his cancer operation, he declared: “I didn’t have cancer. I had something inside of me that had cancer in it and it was removed”’ (Sontag 1991: 151). While Reagan and his ilk considered cancer to be a localised physical ‘problem’ that could be treated, isolated, or removed, AIDS and other diseases inflected with moral ‘failures’ was a sickness of the soul first and a virus incurred by God’s wrath second.


Celebrity Vampires Vampire cliques rose sharply in the 1980s, as many vampires actively sought out new social groups and alternative families. Vampire families roamed together (Near Dark), monsters banded together (The Monster Squad), or occasionally sought out new members to initiate (The Lost Boys) at a time when it was increasingly dangerous to be isolated. Even the more secluded members of the undead kept their human familiars close, for protection or even fraternal companionship (Fright Night). While some vampires need to seek out immortal companionship, for others, vampire materialism and access to exclusive wealth, privilege, and status simply mirrored desired yuppie clichés in the 1980s culture. For some vampires, it is the only form of undeath that truly counts for something. Such social reformation of the undead is found in Michael Romkey’s first instalment of his ever-expanding vampire series, I, Vampire (1990). Assembling a band of undead luminaries including (in)famous intellectuals, musicians, artists, and political revolutionaries, Romkey’s romanticised, idealised version of the Illuminati creates an exclusive club in which the dreary and ordinary is discarded as unbearable. Bearing no resemblance to the Bavarian Illuminati founded in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, Romkey’s Illuminati members are turned because of their specific social significance or gifts. David Parker, a seemingly unremarkable cocaine-addicted alcoholic lawyer whose divorce leads him to contemplate suicide, is turned to vampirism by Tatiana Nicolaievna Romanov, a Russian princess, who, in turn, claims to be under the guidance of an elder, Grigori Rasputin. David not only begins an affair with the Russian princess but also finds himself under the tutelage of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart because he shows promise in classical musicianship. Undeath in this novel is laden with many rewards and distinctly informed by the 1980s notions of success. The novel populates its vampiric society with characters who span modern history, but it does little more than present vampirism as a microcosm of human society grappling with a series of moral quandaries and populated by celebrities at every turn as a zealously guarded assemblage of elitist yuppie dreams; for David, our narrator, in stark contrast with those who populate his undead world, is a historically empty cipher. For Romkey, vampirism is little more than the crystallization of an idealised dream of the late 1980s high society; these vampires enjoy ‘longevity, strength, high IQs […] but there are disadvantages – sensitivity



to light, sterility is another. We cannot reproduce sexually’ (Romkey 1990: 94–5). Sexually dried up like Rice’s undead, vampirism here metaphorically aligns with cocaine binge highs—combining elitist arrogance with adverse effects on male fertility—and confers near-immortality of roughly a thousand years until boredom leads to suicide for release. Rationing his feeding on blood as he grapples with moral anguish and hunger, David Parker expresses, as William Patrick Day notes, ‘the tormenting dualities of the Ricean vampire’. Nevertheless, ‘in this pastiche of human history that uses the secret world of nosferatu in explaining a wide variety of significant events’ (Day 2002: 55), Romkey is more preoccupied with human history and its many evils than Rice’s insular world where humans are merely cattle awaiting slaughter. Drawing comparisons with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s heroic Saint Germain in terms of its tone and setting in the romance/adventure genre (but without Saint Germain’s emotional depth), it also borrows Stoker’s epistolary form of diary entries to offer subjective depth and frames the tale as a manuscript to be filed in a secret archive; Romkey combines traditional and contemporary styles established in his vampire narrative to present an exciting wish-fulfilment fantasy to counter the horrors of vampiric sickness elsewhere. Furthermore, the novel taps into the 1980s collective fantasy that vampirism, if deployed according to privilege, extends the façade of yuppie vacuity and confers a form of ‘worthy’ immortality and social ascension. While Romkey’s novel features actual historical persons ranging from Mozart to Jack the Ripper and the Borgias, a stronger example of vampire celebrity culture is detailed in Kim Newman’s superb 1992 novel, Anno Dracula. In his ‘encyclopaedic orgy of late-Victorian popular culture’ (Jones 2002: 98), Newman offers a celebratory Postmodern pastiche of a literary and filmic Victorian universe ‘writ[ten] in and around and over Stoker’s text’ (Scott 2013: 26) and founded entirely on the simple tantalising premise of Dracula’s successful invasion of England. From its blood-soaked offset, Newman gleefully dispatches Van Helsing by placing his head upon a spike at Traitor’s Gate, doubles (or destroys) numerous other characters from Stoker’s novel, and crucially transforms Dracula into a gluttonous and foul Prince Consort to an enslaved Queen Victoria. Newman unravels Dracula’s acquired Postmodern romanticism by returning him to a state of engorged abjection. Wearing the Koh-iNoor diamond, ‘Prince Dracula sat upon his throne […] His body was swollen with blood, rope-thick veins visibly pulsing in his neck and arms.


In life, Vlad Tepes had been a man of less than medium height; now he was a giant’ (Newman 1994: 390), a distended consumptive embodiment of the British Empire’s plundering greed run amok and upon which the sun shall never rise. Featuring a quintessentially British revisionism by redeploying vampirism and other nineteenth-century Gothic shadows as lucid ‘rewritings of academically canonized/­ consecrated fictions’ (Hills 2005: 178), Newman’s densely claustrophobic world reduces Romkey’s American variation to anaemic celebrity tourism and delights in reworking countless characters from Victorian literature and culture including Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, real crimes including Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders, and provides numerous literary and cinematic vampires to populate its margins, including Sir Francis Varney; Polidori’s Lord Ruthven (cast here as Prime Minister); J. Sheridan LaFanu’s Carmilla; Murnau’s Graf Orlok (as a notoriously cruel and petrifying Governor of the Tower of London); George Romero’s Martin Cuda (as a Carpathian Guardsman); and King’s Kurt Barlow. This veritable who’s who of intertextual reference offers horror readers ‘the pleasures of recognition’ (Hills 2005: 170) and points beyond its own narrative to reward avid readers of Gothic and horror fiction with its rich literary revisionism; Newman’s book emerges during a distinct period in the early 1990s, when such neo-­ Victorian themes were particularly in vogue, including Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s celebrated and richly Gothic graphic novel, From Hell (1989–1996). The crumbling decline of the USSR between 1989 and 1991 presents a historical counterpoint that encourages a drastic revision and literary interpretations of former empires, noted in the distinctive rise in alternate Victorian fantasies and Steampunk (a term coined by K. W. Jeter in April 1987 in the science fiction magazine Locus), which reconsiders and refashions retro-futuristic invention, Victorian popular culture, and its aesthetics. Entering into an uncertain future with the disintegration of the Soviet bloc at the turn of the early 1990s, real-world events and centenary celebrations of influential Gothic and science fiction fin-de-siècle texts triggered timely reconsiderations and imaginative reformations of the historical past in popular culture (for more on this, see Ní Fhlainn 2016). Carrion Comfort (1989), Dan Simmons’s epic vampire opus, inverts Romkey’s elitist yuppies and Newman’s literary assembly by presenting vampirism as a continuing and consolidated form of the horrors of the twentieth century. Here, vampirism manifests as an invasive form of



psychic conditioning, a rare genetic mutation bestowed unto precious few who wield its powers with spider-like cunning and achieve their manipulations with lethal ease. Psychic vampire trio Melanie Fuller and Nina Drayton (southern belles whose racial hatred informs their contribution to national destruction), and Willi Bordon (a Nazi war criminal whose personal perversities include terrorising concentration camp prisoners), inform the novel’s fascination with the repugnant yet addictive nature of violence, indoctrination, and mind control. In tallying up their respective ‘kills’ as an annual parlour game (John Lennon and John F. Kennedy among them, for these vampires are quick to eradicate any political or social symbols of hope), Simmons’s psychic vampire trio use their evolutionary ‘ability’ to impress one another as they recount tales wherein they reduce the human world of political figures, celebrity elites, and presidents to mere catspaws. Situating its invisible vampiric cabals at the heart of national traumas, Carrion Comfort, as Ken Gelder suggests, is infused with a shared ‘paranoid consciousness’ (1994: 125); no one can trust national institutions or private motives between friends, producing a feeling of internal rot that seeps out into 1980s America. Its band of unlikely heroes is equally made paranoid and traumatised by these powerful vampires: Holocaust survivor Dr. Saul Laski, a noted psychiatrist and survivor of the Chelmno extermination camp; Sheriff Bobby Gentry, who investigates a series of spontaneous mass murders in Charlestown, South Carolina; and Natalie Preston, an African American photographer whose father was a victim of the Charlestown mass violent outbreak, each in turn experience a form of cognitive rape, their horrific victimisation emboldening their mission to prevent the global reach of its dark practitioners. Established institutions and figures in the American imagination are infiltrated or discarded—the FBI, Hollywood, Evangelical preachers, and Senators are all gamed as necessary to meet the demands of the evil coterie’s whims—and violent desires including murder and sexual exploitation to fulfil private titillations are often aided by catspaws or ‘neutral’ human familiars (who cannot be cognitively probed or adjusted) in exchange personal and financial advancement. With the mantra of neoliberalism under Reagan permeating American 1980s culture, Carrion Comfort despairs that under such pervasive influence almost everyone can be manipulated, or bought, as required. The Island Club, another secret select group of psychic vampires fashioned from conspiracy theories surrounding the Illuminati or the Bilderberg Group as humanity’s secret rulers, furthers these horrors by


contemplating the limitless extent of their reach and the potential for destruction such cabals wield: The Island Club thinks that it has some claim to power merely because it influences […] leaders, nations, economies […] The world is a piece of rotted, worm-ridden old meat, pawn. We will cleanse it with fire. I will show them what it is to play with armies rather than their pitiful little surrogates […] entire races captured and utilized for projects at the whim of the User. And I will show them what it means to play this game on a global scale […] there is no reason for the world to survive us. (Simmons 2010: 370)

Stripping back the aesthetic Gothic embellishments of more traditional vampires, Simmons’s invaders of ‘neurons, synapses, language associations, and memory storage’ (Simmons 2010: 502) achieve immortality in flattening and hollowing out history—encouraging forgetfulness, memory erasure, and debasement through the consumptive appetite of servitude and encouraging violent appetites—a wholly appropriate embodiment of the decade’s Postmodern consumptions which are plundered for private ends. Consumerism and vampirism evidently have an age-old and far-­ reaching relationship; from Marx’s metaphors of bourgeois vampiric overlords to Rice’s Lestat’s debuting on MTV to sell albums and access victims, the continuance of this distinctly moneyed and elitist allegory visibly permeated 1980s culture with lasting and damaging results. The materialist definitions of success—principally to have or have not—and the perceived powers that it affords overwrite the troubling economic truths of the American Dream of the 1980s; as a constructed image factory, the facade of American prosperity in the 1980s was largely a creditor-fuelled fantasy built upon Reaganomic neoliberalism, masking the uncertain fiscal future of the nation by eradicating welfare programmes, and tripling national debt within eight years. The image became the substance by which one’s worth was measured; in the era of Reaganite selfishness, exemplified by Miriam in Tony Scott’s film The Hunger (1983), vampires also came to be defined ‘not [by] their powers, but their assets’ (Auerbach 1995: 58). While dieting and body modification gained popularity in the early 1970s, 1980s culture fully embraced the reshaping and remoulding of one’s body with plastic surgery and/or extreme fitness as a physical extension of one’s perceived



value and worth. Celebrities including Michael Jackson and Cher (some of its most visible consumers) utilised the body’s transformative possibilities, at once stretching and tweaking their skins and muscles beyond their original form, in an attempt to confer a strange composition of eternal youth that belied the ageing process, a visible lightening of skin tone (in the case of Jackson) and any other perceived ‘deficits’ or imperfections its proponents were desperate to disguise (see Bordo 1994: 240). Cher sang ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ (1989) in a music video which at once emphasised the exposure of her body but also revealed the lengths to which she sought to arrest time itself by surgery. The fixation on body culture in 1980s America was, in part, birthed by the advent of MTV and the pressures to sell products, music, and brands, based on the desirability of the body. The desire to attain a fixed look—ageless, perhaps a vain attempt at cultural immortality—by defying any natural ageing process was akin to discovering the elixir of life and was vigorously promoted in Hollywood and consumptive culture. For 1980s women, the body culture drastically shifted towards removing any evidence of imperfection—wrinkles, folds of fat or any unappealing features had to be reshaped or starved/cut off—while men, in contrast, had to contend with a desired replication of the physical armour of Schwarzenegger and Stallone—toned muscles and bulky physiques that articulated fantasies of Reaganite superiority, discipline, and impenetrability. Mired in this media-saturated image of the body fantastic, the vampire body embraced the same concerns of ageing, dieting, and externalised angst; controlling the body through disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, over-exercising, amphetamine pills, and diet fads, food was carefully portioned or wholly removed. Other vampires express their abjection by exhibiting signs of pica (channelling Renfield) by eating ‘unclean’ substitutes such as crawling cockroaches, as seen in both Fright Night 2 (1988) and Vampire’s Kiss (1989). In Howard Storm’s 1985 vampire sex comedy Once Bitten, a young ice cream truck driver Mark (Jim Carrey) becomes the latest victim of a vampire who must consume virginal blood in order to retain her beauty. The health fanatic Countess (Lauren Hutton), whose home resembles a spa, discards food in disgust. Similarly, victims begin to reject food once they are contaminated by a vampire’s bite. Mark reacts negatively to food or simply extracts the necessary elements to feed his craving for blood; he drinks the run-off blood


from raw roast beef, much to the disgust of his mother, and tolerates raw burger meat. Immortal belonging, the film insists, can only be satiated with careful substitution and control. In the end, the Countess fails in her third attempt to drain Mark by her Halloween deadline and is rendered abject when her youthful façade disintegrates into decrepitude—­ a particularly horrific and fitting punishment for this unapologetically shallow vampire. Baudrillard describes Postmodern culture as the gradual eradication of distinctions between reality and appearance—­ simulacrum—‘a radiating synthesis of combinatory models’ (Baudrillard 1994: 2) wherein the blurring of constructed images of the body (through plasticity and surgery, and in later years through CGI technology onscreen) and its actual ‘normal’ form is significantly troubled. The modification of these bodies requires continuous attention and ongoing consumption of the desired goal to attain a near-impossible perfection and then the daunting task of preserving the projected mirage.

‘I Want My MTV’: Vampire Yuppies Launched on 1 August 1981, MTV was a revolutionary move in both the music and television industries, playing music videos by upcoming and established artists. The launch of the channel even went so far as to mesh its brand onto photographs and animations simulating the July 1969 Apollo 11 moon landings, emblazing the MTV station ID logo on to the pitched American flag, and with it, staking its claim in new and unchartered televisual broadcasting. The hype surrounding this fresh music channel, marketed as a unique source for youth culture by using potent pop culture imagery in its logos, content, and direct advertising, quickly consolidated its niche to that of ‘a mandatory teenage accessory’ (Konow 2004: 134). Equal parts pop culture phenomenon and image factory—‘The image is king. Believe the illusion’ were slogans marking the commemoration of MTV’s first decade in 1991—with its confident flamboyance and arresting visuals, MTV uniquely spoke to a generation keen to break free from parental cultural influence while simultaneously exploiting teenage access to its cash flow; the consumption of products advertised or endorsed by celebrities on MTV became a lucrative venture, as did the revenue increase of album sales when new music videos were well received by its target audience. This form of marketing synergy excelled at extending the promotional reach of music, films, and the branding of an artist, for MTV amalgamated these products into one



space for young consumers as a commodified form of rebellion and taste. Jack Banks summarises the precise impact MTV had on popular culture in speaking directly to their targeted demographic: Music video is at its core a type of advertisement for cultural products: films, film soundtracks, recorded music, live concerts, fashion apparel depicted in the clip and even the music clip itself as a home video retail product. Omnipresent play of music videos on MTV (and elsewhere) helps shape global demand for this array of products… as well the contours of a global popular culture. (1997: 58–9)

MTV naturally became an aspirational space for 1980s vampires to occupy. Its frenetic youthful energy and consumerist power meshes perfectly with vampirism’s new target demographic, the MTV generation; these vampires feed off the young through their collective hopes, dreams, and frustrations by promoting consumption as a gateway to happiness and fulfilment. Twelve-year-old Timmy Valentine of S. P. Somtow’s Vampire Junction (1985) and Anne Rice’s brat prince Lestat in The Vampire Lestat both directly engage with MTV’s image factory to ensnare victims, but also, in Lestat’s case, to gain new forms of adulation and to confess ancient vampiric secrets; to be immortal is not enough if no one pays attention. Vampire Junction wallows in Timmy’s narcissism and childish demands, a feature which extends to all aspects of his achievements and fame: Caught in arrested development as an angelic boy soprano and castrato, his continued vocal ability is a by-product of the magical initiation that deprived him of further physical maturation, rendering him a child star forever. Denied his reflection (and thus seeking means to make his mark on the world), Timmy possesses a room of mirrors, which only reflects its own emptiness. For Timmy (and his Postmodern kind in similar narratives) becomes the societal mirror writ large, beaming back the gaze thrust upon him: ‘I am a mirror. When people look at me they see themselves. It is not necessarily a part of themselves they want to recognize but it is there’ (Somtow 1985: 101). The selling of the vampire as an aspirational image—an creation which Latham observes is used to foster their ‘unapologetic visibility as a wanton fiend [which] allows [Lestat] to celebrate his predatory superiority while at the same time metaphorically expressing a subcultural deviance […] he at once feeds and feeds upon his youthful fans’ desires’ (Latham 2002: 129); this powerful sense of duality and trickery


taps into feelings of desire and predation in youth culture while enjoying the performative veiling of the truth that Lestat and Timmy are actually vampires. Speaking to his appointed psychiatrist Carla Rubens, which reads as being directly influenced by Suzy McKee Charnas’s The Vampire Tapestry, in that, the vampire Weyland and psychiatrist Floria have a near-identical interaction, Timmy reveals his inner conflict with the preMTV image of vampirism while attempting to convince Carla that he is a vampire: ‘Who am I? Lugosi, Lee, Langella? …Those movies that so fascinate you mortals only touch on the myths. I am not a myth, Ms. Rubens. I am a distillation of men’s most secret terrors, a summary of their million shapes of alienation. That is why I am hungrier than ever before – why for the first time I am being seen by millions, worshipped by children, lusted after by adults’. (Somtow 1985: 17)

By reducing the image of the vampire to performative gimmickry, it successfully hides actual vampirism in the public arena because it appears as a transfixing form of empty performativity. Marketing vampirism as a desirable teenage rebellion (and using MTV styled frenetic editing by spicing Timmy’s subjective interludes to emulate its frenetic pace and imagery) and fuelled by and combined with quixotic ‘fantasies of social wealth, sexual freedom, and youthful potency […] consumerist narcissism’ (Latham 2002: 99) and membership of the new bourgeoisie, this display of immortality emphasises the hollow nature of 80s culture which projects the myth of plenty but values nothing. Among the corporate elite, Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, whose characters obsess over their image and thoroughly enjoy their brazen vacuity and social cruelties, exudes a hard-edged slickness. Ellis’s serial killer, Patrick Bateman, narrates with obsessive detail his appearance, his cavalier attitude towards women, music, and drugs, and catalogues in minute detail his dysfunctional dependence on consumer luxuries as evidentiary proof of his personal worth; as an extension of such categorisation, he relishes in documenting an array of perverse pleasures from torturing and murdering victims, cast off as disposable or perceived to be socially adversarial, in excruciating detail. Quite simply, Patrick Bateman is a yuppie beyond constraint, with a fantastical taste for blood and suffering. Such connections between yuppie culture and vampirism (or



indeed serial killing) were not wholly the domain of Easton Ellis’s blank generation fiction; in a similar vein, Robert Bierman’s earlier vampire black comedy Vampire’s Kiss (1988) navigates iconic New York spaces— offices, cool nightclubs, high-ceilinged apartments—as isolating prisons of conformity, satirizing the yuppie vampire as the symptomatic fault line in late 1980s culture. This model of consumptive emptiness quickly turns murderous in both Vampire’s Kiss and American Psycho by navigating the expected standards of yuppie behaviour and twisting these expectations into violent expressions of mental illness. Vampire confessions, by now a well-worn feature of undead interiority in media, momentarily exposes the depths of psychosis in these texts rather than uncover any repressed truths. Patrick Bateman’s moment of self-realisation, articulated entirely within his own mind, exhibits his nihilistic, parasitic psychosis as nothing more than a flat, hollow reflection: There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I am simply not there. [Ellis’s emphasis] It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration. I am a noncontingent human being. My personality is sketchy and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent […] But even after admitting this – and I have, countless times, in just about every act I’ve committed – and coming faceto-face with these truths, there is no catharsis. I gain no deeper knowledge about myself, no new understanding can be extracted from my telling. There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing [Ellis’s emphasis] […]. (Easton Ellis 1991: 362)

Bateman’s inner disclosure, then, becomes is ironic play on the very notion that subjective confessions lead to understanding the other; there is nothing there, he reminds us, and so the reflection he stares at also becomes a receptacle for projected desires rather than articulating any profound secret truths. His consumerist vampirism, to make his mark, is rendered meaningless because it is performativity without a purpose, and his revelations, unlike the vast majority of the subjective undead, has meant nothing. This nothingness is what vampires largely rail against and is the very vortex that swallows Bateman whole. Vampire’s Kiss, from the offset, introduces its yuppie monster (and soon to be vampire) Peter Loew (Nicholas Cage) in a confessional mode


with his therapist, Dr. Glaser (Elizabeth Ashley), in which his tedious and meandering thoughts are frequently subject to self-indulgent over-analysis and scrutiny. Vampirism becomes a hyper-performed state that enables Loew to destroy the world around him, a world so intensely dissatisfying that its destruction is the only logical solution. His therapy sessions are supposed to instil understanding but are not framed as a release but rather a form of paralysed idle chatter about Loew’s sexual and business conquests, as we see him engage with little else. His voice is also amusingly odd—wavering between bizarre European inflections which peak when in the company of those he desires to impress—and simultaneously signals a desire to stand apart as a form of strange self-fashioned othering. His turn to vampirism, or at least emulating vampiric tendencies, is foreshadowed by his therapist who pinpoints his yuppie malaise as an acute expression of his disappointment with modern American life: ‘Somehow you were taught to expect something that wasn’t even halfway obtainable’, Dr. Glaser observes, an analysis which also neatly distils the late 1980s frustrations of Gen X authors (including Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney) whose blank fictions equally echo such disappointments (see Young 1992: 1–20). Loew’s position as a soured literary editor whose psychotic break is facilitated by such endemic malaise naturally reverts (in his mind) to traditional ciphers of power such as vampirism, which has also been emptied of joy in the late 1980s New York. His revelatory screams ‘I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire!’ are filled with hyperactive levels of incredulity but is met with street-level disinterest—to the public, he is another yuppie in the throes of a nervous breakdown. Loew’s misogyny is also emphasised as he attempts to control women around him before they abandon him once his true behaviour is revealed (in Loew’s mind, this parallels the completion of his vampiric transformation, which is intercut with the climactic conclusion of Murnau’s Nosferatu). In the end, despite professing his love for both his girlfriend Jackie (Kasi Lemmons) and his vampire progenitor Rachel (Jennifer Beals), they too are denigrated by Loew as mere ‘bitches and cunts’ for abandoning him, while Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso), his economically enslaved Hispanic secretary, must endure his abuse: Alva, there is no one else in this entire office that I could possibly ask to share such a horrible job. You’re the lowest on the totem pole here, Alva. The lowest. Do you realize that? […] It’s a horrible, horrible job; sifting through old contract after old contract. I couldn’t think of a more horrible



job if I wanted to. And you have to do it! You have to or I’ll fire you. You understand? Do you? Good. (Bierman 1989)

Unlike Patrick Bateman, who never overtly identifies with vampirism but actively fantasises about consuming anonymous others in the hope of attaining some form of mastery, Loew preys on Alva with hellish tasks, taunts her with obscene remarks and late nights at the office, feeding upon her obvious terror while his vampiric symptoms escalate. Drawing inspiration from Max Schreck’s performance as Count Orlok in Murnau’s Nosferatu, Loew, wide-eyed and physically stiffening during moments of violence, can only inflict his powers on the physically incapacitated and disenfranchised. The steady encroachment of Loew’s psychosis into the diegetic realism of the film begins with the early revelation that he is talking to himself and rapidly escalates when he loses his reflection in the mirror (though we can clearly see him). Accepting his vampiric damnation, he purchases cheap oversized plastic fangs, wears his sunglasses indoors, and upends his sofa to serve as a makeshift coffin. Nonetheless, Loew’s transformation (whether real or imagined) is horrific at every turn: His killing of a coked-up young woman in a nightclub and raping Alva when her blank gunfire fails to deter Loew’s predation (a moment that further affirms his immortal delusions), to his eventual eating of a pigeon, all accentuate his heightened desperation to consume and destroy living things. At its climax, Loew talks to a wall on the street in a superb revelatory moment which is intercut with his final therapy session to emphasise his disclosures have gone nowhere (he has been talking to the wall all along) and that his subjective disclosures to us have merely been the rantings of a crazed yuppie. In his delusional final therapy session, in which Loew stands tall and proud while gazing out over the cityscape, he is absolved by Dr. Glaser for his crimes of the rape and murder of innocent women and is encouraged to find love as a panacea to all of his problems. While certainly scathing in its view of therapy as a personal ‘quick fix’ in yuppie culture, the film is also a disparaging critique on the softening of contemporary vampires who seek out and need love as a cure for their undead frustrations. Meandering through the streets of New York, bloodstained, dishevelled, and talking to walls, Lowe’s yuppie vampirism is horrifically exhibited as a self-destructive break with reality. The 1980s was a cultural decade of aggressively controlling the body in order to construct the perfect simulacra of success. Vampires


of the period became frail, sick and consumed, by disease, by psychosis, or scorched by sunlight. Their bodies are drained of vitality or become trapped within the economic machinations of MTV and yuppie culture. Attempts to form undead families ape Reaganite declarations of moral failure, while such undead formations ultimately reveal the horrors of enforced ‘family values’. The body is the core text of the decade, whether frail due to the ravaging of AIDS, blistered by the Religious Right’s policies, destroyed by slashers, or hollowed out in pursuit of the simulated images of desire and success. Worn weary from affliction and frailty, some vampires limped towards their deaths—‘the wisest of them were fatigued: unable to bear continual changing times [while others] crawled out of their stories to die’ (Auerbach 1995: 192). But death is often only the beginning for Gothic revitalisation.

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112  S. NÍ FHLAINN Mank, Gregory W. 1994. Hollywood Cauldron: Thirteen Horror Films from the Genre’s Golden Age. Jefferson: McFarland. McMahan, Jeffrey. 1991. Vampires Anonymous. Boston: Alyson Publications. Milligen, Stephen. 2006. Better to Reign in Hell: Serial Killers, Media Panics and the FBI. London: Headpress. Muir, John Kenneth. 2007. Horror Films of the 1980s. Jefferson: McFarland. Murphy, Bernice M. 2009. The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Newman, Kim. [1992] 1994. Anno Dracula. New York: Avon Books. Ní Fhlainn, Sorcha. 2010. ‘Introduction: It’s About Time’. In The Worlds of Back to the Future: Critical Essays on the Films, edited by Sorcha Ní Fhlainn. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. pp. 1–28. ———. 2016. ‘“There’s Something Very Familiar About All This”: Time Machines, Cultural Tangents, and Mastering Time in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and the Back to the Future Trilogy’. Adaptation. Vol. 9, No. 2. pp. 164–84. Pendry, Richard. 2006. ‘HIV “Bug Chasers”: Fantasy or Fact?’ BBC News. April 10. Accessed 10 December 2017. Reed, Christopher. 2007. ‘Obituary: The Rev. Jerry Falwell’. Guardian. 17 May. guardianobituaries. Rice, Anne. 1985. The Vampire Lestat. New York: Knopf. ———. 1988. Queen of the Damned. New York: Knopf. Rickels, Lawrence. 1999. The Vampire Lectures. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Rockoff, Adam. 2002. Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978–1986. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Romkey, Michael. 1990. I, Vampire. New York: Ballantine. Schneider, Steven Jay. 2003. ‘“Suck… Don’t Suck”: Framing Ideology in Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark’. In The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow, edited by Deborah Jermyn and Sean Redmond. London: Wallflower. pp. 72–90. Schopp, Andrew. 1997. ‘Cruising the Alternatives: Homoeroticism and the Contemporary Vampire’. Journal of Popular Culture. Vol. 30, No. 4 (Spring). pp. 231–43. Scott, Keith. 2013. ‘Blood, Bodies, Books: Kim Newman and the Vampire as Cultural Text’. In The Modern Vampire and Human Identity, edited by Deborah Mutch. London: Palgrave. pp. 18–36. Shaw Gardner, Craig. 1987. The Lost Boys. Toronto: Bantam Books. Simmons, Dan. [1989] 2010. Carrion Comfort. London: Quercus. ———. 1993. Children of the Night. New York: Warner Books. Skal, David J. 2001. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. 2nd ed. London: Faber & Faber.



Somtow, S. P. 1985. Vampire Junction. London: Gollancz Horror. Sontag, Susan. 1991. Illness as Metaphor/AIDS and Its Metaphors. London: Penguin. Stephanou, Aspasia. 2014. Reading Vampire Gothic Through Blood: Bloodlines. London: Palgrave. Strieber, Whitley. 1981. The Hunger. New York: Pocket Books. Van der Vliet, Virginia. 1996. The Politics of AIDS. London: Bowerdean Publishing. Vidal, Gore. 1987. ‘Armageddon?’ In Armageddon? Essays 1983–1987. London: André Deutsch. Waltje, Jorg. 2005. Blood Obsession: Vampires, Serial Murder and the Popular Imagination. New York: Peter Lang. Wertham, Fredric. 1954. Seduction of the Innocent. New York: Reinhart & Co. Williamson, Milly. 2005. The Lure of the Vampire: Gender, Fiction and Fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy. London: Wallflower Press. Young, Elizabeth. 1992. ‘Children of the Revolution: Fiction Takes to the Streets’. In Shopping in Space: Essays on America’s Blank Fiction Generation, edited by Elizabeth Young and Graham Caveney. London: Serpent’s Tail. pp. 1–20.

Filmography Alien. Dir. Ridley Scott, 20th Century Fox, 1979. Aliens. Dir. James Cameron, 20th Century Fox, 1986. Black Christmas. Dir. Bob Clark, Ambassador Films, 1974. Cannibal Holocaust. Dir. Ruggero Deodato, United Artists Europa, 1980. Friday the 13th. Dir. Sean S. Cunningham, Paramount, 1980. Fright Night. Dir. Tom Holland, Columbia Pictures, 1985. Fright Night Part 2. Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace, Tristar, 1988. Frontline: The Age of AIDS. PBS, 2006. The Goonies. Dir. Richard Donner, Warner Bros., 1985. Halloween. Dir. John Carpenter, Compass International Pictures, 1978. Last House on the Left. Dir. Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham Films, 1972. The Lost Boys. Dir. Joel Schumacher, Warner Bros., 1987. The Monster Squad. Dir. Fred Dekker, TriStar, 1987. My Best Friend Is a Vampire. Dir. Jimmy Huston, Kings Road Entertainment, USA, 1988. Near Dark. Dir. Kathryn Bigelow, F/M Entertainment, 1987. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dir. Wes Craven, New Line Cinema, 1984. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Dir. Jack Sholder, New Line Cinema, 1985. Nightmares in Red, White and Blue. Dir. Andrew Monument, 2009.

114  S. NÍ FHLAINN Once Bitten. Dir. Howard Storm, MGM, 1985. Peeping Tom. Dir. Michael Powell, Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors, 1960. Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Paramount Pictures, 1960. Rear Window. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Paramount Pictures, 1954. The Terminator. Dir. James Cameron, Orion Pictures, 1984. Thirst. Dir. Rod Hardy, New Line Cinema, 1979. Vampire’s Kiss. Dir. Robert Bierman, MGM, 1989.


Gothic Double Vision at the Fin-de-Millennium

In the final years of the Cold War, from the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991, American political culture seemed, on the surface, to continue broadly along the same ideological principles that had defined the Reagan era. President George H. Bush, previously serving as vice-president for both of Reagan’s terms of office, promised a continuance of these self-same ‘business as usual’ principles during his administration that had, in one cultural decade, shifted American belief from the corrosive decay of ‘stagflation’ and a national lack of confidence following the Vietnam War in the late 1970s, to a position of (outward) economic and political might by the late 1980s. In his final address to the nation on 11 January 1989, President Reagan reflected on his period in office and concluded that ‘what [critics and naysayers] called “radical” was really “right.” What they called “dangerous” was just “desperately needed”’. In this reassessment, Reagan sought to emphasise ‘the recovery of [American] morale […] respected again in the world and looked to for leadership’ and in so doing, offered a homely, feel-good version of ‘the American miracle’ of economic recovery and symbolic renewal on the world stage; the American people under Reagan collectively ‘meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world’ (Reagan 1989). Such rhetoric was commonplace in many of President Reagan’s speeches, in which he asserted his particular brand of patriotism and openly lamented a desire to return to the 1950s conservatism and values; at the end of the 1980s, he also recognised that the questioning of these © The Author(s) 2019 S. Ní Fhlainn, Postmodern Vampires,



same values was increasing, as gung-ho patriotism was slowly giving way to concern and doubt: Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. (Reagan 1989)

In essence, Reagan observed prescient issues on the horizon that would, with time, come to dominate the landscape of 1990s culture—a return to querying established histories through ‘New Historicism’, which mixed fact and fiction to create new realities that never existed, and, in the advent of such ‘spin’ (Palmer 2009: xi), a desire to reshape history and events as needed, in order to cover evident fissures in the broader culture. Under the 41st President George H. Bush, taking office only days after Reagan’s final national broadcast, 1989 would prove to be a year which shook empires and, in the face of democracy’s ‘victory’ over communism with the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, quietly sowed seeds of doubt in the homeland. National scrutiny inevitably turned inward—the president had to contend with the unrelenting sting of the ‘wimp’ label Newsweek famously tarred him with while he was on the campaign trail. Though successful in the 1988 presidential election campaign against Democrat Michael Dukakis, Bush nevertheless couldn’t fully rid himself of the earlier public ‘perception that he isn’t strong enough or tough enough for the challenges of the Oval Office. That he is, in a single mean word, a wimp’ (Warner 1987: n.p.). After all, Reagan was a former film star, a leader whose natural ability and ease in front of the camera cultivated an image of a fatherly patriarch, providing homely and (seemingly) trustworthy responses to national crises; Bush had a significant image problem in that he was chiefly identified by his subordinate public roles, and lacked the onscreen charm of his predecessor. Despite the persistence of this ‘wimp’ image, Bush’s confrontations with Manuel Noriega, serving as a ‘test of manhood’, ultimately resulted in the invasion of Panama, in order to detain the de facto leader (despite ‘failing to obtain legislative approval of the invasion beforehand’ [DeConde 2002: 249]); this action secured only a brief surge of praise in the press for his swift action, but did not cast off the damaging persistence of the ‘wimp’ and ‘follower’ labels that dogged him. Following the failure of international diplomacy and widespread political condemnation



of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, the US military bombing of Baghdad on 16 January 1991 was televised live on American news networks to demonstrate Bush’s response to Hussein’s refusal to withdraw to the wider world. The infamous live images of glowing green night-vision shots of Baghdad hailed by missiles not only brought about a new style of war broadcasting but also realigned war as a perverse form of nightly ‘infotainment’. The military campaign— lasting 42 days in total—hastened the war’s conclusion and crucially succeeded by temporarily realigning reigning perceptions that had, according to the New York Times, ‘overestimated Saddam Hussein [but] also underestimated George Bush’ (New York Times Op. Ed. 1991). The hesitancy of expressing national patriotism that Reagan lamented in his farewell speech only two years earlier was temporarily assuaged by Bush’s brief show of force, combined with the live-media coverage of the war beamed across the world, but this never fully instilled the sense of patriarchal security that Reagan roused during his terms in office. Bush would remain in his predecessor’s shadow. Nonetheless, these acts of national machismo uncovered cultural fissures through which a softening of masculine performativity ensued in popular culture, revealing hidden selves, fractured identities, and provoking introspection within the homeland. What began as national mythmaking of a glorious past (an irretrievably lost past openly lamented under the banner of ‘Family Values’) under the Reagan Revolution at the beginning of the 1980s produced an appetite to revisit and eventually revise history itself by the decade’s end. In his inauguration speech, President Bush called on Americans ‘to make kinder the face of the Nation and gentler the face of the world’ (Bush 1989); such a call would not only expedite the softening of the spectacular male bodies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in films such as Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), or Oscar (1991) in Hollywood cinema; by the turn of the decade, these cultural fissures would also transform Gothic social barometers such as vampires into doubles and split selves in increasingly humanised and empathetic forms (see Ní Fhlainn 2017). Susan Jeffords observes that in the action film at the turn of the 1990s, ‘[r]etroactively, the men of the 1980s are being given feelings, feelings that were, presumably, hidden behind their confrontational violence’ (Jeffords 1994: 144–5, original emphasis). Furthermore, across multiple film genres, from action films to science fiction blockbusters such as Lethal Weapon (1987) and Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991), 1990s sequels


to 1980s ‘hard body’ franchises embraced the cultural turn from Reagan to Bush whereby masculinity was reframed by ‘reproducing itself in this period through inversion rather than duplication’ (Jeffords 1994: 157). Men were embracing their inner emotions, which no longer needed to be suppressed, and muscled cinematic hard bodies revealed a previously untapped interior tenderness. Such splits provoked mainstream debates on masculinity’s complexities, which, with the rise of Gothic doubles and personal disruptions throughout the 1990s, flourished in later popular texts such as Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (1996) and American Beauty (1999) by the decade’s end. The evident fissures by the end of the 1980s became national fragmented shards by the end of the 1990s. 1990s Gothic culture amplified public and private divisions as forms of Gothic doubling through which private vices, darker selves, and public falls from grace were exposed and relentlessly pursued in tabloid media journalism and on national television as a form of ‘infotainment’; no longer confined just to water-cooler conversations, the 1990s featured some of the most explosive public exposures through new Gothic confessionals: Court TV, a variety of talk shows (from Oprah and Larry King to Jenny Jones and Jerry Springer), and most damning of all, the court of public opinion. From the televised trial of the Menendez brothers in 1993 to the acquittal of the police officers who were filmed brutally beating Rodney King, a ruling which resulted in the infamous 1992 LA riots and the televised attack on truck driver Reginald Denny, the city of Los Angeles from Beverly Hills to Watts suffered a particular set of dark exposures captured on live television, both within and beyond its courtrooms, in the early 1990s. Other Gothic cases and dark counterparts emerged on the national stage, including the 1992 Amy Fisher case, dubbed the ‘Long Island Lolita’ case, which partially inspired Alan Ball’s suburban Gothic film American Beauty; and the media-fuelled rivalry between national competitive ice skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding (in a fierce play on American class dynamics) in the run-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, which culminated in a strategic assault on Kerrigan by Harding’s estranged husband and his fantasist acolytes. Domestic horrors also caught national media attention: the Susan Smith filicide case; the (as yet unsolved) murder of child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey; and the bizarre case of John Wayne and Lorena Bobbitt where domestic violence became a horrific pun in the cultural lexicon following Lorena Bobbitt’s severing of her husband’s penis in 1993, only for him to become a selfstyled porn actor starring in the adult video Frankenpenis (1996) with a



surgically modified appendage. The shocking violence of the Columbine High School massacre on 20 April 1999 also bears significance, when teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered twelve of their fellow students and a teacher; their actions were subsequently blamed on goth and rock culture, and on violence in film and TV in the press, distracting attention away from the easy access they had to weapons and bomb-making ingredients to commit their atrocity, or what had triggered their fury to commit mass murder. The 1995 televised ‘trial of the century’ of O. J. Simpson on a charge of double homicide gripped worldwide headlines for almost a year, with each twist further amplified by CNN’s relentless TV coverage. Sexual molestation allegations against Michael Jackson in 1993 fuelled tabloid speculation further about his increasingly bizarre public persona and private life. By the end of the decade, the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr also featured lurid sexual details about the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, proving that inner demons and moral decay had spread from the staged televised brawls of Jerry Springer through to the corridors of power at the White House. Of course, such confessions and revelations whet the national appetite for the flourishing of reality TV. National institutions equally came under public scrutiny for abuses of power; the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Presidency were now microscopically analysed via the near-ubiquitous turn to the 24-hour news cycle and were subject to fierce public scrutiny and litigation. The 1990s exposed the problematic entanglement of fact, subjectivity, and trial by media that lay the foundations for the decade’s explicit revisionism, cultural spin, and New Historicism in its popular literature and cinema, reflecting the cultural mood at large and demonstrative of ‘the constant spin and flux of nineties realities’ (Palmer 2009: xii). In technology, Apple, which was declining in the first half of the 1990s, rebounded with the return of co-founder Steve Jobs as CEO, while its leading competitor Microsoft, which began the decade as the vanguard in personal computing and, by extension, burgeoning Internet culture, ended the decade in antitrust hearings with the Department of Justice. The dot-com bubble on Wall Street, making millionaires out of small start-up businesses through speculative investment, waxed and waned and soon crashed out by 2002, leaving only a few Internet businesses unscathed; the dot-com legacy, however, built the digital and culture infrastructure of much of the web today, including Google, eBay, and


Despite the boom in economic prosperity during the decade, the 1990s also included a spike in public awareness of homeland splinter groups and terrorist activities. These violent incidents included the 11-day stand-off at Ruby Ridge in August 1992, and the 51-day siege 1993 of David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, resulting in 76 deaths; both events are regarded as significant flashpoints for the rise of the militia movement, fuelling intense distrust of the American government and its federal agencies. The subsequent bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in April 1995 was equal parts revenge for the deaths at Ruby Ridge and Waco at the hands of the ATF/FBI and a private war waged by extreme right-wing militants and separatists, groups whose destructive actions often cite fascist fantasies of racial segregation and political destruction, as drawn from William Luther Pierce’s infamous novel The Turner Diaries (1978). Compelled to rise up against the American Government as their perceived common enemy, the horrors at Waco, Oklahoma, and Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber campaign (to publish his political manifesto ‘Industrial Society and Its Future’ [1995]) all pointed to profound disconnection and separatist rage within the homeland, in striking contrast with the seemingly cool veneer of the Clinton administration. Overlooked places in the heartland resented the ‘Washington elite’ who had become too liberal and too far removed from traditional American values, or so the criticisms insisted. As Eric Hobsbawm notes, ‘[a]s the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, the mood of those who reflected on the century’s past and future was a growing fin-de-siècle gloom’ (Hobsbawm 1994: 6), an observation which Catherine Spooner echoes in her evocation of the ‘clusters of Gothic activity – novels, art, cultural decadence – that accompanied the 1790s, 1890s and, ultimately, the 1990s’ (Spooner 2006: 21). David Punter astutely observes that such evident Gothic resurgence has ‘something quite specific to do with the turn of centuries, as though the very attempt to turn over a new leaf unavoidably involves conjuring the shadow of the past’ (Punter 1999: 2). On cue, Satan re-appeared with aplomb in horror cinema; in 1999 alone, End of Days, Stigmata, and The Ninth Gate each involved Satanic or demonic conjuring as a fantastic disruption, employed as a means to articulate millennial angst, with varied box-office success, while unruly eco-crises such as Twister (1996) and Volcano (1997), planet-shattering disaster blockbuster Armageddon (1998) and its gloomy twin Deep Impact (1998), and alien invasions in



Mars Attacks! (1996) and Independence Day (1996) all keenly capitalised upon the (seemingly inevitable) return of ancient dark forces or end-time interstellar or celestial catastrophes revivified just in time for the anxious dawn of the new millennium. For all of the hope of economic and peacetime prosperity promulgated by the Clinton administration throughout the decade, dark fissures and divisions within American popular culture became visibly evident and found its most visibly creative expression in the Hollywood rejuvenation of Gothic and horror cinema.

Recuperating and Hybridising Horror in the 1990s The Gothic doubling evident in the 1990s concerns the inner division of the nation exposed outward, ‘giving expression to the conscious self-division, opposition, contradiction and ambiguity, and often shad[ing] off into, or interpenetrat[ing] with, related approaches and forms’ (Herdman 1990: 11). While split selves and darker doubles are a mainstay in American Gothic fiction more generally, such moods rising up, which mark the end of the Reagan era, call attention to issues which cannot remain repressed in the culture at large; Masculinity had reached a crisis point whereby it was regarded as both monolith and joke […] Hollywood produced a split masculinity, which performed traditional roles of gendered identity while also acknowledging its ironic, meta-textual status […] Yet, this knowledge also began to infiltrate the strongholds of masculine power. (Greven 2009: 16)

These evident splits, inversions, and cultural fractures in the late 1980s and early 1990s produced multifocal representations of horror too. An early indication of horror’s increased legitimacy emerged when Kathy Bates secured her Best Actress Academy Award in 1991 for her role as Annie Wilkes, a monstrous constant reader and murderous number-one fan of author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) in Misery (1990), adapted from Stephen King’s superb 1987 novel. Like its source novel, Misery is about mass production and its punishments, about the tensions and pitfalls of popular fiction scorned in critical circles. Inverting expectations further, it is King’s Gothic double, the writer protagonist Paul Sheldon, whose ‘resurrection’—of both himself and fictional heroine Misery Chastain, both of whom are rescued from being buried alive in their respective tales (see Sears 2011: 111)—foretells horror’s remoulding


and rehabilitation from its perceived derisive depths of sequelisation and straight-to-video hell in the late 1980s. Misery repositioned horror as a genre which could (again) achieve high-brow recognition from conservative institutions such as the Academy when spliced and hybridised with more ‘palatable’ (in other words, less gory) genres such as the thriller, the drama, or the Gothic romance. The acknowledgement of horror as an almost-respectable genre was thankfully more than a lucky once-off. The commercial and subsequent industry success of Jonathan Demme’s (1991) Oscar-winning horror–thriller The Silence of The Lambs the following year is a testament to Hollywood’s embrace of the horror–thriller hybrid. Securing the coveted ‘Big Five’ awards—Best Picture (Kenneth Utt, Edward Saxon, and Ron Bozeman, producers); Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins); Best Actress (Jodie Foster); Best Director (Jonathan Demme); and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally)—in March 1992, it became only the third film in the Academy’s history to achieve this feat, following in the coveted steps of Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) and Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Horror’s time to shine had arrived. Soon after the success of The Silence of the Lambs, Hollywood felt it could safely embrace, if not wholly capitalise upon, this ‘acceptable’ taste for hybrid-horror cinema. Scripts that languished in development hell for years were green-lit (including Interview with the Vampire [1994], to which I will return later in this chapter), facilitating an accelerated boom in adapting Gothic literary texts to the screen with A-list casts and bigbudget spectacle. As Mark Edmundson observes, After Silence of the Lambs swept the Academy Awards, Coppola directed Dracula; Kenneth Branagh ran pell-mell through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Jack Nicholson became the wolf-man. Anne Rice has been enthralling readers with her sadomasochist vampire duo, Louis and Lestat. Stephen King […] has trumped all previous Gothic writers, with nearly 250 million books in circulation […] Terror has probably never been so hot, surely never so lucrative. (Edmundson 1997: 4)

Even smaller horror productions thrived on this industry success, with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) and Scream (1996), a brilliant intellectual couplet in Postmodernist horror (both with Craven at the helm), which rapidly revived and revised the condemned straightto-video hell slasher film. Both New Nightmare and Scream are also



extremely significant for their meta-textual exposures of the Gothic doubled self: New Nightmare features Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, and Robert Englund playing both ‘themselves’ and their onscreen characters; in the case of Scream, the film cleverly doubled up its final girls and killers. This trickle-down effect of interest in and widespread revival of the horror film aided horror film productions overall throughout the 1990s, ranging from prestige titles to low-budget fare, and nearly all owe a significant debt to Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Demme’s film perfectly captures the contemporary anxieties surrounding 1990s masculinity and its Gothic fragmentations, particularly in the bifurcation of its serial killers, Jame Gumb (Ted Levine) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). This splitting of its serial killers explicitly cites earlier Gothic templates, as Gumb’s patchwork ‘woman suit’ recalls Victor Frankenstein and his Creature, in its sutured grotesque remaking of the self with skins that ‘do not fit’ (Halberstam 1995: 163), and achieved through abhorrent destruction, stretching, and modification. By providing two serial killers in the narrative, one incarcerated (Lecter) and another on a killing spree (Gumb), Harris’s novel and Demme’s film literally split and double the societal threat so as to emphasise different representations of serial killing, and the societal taboos each killer contests, by way of the eating of human organs versus the wearing of human skin. Where Hannibal is intellectual and a man of good taste, ‘perusing the Italian edition of Vogue’ in his cell (Harris 2013: 17), Gumb is positioned as white trash, with Nazi leanings evidenced by the Swastika bedspread and visible fascist poster in the bowels of his squatter workshop in Demme’s film. Lecter’s mind palace and Gothic cell, decorated with his sketches of the Duomo in Florence drawn from near-perfect memory, contrast with Gumb’s nightmarish mind, the descent into which is articulated by the rich mise-en-scène of his labyrinthine basement with its ‘glowing moth hatchery; the skinning room with its mannequin displaying the patchwork “woman” suit; [and] the bathroom with its disintegrating corpse in the bathtub’ (Ní Fhlainn 2016: 197). The fruits of each serial killer’s labour not only reveal their status as inside/outside the gaze of the law but also indicate their method of consumption, be it Lecter’s ingesting of internal organs or Gumb’s desire to display his gory trophies. Where Lecter is a patron of the arts and an intellectual, Gumb is a tailor—working under the name Mr. Hide, a Gothic allusion and terrible pun (Harris 2013: 373)—a skilled labourer who stitches and sews together the hides of his coveted materials; like


his moths who can drink tears for survival (120), he too lives off the tearing of fabric and flesh, and viciously mimics the terrified tears of his captive. Where Lecter represents the idealised master criminal of fiction, characterised through Conan Doyle’s fiendishly brilliant Moriarty while equally drawing on Stoker’s hypnotic Dracula and his academically gifted nemesis, Van Helsing, all fictional embellishments routed through European fin-de-siècle Gothic citation, Gumb is a composite of real American serial killers: a gruesome fusion of the documented crimes of Ed Gein, Gary Heidnik, and Ted Bundy, in particular via Gein’s skinning of corpses, Heidnik’s basement well in which he tortured his victims, and Bundy’s disarming trickery by wearing arm casts to appear vulnerable to lure women. Gumb is formed from a triad of true crime references that are ‘explicitly of American origin’ (Ní Fhlainn 2016: 197). Certainly, The Silence of The Lambs is a hybrid film, a seamless combination of a police procedural, a fairy tale, and a Gothic horror–thriller, which relishes in its representation of Lecter as its dark vampiric seer. Demme’s cinematic grammar reinforces this Gothic form through Lecter’s explicit thirst for personal knowledge from Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), his wide-eyed stares (often shot by cinematographer Tak Fujimoto in prolonged and tightly framed claustrophobic close-ups), probing the darkest recesses of her childhood memories to sup from her personal pain. Visually, his Plexiglas cell in Baltimore and the elaborate Francis Bacon-esque cage in the Tennessee Courthouse each intensify his penetrative stare and dangerous touch, while the enforced use of a leather mask covering his small yet lethal mouth enhances his spectacular vampirism all the more. In the Tennessee Courthouse, he makes good his escape through self-gratifying displays of vampiric cunning and orality; a playful yet fatal trap is set comprised of displays of elitism (the diegetic use of J. S. Bach’s ‘The Goldberg Variations’ becomes a repeated aural cue of Lecter’s lethal nature, especially in later films and television series), of his gourmand’s taste (‘lamb chops, extra rare’—a playful allusion on Starling’s final personal revelation to him), and his talents and creativity (‘mind the drawings, please’ he instructs his guards, as he deftly picks the lock of his handcuffs), all to create a fleeting false sense of ease and momentary carelessness, which results in two violent and opportunistic murders to facilitate his escape. Subjectivity, identity, and Gothic signifiers are playfully fluid and doubled throughout both Harris’s novel and Demme’s adaptation. Lecter is presented as a fragmented chimera depending on who does the looking:



to Fredrick Chilton, he is a ‘monster’ and supposed ‘nemesis’; to Jack Crawford, he is a dangerous psychoanalytical subject; his temporary custodians in Tennessee view him as a caged animal, or, as one deputy observes ‘some kind of vampire’, a more ambiguous remark left for us to ruminate on whether he is referring to either the captive Lecter or Gumb’s horrific crimes; Lecter is also misrecognised as Officer Pembry (Alex Coleman), borrowing Buffalo Bill’s modus operandi by wearing Pembry’s skinned face to enable his daring escape; but to Clarice (and by subjective extension to us) he is an oracle. Even Lecter’s escape is an assemblage of clever foreshadowing and echoed citation about the Buffalo Bill case—the skinned face of Pembry to assume a new identity; the transformative moth mimicked in the symbolic use of Boyle’s (Charles Napier) body, emphasising an exposed flap of his skin, and posed with a rearranged American flag and spotlights; and two crucial moments of misdirection (Pembry’s body atop the elevator, and Fredrica Bimmel’s delayed discovery) uncovered only by stray droplets of blood and a wandering moth in Gumb’s home at the film’s climax. The film is rampant with doubles and playfully doubled characters throughout, further spiralling as Gothic echoes: Crawford and Starling’s dead father are twinned to reinforce patriarchal oversight over Starling, as marker’s of personal influence, and moral fortitude; Gumb and Lecter, as Victor Frankenstein and Count Dracula respectively, provide the Gothic horrors from the literary past now made manifest in the everyday world. Clarice’s memory of her lamb is metaphorically and visually mirrored in Catherine Martin’s (Brooke Smith) capture, only to be then further appropriated and inverted by Catherine’s opportunistic entrapment of Gumb’s dog Precious to barter for her life. When Starling looks down the well to check Catherine is still alive, she is also simultaneously looking back at a reverberation of her childhood memory of running away clutching her ill-fated lamb as described to Lecter; the clutched poodle’s coat in Catherine Martin’s arms fleetingly resembles a lamb’s fleece. Furthermore, through playful doubling and inversion, the power of the senses are amplified with meaning: Lecter’s brief touch of Clarice’s finger during their final meeting echoes Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ (1512) to visually mimic Lecter’s bestowing of the final clue in her case file to light the way towards solving the case; in direct contrast, Gumb’s terrifying near-touching of her face accentuates her temporary blindness in his blacked-out basement where only her hearing can save her. Gumb’s amplifications of his senses—a skin-suit to feel like a woman, his desire to see in the dark like a moth—are distinctly unnatural


physical extensions that foreground his violations of the natural order. Lecter sketches ‘the Duomo as seen from the Belvedere’ (in Florence) while Gumb is eventually tracked down in Belvedere, Ohio. The clues provided by Lecter to the FBI about Gumb’s true identity are equally playful as chemistry jokes: ‘Billy Rubin’ in the novel refers to bilirubin, an agent which affects stool colouring in human faeces, and is the precise colour of Dr. Chilton’s hair (Harris 2013: 310); in the film, ‘Louis Friend’ is an anagram of iron sulphide, a shiny chemical compound known as ‘fool’s gold’. As the film’s codes suggest, doubling runs rampant from minute clues to overt Gothic citation, priming the viewer to take note of such divisions in wider culture. As Judith/Jack Halberstam observes, The Silence of the Lambs gives voice to whispers from the Gothic margins, and ‘hums with the murmur of vampires’ (1995: 163). Never fully silent, its ambient noise, humming screens, and whines aurally colour a version of the world where monsters use their voices to inflict pain (Lecter’s words cut to the quick) or horrify (Gumb’s tormenting mimicry of Catherine’s cries down the well). Bill’s victims are permanently silenced, and yet, a haunting final breath is audibly released when the moth cocoon is found in the sixth victim’s throat in West Virginia, housing a plugged last breath that secretes a vital clue. Vision is equally vampiric, as Harris’s repeated description of Lecter’s eyes is shrouded with vampiric suggestion, giving rise to a fiery infernal nature revealed through the flashes of colour that glint in his eyes which ‘are maroon and they reflect the lights in pinpoints of red. Sometimes the points of light seem to fly like sparks to his centre’ (Harris 2013: 18), distinctly echoing Jonathan Harker’s description of Count Dracula, whose ‘eyes were positively blazing. The red light in them was lurid, as if the flames of hell-fire blazed behind them’ (Stoker 1997: 43). David Sexton cogently observes a distinctive trail of and taste for blood that shadows Lecter’s literary presence; like Dracula, Lecter’s heritage recalls distinctive historical bloodlines but also leaves a trail of drained victims whenever he comes directly into view: We learn in Hannibal that, like Dracula, Lecter is a Central European aristocrat. His father, too, was a count and believes himself to be descended from a 12th century Tuscan named Bevisangue (blood-drinker). Like Dracula, Lecter drains his victims. After meeting him for the first time, Clarice Starling feels ‘suddenly empty, as though she had given blood’. (Sexton 2001: 86)



Despite these clear hints which delight in suggesting Lecter’s vampirism and Gothic antecedence, his chimeric instability comments on the fragmented representation of evil at the time of the novel’s publication in 1988, only to be further amplified in popular culture by the time of the film’s release in February 1991. Of all of Lecter’s ‘adversarial’ profilers or asylum visitors, Starling never fails to be respectful and remains intellectually curious by his perceptive insights on her case; in their ‘quid pro quo’s, they pique and probe each other’s psychological depths to offer reciprocal opportunities at advancement. Mina Murray similarly understands and respects Dracula’s tormented depths in Francis Ford Coppola’s romantic revision of the novel; unlike those who hunt him down for revenge or strange sport at its conclusion, Mina restores Dracula back into the celestial embrace of his long-lost wife, bestowing unto him a good death by enabling his release from vampirism. This recapitulation, solely an additional romantic bookending to Stoker’s source novel by scriptwriter James V. Hart, enables Dracula to return to his stable, youthful self under the heavenly shaft of light of God’s embrace, re-joined with his wife under golden starlight at its conclusion. So too is Clarice’s lasting connection to Lecter written in the stars: in Lecter’s own letter to her at the novel’s conclusion, he observes, ‘Orion is above the horizon now, and near it Jupiter, brighter than it will ever be again before the year 2000 [….] But I expect you can see it too. Some of our stars are the same’ (Harris 2013: 421). Such celestial invocation infuses this final exchange with a lingering, quasi-romantic charge, a reminder that the timeless nature of starlight ultimately binds them together. Soon after the Oscar success of The Silence of the Lambs, Coppola’s revision of Dracula, long overdue after a lull of almost 13 years in Hollywood cinema, capitalised upon Gothic horror’s newfound industry favour. Released with an aggressive marketing strategy to cross the boundaries of genre, Coppola’s lavish production was ‘consumed as the latest creation of an auteur, a star vehicle, a reworking of a popular myth, an adaptation of a literary “classic”, as horror, art film or romance, or as a mixture of these genres’ (Austin 2002: 114). By casting Anthony Hopkins to play opposite Dracula (Gary Oldman) as Abraham Van Helsing, Coppola sought to tap explicitly into the success of The Silence of The Lambs, with its Gothic style and ‘neo-feminist orientation’ (Austin 2002: 117). This Count Dracula is presented not solely as a monster but rather is sympathetically inflected as a forgotten viral being longing for


compassion and love. Silver and Ursini note of this new treatment, ‘[a] fter Dracula floats in and proclaims, as in the novel, that “this man is mine” the filmmakers add another line […] “Yes, I, too, can love. And I shall love again”’ (Silver and Ursini 1997: 156). This revision sets up the narrative arc to follow and deliberately taps into earlier sympathetic versions of the Count which had previously gained traction such as Dan Curtis’s revision of Dracula in the 1970s (for more on this, see Chapter 2). As Rick Worland notes, this gave Coppola and screenwriter Hart the opportunity to keep him onscreen for longer periods, unlike the Hammer horror pictures in which Dracula is increasingly silent or absent for long stretches in the narrative. Hart’s screenplay ‘made him a more complex character, preserving the vampire’s larger social impact while showcasing settings and special effects […]. [The film] is a love story as well as a commentary on the character’s cultural evolution’ (Worland 2007: 256). Yet again, doubles abound in this lavish retelling of the tale, informed not only by the literal doubling of some cast members, but also the film’s own distinctive echo of earlier famous versions of Dracula (and McNally and Florescu’s own popular scholarly book In Search of Dracula) to expand upon the margins of the novel and to reconfigure its Gothic nature and marketability for a new and younger audience. Dracula’s crusade is not to colonise or threaten the Empire as Stoker’s invading revenant did but rather to reclaim his wife, now reincarnated in Mina Murray (Winona Ryder), who he lost centuries earlier to suicide. In Coppola’s ‘origins’ prologue, Prince Vlad Dracul of Transylvania defends his country in a religious war against the invading Moslem Turks. Upon his return from battle, he discovers his bride Elisabetha (also played by Ryder) has flung herself into the river in grief, believing false news of Vlad’s death. This visual revelation of her demise is superimposed over her suicide note (and thus doubling Ryder within the same shot as Elisabetha’s body lies dead in the lower half of the frame) to underscore the uncanny nature of the film’s cinematography with its superimpositions and splicing, and the direct doubling associated with both the reincarnated Mina Murray and with Abraham Van Helsing centuries later. In an act of pure anger at the betrayal of his lost bride and the proclamation of her damnation by an elderly priest (also played by Hopkins) for her sin of suicide, Vlad pierces the chapel’s cross (which bleeds spectacularly) and renounces his faith in God. This trauma ruptures time, as life is extended (for Dracula) and looped (for Mina and Van Helsing); not only



does it set up the narrative of Dracula’s transformation to vampirism, but it also replays and explodes outward a version of this same battle again via reincarnated doubles centuries later. Costume design is quite significant in Coppola’s Dracula; securing an Academy Award for Eiko Ishioka in 1993 for her sumptuous designs, they are visually arresting set pieces in their own right. Coppola specifically designed some of the costumes with Ishioka and produced a book on them as part of the film’s aggressive merchandising campaign, given the prominence of their visual opulence in the film. Indeed, the costumes stand apart against the sparse backdrop in many memorable scenes in the film, amplifying the particular use of Victorian-styled experimental fusions of fabric, which denote Dracula’s blood-red contagion and suggestive Satanic otherness; Lucy’s (Sadie Frost) sexual awakening once infected is expressed in a suggestive manner in orange and red chiffon nightdresses, and Mina’s high-buttoned repression, which gives way to a red open-neck ball gown once she becomes infatuated with Prince Vlad, are prominent examples. Of noteworthy importance is Lucy’s costuming, particularly her embroidered entwining ‘snake dress’, which suggestively references the phallic temptations that consume her (as does her lusty innuendo with Quincey Morris about his large bowie knife while wearing this dress); more infamously, her stunning lizard-collared bridal gown, in which she is buried on her wedding night, underscores the cold-blooded horrors of her vampiric infection, the metaphor made complete in her abduction of a child to feast upon in her crypt while wearing the layered garment. The too-many folds of its white fabric and upstanding collar rigidly clothe her corpse in full—in stark contrast with her earlier flashes of undress when she runs hot and infected with fever and sexual desire with Dracula in the graveyard. Her wedding gown overtly proclaims her innocence prior to death, but her marble pallor and uncanny movements pervert this bridal image. This wedding dress becomes a shroud, a ceremonial gown typically worn only once that Lucy shall adorn forever. Similarly, Dracula is explicitly restyled onscreen; gone are the tuxedos and capes of Balderston and Deane, and Browning’s film, replaced with a decorative Japanese kimono, a golden ceremonial vestment, and a crimson suit of armour which resembles musculature beneath freshly flayed flesh. In particular, when we first encounter Dracula wearing his blood-red kimono with its five-foot train, we are cued to recognise his viral ‘blood trail’ in the narrative in the fluid movement of the fabric. The most visceral costume is the armour of the Order of the Dragon,


the antecedence of which can be traced back through anatomical drawings of the human body in The Wound Man (1528), Titiano Vecelli’s The Flaying of Marsyas (1575), William Hogarth’s Four Stages of Cruelty (1751), and medical sketches from Gray’s Anatomy (1858). This skinned-style armour codes Dracula’s body as human and ‘open’ to infection before any supernatural transformation has occurred; once Dracula renounces God, his many guises and transformative ‘skins’ take effect as a form of fluid costuming. As Darryl Jones suggests, Coppola’s Dracula is a changeling, provoking ‘a question of the nature or source of the gaze, for Oldman’s Dracula looks different depending on who does the looking’ (Jones 2002: 97). With each costume change, another ‘face’ is presented to the audience, the only spectator privy to all five chimeric representations: young Dracula; old Dracula; hybrid Lycanthrope/­ simian Dracula; bat/vermin Dracula, and vapour/mist Dracula, with evident transitions and instabilities as he fluidly shifts between guises and between worlds both old and new. Above all else, Coppola’s Dracula is in love with the medium of cinema. The film bookends the twentieth century by using spectacular special effects pioneered by George Méliès and the Lumière brothers in early silent cinema to showcase this Dracula’s spectacular re-emergence at the end of the twentieth century. Eschewing modern CGI visual effects for earlier cinematic trickery, Coppola (along with his son Roman Coppola) visually emphasise that the film’s core artistry was to foreground cinema as a celebration of shadows and light: its cinematography veers wildly using cranes, varied film speeds, and shots captured in reverse, and utilising old silent techniques and tricks to achieve a timeless and celebratory fevered dream. From forced perspective shots of models and miniatures, front and rear projection, partial and double negative exposures and splices, body doubles and chiaroscuro lighting, to the inspired use of a hand-cranked Pathé camera employed to document Dracula’s arrival in London, the film is a phantasmagoric vision of fragmented subjectivities and documents, a visual emulation of the novel’s epistolary form. Coppola aligns the wonder of the cinematograph with the arrival of the vampire to the Empire’s capital to emphasise that while both Stoker’s novel Dracula and cinema are incepted during the fin-desiècle, both truly reign over the twentieth century. This metaphor is crystallised in the cinematograph theatre when Dracula and Mina, about to embrace for the first time across centuries, briefly stand in the foreground while Coppola’s ‘remake’ of the Lumière



brothers film L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1896) is projected in the background—a tantalising mix of technology, modernity, and wonder to recreate and blend in real and remade footage as a Postmodern hall of mirrors. Auerbach finds the film redundant in comparison with Dan Curtis’s 1974 TV film version, describing Coppola’s style as ‘kaleidoscopic and illogical’, suggesting that ‘a Postmodern Dracula may be a contradiction in terms’ (Auerbach 1995: 208–9, n. 16), and Botting announces the film as the death of Gothic itself, ‘divested of its excesses, of its transgressions, horrors and diabolical laughter, of its brilliant gloom and rich darkness, of its artificial and suggestive forms’ (Botting 1996: 180). Nevertheless, there is much richness to tease out of Coppola’s methodology, not least of which is that this Dracula, and the various Draculas the film lovingly references, endure through the medium of cinematic reference, reversals of characterisation, thoroughly attuned to Postmodernity’s playful possibilities through continued remaking, bricolage, and the Count’s sympathetic subjectivity. Nonetheless, Auerbach is ultimately accurate in her appraisal of the film’s resolute contribution to 1990s Draculas onscreen; this Dracula ‘fades out with the twentieth century’, (Auerbach 1995: 208–9, n. 16) only to be reborn and revised anew, again, at the dawn of the new millennium.

Dark Gods, Body Thieves, and Devilish Interludes: Continuing Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles The Tale of The Body Thief is the fourth vampire novel by Anne Rice in her Vampire Chronicles series. A self-contained novel, which intermingles with aspects of the thriller genre rather than providing the usual detailed tapestry that characterises her vast vampire mythology, The Tale of the Body Thief primarily focuses on knowing and experiencing the impossible as Lestat seeks to re-experience his lost corporeal and frail human form in a daring body swap. For Lestat, to be human is the last bastion of mystery for him after experiencing every conceivable high provided by vampirism; his desire to know again that which he took for granted in his mortal life consumes him and he longs to regress into this long-forgotten physical state. After his attempted suicide in the Gobi Desert, and his realisation that Akasha’s blood (with which he was infused in Queen of The Damned) has made him virtually indestructible, a lack of purpose begins to overwhelm him as he now exists as a


form of ‘dark god’ (Rice 1992: 2, her emphasis). He encounters Raglan James, an excommunicated member of the Talamasca (an ancient organisation which observes supernatural beings including vampires), whose unique ability to switch bodies with others leads him to Lestat. While Lestat wishes to re-experience human fragility, Raglan James desires the power of taking life through drinking blood: “‘I want to take life when I drink it. That’s the point, isn’t it? It’s not merely the blood you steal from them, it’s their lives. I’ve never stolen anything that valuable from anyone.’ He gave me a knowing smile. ‘The body, yes, but not the blood and the life’” (Rice 1992: 191). James persists with the body swap, seducing Lestat with promises of real human experience and the beauty in the mundane details of everyday life: ‘Use me or you’ll never know what it’s like to be a human being again […] You’ll never know what it’s like to walk in the sunlight, to enjoy a full meal of food, to make love to a woman or a man’ (Rice 1992: 193). With the body swap complete, James swiftly disappears with Lestat’s powerful body, leaving the frail and mortal Lestat in a previously stolen body and in considerable discomfort and forced to fend for himself. What is most striking about Lestat’s initial transformation back to a helpless human form is his absolute focus on cleanliness. He repeatedly washes his hands and convulses at the smell of his own urine. The thought alone of excrement passing through his new body nauseates him. What emerges here is Rice’s strict purification of the vampire body as fantastic immortal flesh stripped clean of all impurities. The sterile vampire body (unable to produce either faecal waste or sexual fluids) is far more advantageous than the mortal condition that Lestat craved to re-experience. Narratively thrust back into the familiar experiences of his readers (whom he directly addresses in its opening pages), Lestat’s human adventure marks a doubled departure from the significant powers rewarded by the fantastic vampire body. Previously orally fixated, Lestat rediscovers the leaky and abject nature of having two additional forgotten holes as a human male, the penile and anal, which are (re)opened and subsequently (re)experienced as sites of Kristevan discomfort, vulnerability, and abjection. Much like the Gothic Faustian bargain, the pleasures he so longs to experience prove to be worthless, as he finds that the ‘sickness’ of mortality and a hyper-awareness of his perilous fragility spoil his most desired experiences ‘of pleasures – eating, drinking, a woman in my bed, then a man. But none of what I’d experienced was even vaguely pleasurable so far’ (Rice 1992: 257). Like the uncanny hold



of a disease over the sufferer, he is alienated in his own (borrowed) skin as ‘the finest foods taste like sand and dirt, wine is a poor substitute for blood, and the tedious human necessities of eating, sleeping and defecating prove unutterably wearying’ (Joshi 2001: 240). In the same vein as Buffalo Bill/Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs, Raglan James is also a thief of skins, stealing the coveted bodies of unwitting others to experience undeath as a violent remaking of the self, a consumerist prize without a care for its consequences. Lestat’s decision to divorce from his own body to re-experience something utterly lost to him, as Rice affirms (Mulvey-Roberts 1999: 172), was partially inspired by her shock at watching The Silence of the Lambs and her moral objections to the film. Paradoxically, as Mulvey-Roberts notes in her interview with Rice about the novel, in order to safeguard Lestat’s ongoing existence, innocent lives are taken to defend and ultimately restore his immortality, as both the Postmodern body thief and Rice as author become skin strippers ‘who trade in body theft for the sake of a text’ (Mulvey-Roberts 1999: 170) to reveal new somatic explorations and commodification in vampire fiction. Rice’s deliberate inclusion of W. B. Yates’s ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ (1928) emphasises that the ‘“artifice of eternity” is superior to “the dying animal”’ (Keller 2000: 32), an experience we all must endure with the tragic passage of time; Lestat was never going to surrender his supernatural gifts for mere mortality, whatever the cost of his corporeal restoration. Observing a debt to the Faustian bargain in the philosophical exchanges between the transformed Lestat and his human confidant and Talamasca member David Talbot, Rice seeks to contemporise her vampire narrative by juxtaposing Lestat’s ever-present vampiric subjectivity with an uncanny somatic alienation facilitated by the body thief’s seductive charms and empty justifications. Furthermore, the novel also warns of the horrors to come by re-deploying explicit intertextual reference to H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ (1936) and Robert Bloch’s ‘The Eyes of the Mummy’ (1938) (for more on this, see Ceccio 1996: 163–72). Rice’s novel explicitly re-possesses (and intertextually re-enters) these earlier tales to flag up her debt to Lovecraft as ‘one of her important literary sources’ (Ceccio 1996: 166–7), an antecedent which she clearly acknowledges in her fiction yet publicly shies from. While The Tale of the Body Thief in no way bears the rich complexity and Gothic excesses clearly evident in Harris’s novel and Demme’s film, its inspiration is conspicuous in Rice’s tale through Lestat’s split physical experiences as a vampire and as a (temporary)


human. Lestat articulates his somatic and spiritual anxieties in agonising detail to foreground vampirism’s explicit dark twinning with human culture, which bleeds out into other vampire fiction also. The 1990s would prove to be a very significant time in Rice’s career. Publishing an additional three Vampire Chronicles within the decade (alongside seven other Gothic and horror novels), she also actively contributed to the cultivation of vampire tourism in New Orleans—thanks to her fan club’s costumed vampire ball and various themed book-launch parties—and walking tours of the city’s various Gothic sites and cemeteries that feature in the series. Consequently, New Orleans began to thrive as the city of vampires for tourists and Rice fans. While her contributions to vampire fiction and fandom were long-established, her public commentary and reactions to the upcoming screen adaptation of Interview with the Vampire in 1994 gave rise to enormous media coverage and renewed interest in her persona as the author of the ongoing Vampire Chronicles. Lingering at the margins as one of the most infamous un-filmed scripts in Hollywood for almost eighteen years, Interview with the Vampire was eventually green-lit as a project for Irish film director Neil Jordan by music-label producer and film producer David Geffen. An openly gay business magnate and Hollywood producer, Geffen’s influence greatly aided the breaking of the ‘development hell’ spiral which had stalled earlier attempts to make Interview with the Vampire by producing it through his company, Geffen Pictures. The venture was also aided in part by horror’s serendipitous cultural recuperation and long overdue recognition by the Academy, and in part by Jordan’s own Oscar success for his original screenplay for The Crying Game (1992) in March 1993. The extent to which Geffen’s industrial influence and financial savvy allowed him to realise the film adaptation should not be underestimated; in October 1994, a mere month before the theatrical release of Interview with the Vampire, Geffen, alongside co-founders Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, collectively helmed the creation of a major new Hollywood studio, DreamWorks SKG. Nonetheless, even with the now green-lit production underway, casting decisions and script alterations for Interview with the Vampire came under pronounced scrutiny and media commentary, not least thanks to Rice’s public denouncement of Tom Cruise’s casting as Lestat in a Variety notice, which prompted further press coverage and commentary. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she stated:



I was particularly stunned by the casting of Cruise, who is no more my Vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler. I told Jordan that myself [….] I’m puzzled why Cruise would want to take on the role. He’s a cute kid, on top of the world and on his way to becoming a great actor, but I’m not sure he knows what he’s getting into. I’m tempted to call up (CAA chief) Mike Ovitz and tell him that everyone will be gunning for his client. Cruise should do himself and everyone else a service and withdraw. (Dutka 1993: n.p.)

Such acidic commentary on Jordan’s casting decisions did little to ingratiate the author with Jordan and Geffen. Cast against type in a role for which he actively campaigned, including dyeing his hair blonde to meet Lestat’s physical description in the novel, the role provided Cruise with the opportunity to develop a darker complexity onscreen. Geffen rebuffed Rice’s over-anxious reaction when asked for comment, stating, ‘Cruise, I predict, will get a best actor nomination and Interview With the Vampire will be nominated for a best picture Oscar of 1994’ (Dutka 1993: n.p.), relying on Cruise’s casting against type to ensure box-office success and to amplify audience curiosity. While Geffen is certainly overcompensating in his response to Rice’s caustic reaction, many media detractors agreed with her position, viewing ‘the image of Cruise—his essential picture personality as an All-American, wholesome and youthful star—as antithetical to Lestat, a being motivated by homoerotic companionship and baroque bacchanalia in his insistent bloodsucking killing as a vampire’ (Marshall 1997: 114). Rice later retracted her earlier statement two days before the film premiered in the USA ‘and took out a two page advertisement in The New York Times in which she lavished praise not only on the movie itself but also on Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Lestat’ (McNally and Florescu 1995: 178). Casting tensions aside, a more likely reason for the long delay in adapting the influential novel to the screen, according to Harry M. Benshoff, was due to Rice’s explicitly homoerotic characters and Hollywood’s unease with homosexuality: According to Rice, Hollywood was for years afraid to make Interview because they didn’t want to ‘be accused of homosexuality in conjunction with child molesting’. Well-known Hollywood actors were supposedly afraid to play the parts of Louis and Lestat, worried that the characters’ implicit homosexuality might tarnish their chances for future heterosexual roles. (Benshoff 1997: 271)


Despite Jordan’s suitability ‘to direct, ostensibly because he had previously shown the ability to handle such queer matters in an acceptable (i.e. profitable) fashion’ (Benshoff 1997: 271) and deft filming of its so-called unfilmable script—Jordan substantially rewrote parts of Rice’s original script without a screen credit—significant changes were made to ‘heterosexualise’ or subtly mute the homosexual ‘Lestat/Louis dynamics [which] is played out as asexual familial bickering (of estranged husband and wife, or father and son)’ (Rockett and Rockett 2003: 157). In the lingering cultural shadow of President Clinton’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy (February 1994), a controversial legislative compromise on gay men and women serving in the military designed to render them invisible, which raged on in mainstream media debates, the more prominent queer inflections in Rice’s source novel were downplayed to avert the risk of marginalising its audience share. At one point, frustrated with the lack of progress in adapting the film to the screen prior to Jordan’s involvement, Rice had rewritten the role of Louis as a female character (slated to be played by Cher) in an attempt to redress the anxieties surrounding the film’s conspicuous queer content. In Jordan’s shooting script, issues which may have historically caused concern or backlash had eased somewhat within the culture at large (particularly the increased visibility of queer cultures in mainstream media), and a hybrid version of earlier drafts and recent script revisions informed Jordan’s vision: Louis’s torment in mourning his dead brother is replaced by a wife ‘who died in childbirth’ (Jordan 1994), while Lestat’s taste for young boys is merely hinted at in Claudia’s Trojan Horse peace offering to him of two young boys poisoned with laudanum. Claudia sustains much of her psychological angst and depth in her transposition from Rice’s novel to Jordan’s film, particularly in her keenly felt desire to become an adult woman. As Emer and Kevin Rockett observe: This becomes explicit in her attempt to touch (or appropriate) the body through drawing, and finally by killing her. But if, unlike the killer in Silence of The Lambs, she does not try to wear her skin, what she does is no less neurotic. Claudia buries the body in her bedroom under a pile of dolls she has been given (by Lestat) and obsessively collected, which mock her status as an eternal doll, ‘the eighteenth century equivalent of Barbie’. (Rockett and Rockett 2003: 151)

Although Claudia cannot ever ‘become’ a woman just as Buffalo Bill/ Jame Gumb cannot satisfactorily alter his biological gender, both



nonetheless cling to the notion of transformation and consumption of their ideal state through violence and murder. Both characters fit the trope of being permanently stuck in the liminal pain of ‘betwixt and between’, and lash out violently when their covetous gaze is discovered. Yet, Interview with the Vampire does not shy away from full-frontal female nudity, and The Silence of the Lambs not only dares to show Buffalo Bill’s revealing dance with his penis tucked in, but also provided a glimpse of his ‘woman suit’ under construction. Other early-to-mid 1990s Hollywood films exemplify an increased move towards onscreen nudity during the decade; sex sold well in nineties releases such as Basic Instinct (1992) and Sirens (1994) (see Palmer 2009: 165–206) for titillation, but queer cinema, with its political edginess and activism, was still deemed problematic for mainstream release by most studios. The slow evolution towards mainstream acknowledgement of queer cinema, according to critic and scholar Emanuel Levy (2006: n.p.), was steadily advanced by film festivals, gay magazines, Hollywood middle-management, film critics, and the reception of screen depictions of the AIDS crisis. Mainstream exploration of HIV and AIDS included Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning Philadelphia (1993) and the MTV docudrama and pop-culture phenomenon The Real World: San Francisco (1994), in which activist Pedro Zamora openly spoke and educated others about his illness. The show featured the first televised same-sex commitment ceremony between Zamora and his partner Sean Sasser, and became a landmark in 1990s youth culture as ‘must-see-TV for teens and young adults, many of whom had never been exposed to a gay couple, much less someone living with HIV’ (Duke and Carter: 2013). Zamora’s death only hours after the final episode of The Real World: San Francisco was broadcast on 11 November 1994 heightened the emotional immediacy of his illness and the necessity of national AIDS advocacy, prompting President Clinton’s brief statement following Zamora’s death that ‘Pedro educated and enlightened our Nation’ (Clinton 1994). Reading events in a more cynical manner, Hollywood executives also discovered a neglected and previously untapped financial market to explore; and yet, despite the economic benefits for executives to tap, these images did profoundly contribute to changing queer representations in mainstream Hollywood and TV by the end of the decade. Interview with the Vampire’s casting also taps into canny screencasting of talented and sexy Hollywood stars to attain widespread media coverage and appeal to mass audiences, encouraging desirous gazes at the


beauty of Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Antonio Banderas, with their subtle vampiric amplifications captured in mesmeric close-ups. The film evidently relies on the power of star casting as a means to draw box-office profits, but equally, Jordan uses cinematic history, reflexivity, and intertextuality to foreground the passage of time in a similar fashion to Coppola’s star vehicle Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Towards the end of the film, Louis visits the cinema to cue the audience on the passing of time and the changing beauty of art and technology as these vampires firmly keep up to date with contemporary technology. By including iconic scenes from silent cinema—Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) and Nosferatu (1922), as well as Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind (1939), and Richard Donner’s Superman (1978)—we not only witness the passage of cinematic magic in its transition from monochrome to lavish colour, but also chart the vampire’s metamorphosis in popular culture from horrific outcast to doomed lover to moral superhuman. Louis’s voiceover, full of quiet awe, accompanies Jordan’s brief montage to align Louis’s subjective wonder and the technical evolution of the twentieth century with the advancements of the moving image. Louis describes the profound nature of cinema as a mechanical wonder [that] allowed me to see the sunrise for the first time in two hundred years. And what sunrises! Seen as the human eye could never see them: silver at first, then as the years progressed, in tones of purple, red and my long lost blue. (Jordan 1994)

At its sunrise conclusion, crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge and clad in lace cuffs and a leather jacket to signal his budding rock stardom as per Rice’s sequel novel The Vampire Lestat (1985), Lestat listens to Guns N’ Roses’ cover version of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, which ironically both closes the vampiric disclosures of Jordan’s film and its spiritual oscillations around the complexities of immortality and evil, and simultaneously foreshadows Rice’s next literary adventure, in which Lestat grapples with weighty theosophy, infernal temptations, and sublime divine revelations. Memnoch the Devil concerns itself with Lestat’s moral ambiguity, his burgeoning desire to become a saint and repent his sins as an immortal. An exploration of Rice’s own issues with her religious faith, Memnoch appears to Lestat to propose forging a new allegiance between them, to serve at the side of the prince of darkness in the nether-world, and



philosophically to aid Memnoch (a fallen angel punished by God for his sexual transgression with a mortal) to win the eternal debate on the ‘goodness’ of God. He divulges Lestat’s innate suitability to comprehend the complexity of divine and infernal forces, which dominate Rice’s later works—‘I chose you not so much because it would be easier for you to comprehend everything but because you’re perfect for the job […] of being my right hand instrument so to speak, being in my stead when I’m weary’ (Rice 1995: 136). Having chosen an exploration of perhaps the most identifiable religious dualism in Western culture, the JudeoChristian God and his cast-out fallen angel Lucifer (here Memnoch), Rice brings to the fore an interrogation of philosophical quandaries, as previously explored in Interview with the Vampire by Louis’s confession. The novel, clearly aligning itself with Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost (Hoppenstand and Browne 1996: 6), brings to the fore another contested subjective experience, for it is Memnoch’s recounted tale as told to Lestat only to be relayed to us which provokes ‘the question of his reliability […] but is virtually effaced by the problem of the Devil’s reliability’ (Wood 1999: 71). Furthermore, as the novel was initially slated as a conclusion to the Vampire Chronicles, if not certainly a resting point for Rice who had been grappling with illness, Memnoch’s frustrating conclusion arrests the most significant (and certainly the most interesting) development throughout the series—it abruptly ceases the development of the contemporary vampire in our world at its conclusion by reducing Lestat to an inert state, temporarily silencing the series’ most prominent subjective guide. For the remainder of the decade, Rice’s chronicles deeply frustrate by indulging secondary characters from her vast cast in detailed (and often dreary) biographical novels which function as isolated silos utterly marooned in the past. Until Lestat’s return in Prince Lestat (2014), the vast majority of the remaining Chronicles leading up to the fin-de-millennium intently look back, with Rice surveying and inserting key vampire figures from her undead world into significant periods of historical culture, in a fashion that loosely parallels Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s ever-expanding Saint Germain saga, which also situates its Byronic vampire hero at various crossroads in history. While Louis’s taped confession in Interview with the Vampire is almost exclusively mired in dreamy past memories, Rice had set her sequels as exciting contemporary responses to and explorations of vampirism in the 1980s and 1990s, which, with Memnoch the Devil’s philosophical oscillations and ponderings, comes


to an abrupt and unwelcome liminal coda by way of Lestat’s suspended, unfinished narrative. As the millennium draws to a close, with only more vampire histories to reassess and recount, Rice’s readers are requested directly by Lestat (and by his author) to allow her famed vampire to ‘pass from fiction into legend’ (Rice 1995: 354); we nonetheless remain unsure, as Wood queries, if the greater ‘hubris lies with Lestat or his author’ (Wood 1999: 72).

Undead Marginality and Addictive Complicity: Lost Souls, Cronos, and the Addiction The frail humanity so longed for by the vampire Lestat in The Tale of the Body Thief is inverted in Poppy Z. Brite’s articulation of pain and rage in Lost Souls (1992), with both novels offering polarising viewpoints on vampirism’s emotional complexities. Brite’s gritty gory teenage hedonism contrasts with Rice’s glossy supernatural adventure by exploring how vampirism is embraced as a means of expressing cultural disconnection. The emergence of cult writers and musicians narrating a sense of generational tension is a prominent feature of Brite’s first novel, which was adapted from a short story entitled ‘The Seed of Lost Souls’ (1987–1988). The novel concerns itself with Gothic underground movements, the teenage despair of being lost (as Generation X itself has been described—see Henseler 2012: 1), and articulates the evident frustrations and increasing nihilism of 1990s teenagers. Lost Souls’ protagonist Nothing repeats to himself, ‘I am Nothing’ (Brite 1994: 76, Brite’s emphasis), to paradoxically reinforce both his identity and his own cultural erasure. This slogan also seems to ‘echo the words emblazoned on the back of that year’s Nine Inch Nails promotional tour T-shirts, “Now I’m Nothing”’ (Siegel 2005: 79), a key phrase which has since been repeatedly used across Nine Inch Nails’ ephemera, and through which Brite simultaneously cites their musical influence and the resonance of teenage angst which informs the popular bands and cultural mood of the early 1990s. Brite’s violent, subcultural, and anti-establishment fiction, as established in Lost Souls, propelled her as the voice of the Gothic youth and a lost generation completely unable to connect with parental figures or societal expectations. Parents are represented as confused, unable to communicate or understand their children, while ‘these vampire teens leave their soulless broken homes, travelling from callow



suburban Washington D.C. through the aptly named Missing Mile, North Carolina, to New Orleans, searching for kindred vampire spirits’ (Gordon 1997: 46). The novel is both graphic and nihilistic about the future of this teenage generation. Nothing, the novel’s adolescent protagonist, is an adopted teenager who was left on a doorstep in Missing Mile, North Carolina, after his traumatic and destructive birth in New Orleans to a teenage girl, Jessy. His biological father, a vampire named Zillah, is oblivious to his existence. Heading a decadent teenage vampire trio with Molochai and Twig, Zillah decides the gang must return to New Orleans to revisit an old vampire friend Christian, whose bar, years earlier, was the site of Nothing’s birth and his mother’s violent death. Also on the road in this journey of discovery are Ghost and Steve, members of the southern rock band Lost Souls? whose music tapes are bootlegged and become Nothing’s prized possession. Their fates become intertwined when Nothing and his newfound vampire family flee to New Orleans after Zillah impregnates Ann (Steve’s ex-girlfriend). When Ann dies from the traumatic birth, violent revenge is taken as all the vampires are slain, and Nothing is rescued from his violent vampire family. Rob Latham compares the vampires of the novel to George A. Romero’s Martin, as ‘Brite’s vampires are aimless, working-class kids who know they are basically unwanted, superfluous, disposable; but unlike Martin, they don’t even have family to fall back on’ (Latham 2002: 134). In addition, in Martin and in Lost Souls, there is an overwhelming secular system surrounding the vampire, shrugging off earlier lore of magic and clichéd costuming as Martin does, while the vampire trio in Lost Souls drink decanted blood and alcohol, take powerful drugs, and, like Martin, laugh at vampire clichés and lore—‘for the blood is the life’, they mockingly cheer together in drunken stupor. These vampires are more akin to feral wayward teens than their Ricean ‘Coven of the Articulate’ counterparts whose undead adventures seem erudite and exclusive in comparison. For Brite, Goth and rock music are dominant cultural reference points for all of her characters, relating to specific bands and their symbolism, lyrics, and dress sense. Brite distinctly soundtracks her novels with contemporary bands and rock idols who embody the countercultural narrative of teenage angst and anger, with songs charting sexual desire and androgyny, inter-spliced with the mainstreaming of queer culture, and distinct lyrical pain. The celebrated masochism of Trent Reznor and his (then) New Orleans-based band Nine Inch Nails—whose label, Nothing Records,


coincidentally also emerged in 1992—articulates the joy to be found in the depths of despair and pain, a new kind of musical expression for middle America which would, over time, give way to the outward rebellious performativity of Marilyn Manson as a goth icon. Equally, Brite focuses on Bauhaus, whose song ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ forewarned of the emergence of new vampires on the horizon, most infamously in The Hunger (1983), and the heavily stylised Gothic style and vocals by Robert Smith and The Cure—a distinctive goth look that Brite emulated by replicating Smith’s hairstyle and make-up while writing Lost Souls. In particular, Smith is idolised for his androgyny, smudged make-up, and Gothic persona—a sexual catalyst for Nothing’s homosexual desires in his attraction to a poster of ‘Robert Smith’s lips enlarged several thousand times, smeared with hot orange-red lipstick, shiny and sexual […] Nothing wished he could fall into them, could slide right down Robert Smith’s throat and curl up safe in his belly’ (Brite 1994: 32). While The Cure’s lyrics are tinged with Gothic sentiment, they are musically upbeat and melodic (unlike the more morose tones of Ian Curtis’s band Joy Division, whom Brite casually references), whereas Nine Inch Nails read as distinctly complimentary to Brite’s imagined teenage angst and iconography. Brite’s teenage characters all participate in some form of sexual experimentation and drug use to drift away from their mundane suburban existence—a feature often punctuated by Brite’s references to Goth music in both Lost Souls and Drawing Blood (1993). She describes the teenage sexual experimentation by Nothing’s peers as a casual attempt at fashionable rebellion, where ‘bisexuality was much in vogue among this crowd. It was one of the ways they could feel daring’ (Brite 1994: 32) and a form of dissent against the domineering voice of the Christian Right, whose influence in Middle America has grown considerably since the early 1980s. In defiance of such sanitised religious devotion, the vampires (and wannabe vampires) consume images of rebellion fed through corporate mass marketing. The Cure is marketed to attract this particular fan base in the guise of serious non-conformity and a rejection of consumer fetishism, while simultaneously promoting themselves on corporate channels like MTV. The ‘rebel sell’ of goth style taps into the jaded American youth, whose parents survived the false promise of Reaganomics, only to find themselves trapped in a similar capitalist exchange. Female bodies are sites of temporary pleasures and lasting suffering for Brite, as she repeatedly warns of the capabilities of reproduction and its consequences. At times, Lost Souls seems to be a novel steeped in



the fear of unwanted pregnancy and the lack of control over the sexual openings of the female body. The novel does not make any explicit reference to HIV/AIDS (unlike Brite’s Exquisite Corpse [1996]) but does treat pregnancy as a disease growing uncontrollably within the female body, marking it ‘as [housing] the most important possible consequence of unprotected sexual encounters’ (Siegel 2005: 83). Male bodies are psychically peeled open, as evidenced by Ghost’s frequent weeping and hyper-emotional reactions, but physical suffering remains the domain of women. The post-birth vagina morphs from a site of male pleasure to a shredded wound—‘Ruined now, bloody’ (Brite 1994: 10)—and women are depicted as suffering fatal sexual consequences to which men remain unexposed; the coding of heterosexual encounters and the Gothic horrors of pregnancy become harbingers of physical annihilation. These horrors also extend to the female vampire body as evidenced when celibate vampire Richelle, whose rape results in pregnancy, rips the child out of her womb but perishes in her act of self-administered surgical abortion: ‘Even in the womb they are killers […] She tried to cut it out of her body. I found it in the ruins of her belly, half-hidden behind coils of entrails’ (Brite 1994: 277). The tyranny of unwanted pregnancy haunts Brite’s youths, and despite allusions to all of the abortive options these characters may have, the novel only adds to the anxiety surrounding and destructive consequences of pregnancy more generally in American culture in the period. This narrative corresponds with a national decline in teenage pregnancy rates in the USA from 1990 to 1995, a trend which has been attributed to increased use of contraceptives and fears of sexually transmitted diseases, and, in some religious communities, a rise in the overt emphasis of abstinence programmes (Lewin 1998: n.p.). President Clinton also reiterated caution about teenage pregnancy and the disintegration of the family and community structures, describing it as ‘our most serious social problem’ (Clinton 1995) in his 1995 ‘State of the Union’ address. In Brite’s metaphorical exploration of pregnancy as annihilation, the only means to survive perilous physical destruction via reproduction is to remain physically and psychically closed off to male/heterosexual influences, a vampiric form of abstinence to ensure survival. Unlike Brite’s female characters, deemed fatally physically ‘open’ (by lacking the male phallus) and subject to vampiric rape and sexual influence, only the male body can survive in her violent world. As Candace Benefiel astutely observes, for Brite, ‘the family can only consist of a father and children; no mother is possible’ (Benefiel 2004: 265);


Brite’s vampirism is fundamentally for and about the sexual celebration of male bodies, and like Rice’s own vampire mythology, is only invested in the subjective experiences of patriarchal forms of vampirism. In Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993), the only female spectator who remains closed off to change and vampiric influence is a child. Combining the elements of ‘insect mythology, alchemy and vampire mythology all into one […] coming from observations about alchemy, Catholicism and vampirism being intrinsically linked’ (del Toro 2006), del Toro’s film examines the vampiric tendencies of all people and religions and the alchemic collision between the natural and the unnatural world. Set in Mexico in 1997, Cronos, derived from the Greek word ‘khronos’ (meaning time), is concerned with the ravages and cyclical nature of time from the subjective experience of each character. In its fantasy-styled prologue, we are told the tale of a brilliant alchemist, Uberto Fulcanelli, who fled to Mexico in 1536 to escape the Inquisition. As the viceroy’s horologist, Fulcanelli was obsessed with devising a method to grant eternal life, devising the Cronos Device in a fusion of horological alchemy. Four hundred years later, a stranger with skin ‘the colour of marble in moonlight’ was mortally wounded in an earthquake, and is believed to be the alchemist Fulcanelli, cheating time and death across the centuries. The contents of Fulcanelli’s home were, we learn, later sold at public auction but no trace of the Cronos Device was found. In modern-day Mexico City, Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi), an antique dealer (whose name translates to Grey Jesus), and his granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath) (meaning the youthful dawn) find the Cronos Device in his antique shop. Accidentally activating the device, Jesús is bitten to feed the parasite housed within its gold shell, its delicate mechanisms filtering his blood, and conferring a vampiric transformation with an unending sanguinarian thirst. Finding relief in reusing the device, Jesús begins to look and act noticeably younger, shaving off his moustache and dressing more informally, finding the device reinvigorates his youthful and neglected appetites and desires. Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a Howard Hughes-styled businessman dying of multiple cancers, is in pursuit of the device as his final effort to secure his immortality. Aided by his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman), Dieter resides in a world of sterile metals, plastic sheeting, and Gothic momento mori, and prizes the pages detailing Fulcanelli’s Cronos device as his last hope of survival. Dieter literally compartmentalises his own diseased body, a metaphorical inversion of Frankenstein’s



monster by self-disassembling and displaying his own extracted organs in fluid-filled glass jars. Jesús’s vampirism, expressed through his marble-white skin which is slowly revealed beneath his damaged flesh, and Dieter’s extracted body parts are explicit reimagined versions of Gothic’s infamous ‘dark twins’ (O’Brien 2007: 173), Frankenstein and Dracula. However, the device’s inventor Fulcanelli and De La Guardia have conflicting politics: De La Guardia’s desired immortality is to further his capitalistic gain, whereas the device’s inventor Fulcanelli fled a similar political monster (the Inquisition) before creating the device. De La Guardia embodies the physicality of Frankenstein’s creature while desiring the vampiric power of Dracula’s capitalistic reach, his assertive influence physically extended through his nephew, Angel, in a subtle echo of Renfield in Stoker’s Dracula. Like Renfield, Angel hopes to inherit his uncle’s corporate empire and patiently awaits his death while appearing to aid his request in seeking out the device. Obsessed with his nose (a symbol for an opening for the soul) and wishing to reshape it through cosmetic surgery, Angel exhibits his own cosmetic obsession with vampirism and surface as an extension of his uncle’s influence. This imaginative tale deploys Gothic Ur-texts to examine the relationship between the USA and Mexico, particularly as it refutes stereotypical depictions of Mexicans and reflexively relays such lazy typecasting back on to the image of American corporate thugs, who are deliberately styled ‘like comic book villains’ (del Toro 2006). American exploitation of the Mexican workforce by denying basic rights to Mexican people and disrespecting Mexican culture, both within the diegesis of the film and further afield in American popular culture, draws on well-established tropes of vampirism and capitalism’s cross-border influence. Fiercely critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—a trilateral trade block comprising of Canada, the USA, and Mexico incepted in 1994—del Toro anticipates it to be detrimental to the cultural and economic integrity of Mexico, a further means of economically draining Mexico’s resources and encouraging unnecessary reliance on imported American trade while simultaneously enabling cheap American labour to undercut Mexican products and trade, and to close small businesses as large multinational firms moved into the Mexican marketplace. NAFTA, in del Toro’s view, feeds American interest as vampiric economic circulation, whereby Mexico is further drained of its self-sufficiency through globalisation and lower tariffs, prompting a greater need for people to attempt to cross the US-Mexico border in order to attempt to secure


a living wage. The film’s vampiric iconography stands in for this potentially devastating political and economic fallout as an ‘ever-growing chain of vampirism’ (del Toro 2006), whereby the insect vampirises the victim but is also artificially exploited by the mechanism, an allegory of the draining effect which spirals outward to the industrialists who are vampirising Mexico’s workforce and resources, or abetting the economic extension of American fiscal interests within their homeland. Both Angel and Dieter De La Guardia’s use of English and Spanish interchangeably (Davis 2008: 402) represents this hybridity of Pan-American conglomeration, exhibiting a hostile economic partnership which is artificially sustained by means of exploitation, as evidenced through Dieter’s dis-assembly of his body (a parody of the assembly line), and Angel’s brutal violence which unmasks the power of the corporation’s reach and its intended destruction of the body politic. Furthermore, De La Guardia is a destructive consumer, via his avid collection of Archangel statues in pursuit of the device, ironically ignoring any Catholic teaching or pensive contemplation the statues could inspire. Crucially, this metaphor is made literal when he eats Fulcanelli’s manuscript, which outlines the instructions to use the device (McDonald and Clark 2014: 116), to prevent Jesús from discovering the means by which he may control the vampiric infection within his own body. Destroying the instructions, American infiltration wields the power of knowledge to retain economic superiority, in del Toro’s view, by casting off Mexican bodies as the expendable economic proletariat in an untameable free-market. This form of cross-border savagery also underscores Robert Rodriquez’s black comedy From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), in which two American bank robbers are thrown into contention with vampirism and ancient cultures (the vampire strip club is built atop an ancient Aztec temple) in the Mexican desert. The sacking of contemporary American temples (banks) and Ancient Mexican/Aztec ones (indigenous culture) brings ruin upon them all. Like the mechanism’s internal insect which filters blood for nourishment, vampirism in Cronos remains an organic process, employed to articulate economic anxieties as physical horrors and violence rather than a supernatural occurrence. Housing a precious fusion of organic potential with a means of unending vampire production ripe for exploitation, the device and its imprisoned insect create a vampiric chain of interdependency, targeting new precarious areas ripe for privatisation in latestage capitalism. As De la Guardia explains,



That’s the genius of it. The insect is trapped in the device […] acting as a sort of living filter…who knows? Maybe insects are God’s favourite creatures? Christ walked on water, just like the mosquito does. And as for resurrection, it is not a strange concept to ants, to spiders… They can remain inside a rock for hundreds of years until someone comes and sets them free. (del Toro 1993)

Beyond its economic concerns, Cronos is a study of our cultural obsession with ageing and time. Jesús’s antique store chimes with its variety of timepieces; and the device whirrs and rotates its internal cogs and small delicate parts. Mercedes (Margarita Isabel), Jesús’s wife, is obsessed with her weight and beauty in preparation for the anticipated New Year’s Eve party, the annual celebration of the progression of time. She focuses on wearing the dress she wore last year to defy the ageing process and to avoid acknowledging another year has passed. Jesús reverses the ageing process almost immediately by shaving off his moustache after he is bitten/stung, and asks his wife if he looks younger, repeating the same concerns she harbours about her own appearance. As an antique dealer, Jesús relies on the preservation of the material past, relics worth more with the passing of time, while those who purchase the items often wish to defy their place in the natural order of time or artificially extend it by consuming or owning the goods sold (see also Ní Fhlainn 2014). Only the near-mute Aurora is spared from the device’s ability to corrupt; her innocence and youth shield her from its horrors as she conceals it from De La Guardia and his thugs in her teddy bear. Aurora’s concealment of the Gothic device in her teddy recalls Fulcanelli’s own method of hiding the device across centuries in an Archangel statue; the statue’s interior houses an infestation of cockroaches, which signals the rot beneath the seemingly pleasant veneer of the hollow Christian sculpture. At the film’s most physically brutal moment, Jesús is beaten by Angel on a rooftop in long shot, framed by an enormous neon sign bearing the De La Guardia company name in the backdrop, commenting in no uncertain terms on the true violence of American consumerism if left unchecked in Mexico. As a former underling whose savagery is unleashed once his ascension to power is assured, Angel shows no mercy in his quest for aggressive capitalistic gain at any cost—he is Renfield, who supplants the Gothic hybridity of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Creature, heir to a fortune he barely understands and without the restraint of history and propriety. The addictive nature of the mechanism, the neon beacon of the company


within the cityscape, and the violence experienced under such oppressive power, affirm that vampirism is an apt metaphor for the continuous march of 1990s neoliberal capitalism. In Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction (1995) vampirism is a vehicle to critique and contemplate the horrors of human violence and our far-reaching capacity for corruption and evil. Ferrara’s film aligns vampirism and its addictive nature with photographs and documentary footage of genocide and war crimes, aligning violence and historical distance (in terms of time, but also as a photographed event) with the potential for such evil to re-emerge elsewhere. For Ferrara, silence in the face of such evil amounts to tacit consent or approval, rather than active, audible protest. Kathleen (Lili Taylor), a PhD student in philosophy at NYU, studies a short film on the massacre of My-Lai in Vietnam, questioning why one person should be tried for war crimes—in this case, Lieutenant William Calley, charged with the deaths of 109 Vietnamese civilians—rather than an entire nation that supports the policy of murdering innocents as an act of war. Figures tried for war crimes sate the moral outrage of the nation, her colleague Jean (Edie Falco) implies, to temporarily alleviate the guilt of the masses. Soon after, Kathleen is attacked in an alley by the seductive vampire Casanova (Annabella Sciorra) and given a choice to survive: ‘Tell me to go away’, she instructs but Kathleen only replies ‘please’. She is then bitten forcefully by the vampiress and branded a ‘collaborator’ for not crying out in protest against Casanova’s deadly advances. Caught up in a dizzying eruption of momentary violence and victimisation, Kathleen cannot speak out, as she imagines others caught up in such actions should. Ferrara aligns this with the fascination with substance addiction but its political rhetoric bleeds out much further. As Silver and Ursini note, in Ferrara’s violent world, denying or failing to resist such evils allows one to become embroiled in it, and to be silently hostage to its powerful influence: For those who fail to resist with vigor [sic], the evildoer obtains social consent for his or her evil whether it is on the natural level of murder, genocide, and drug addiction or on the supernatural plane of vampirism. In Ferrara’s ethical construct these evils are all equal, all involving wilful violence to oneself and/or others. (1997: 226)

Doomed to repeat our sins over and over, Ferrara blames the weak and the silent as complicit in perpetuating cycles of violence, and academics



including Kathleen must share the blame due to their clinical indifference towards the horrors they study. To emphasise tacit guilt, Kathleen leads a student away from the library and attacks her. Following the attack, the girl asks, ‘Am I going to get sick now?’ to which Kathleen softly replies, ‘no worse than you were before’. The sickness she speaks of is our horrific ability to choose to overlook the suffering of others or forget such injustices, even when its horrors are blatantly evident. Only Kathleen’s awareness of the perpetuation of this cycle enables her to break away from her own ignorant complicity. According to Justin Vicari, the film stands in for the erosion of empathy and so many streams of social rot, alongside ‘man’s inhumanity to man; the sheep-like groupthink of fascist societies; the struggle of free will versus determinism; the revolt of the free-thinking individual against bourgeois institutions like religion and morality; and finally, drug addiction’ (2007: 2). As a doctoral student, Kathleen’s form of vampirism manifests through the cannibalisation of knowledge, which is then regurgitated and recycled without any historical change or impact in the world. As an institutionalised student, knowledge is presented as a privilege of the few; Ferrara’s exploration of NYU’s West 4th Street campus and St. Mark’s district, its surroundings populated with prostitutes, the homeless, drug dealers, and addicts, foregrounds Ferrara’s critique, which implies that academics pore over documents of human misery for study while remaining oblivious to evident pain and suffering at their doorstep. For Vicari, Ferrara positions academia as ‘pious’ and ‘feed[ing] off such atrocities […] converting it into a museum piece, remote and safe under glass’ (2007: 2), as the film contrasts sterile academe within the edgy surroundings of night-time Greenwich Village. These images of New York’s disenfranchised people jar explicitly with montages of victims of war and genocide, collapsing the filmic space between visual documents of safely contained human misery confined to memorialised history or study, while contemporary proximity to human suffering is purposefully overlooked. Silence and complicity are inextricable. Released in the shadow of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the film’s timely commentary aligns with American complacency concerning contemporary atrocities. While Rwanda’s political instability spiralled into ethnic cleansing by the Hutu against the Tutsis with shocking speed and globally broadcast brutality—‘In 100 days, some 800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were murdered […] [it was] the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century’ (Power 2003:


334–35)—the Clinton administration remained as bystanders. The administration’s chilling response amounted to ‘only sporadic diplomatic statements condemning the massacres [and a] refusal to use the term genocide to describe the killings’ (Cohen 2007: 3). Furthermore, the perceived failures of US peacekeeping in the region following the deaths of eighteen American rangers on the streets of Mogadishu on 3 October 1993 (the ‘Battle of Mogadishu’ as part of the Somali Civil War), was used to justify American reluctance to engage in further international interventions, and to politically limit the damage to the Clinton presidency. As Samantha Power notes, President Clinton did not convene a single meeting of his senior foreign policy advisers to discuss U.S options for Rwanda […] In the administration’s eyes there were no costs to avoiding Rwanda altogether. Thus, the United States again stood on the sidelines. (2003: 334–5)

The USA did not call for the expulsion of the extremist Hutu Rwandan Ambassador at the United Nations. Instead, Washington called for a complete withdrawal of all UN troops and refused to deploy any UN reinforcements. Rwanda was shockingly cast off by the Western world in the midst of the most savage slaughter campaign of the twentieth century. The repeated line in The Addiction, ‘essence is revealed by praxis’, reinforces its critique on Clinton’s (and the Western world’s) good intentions (such as public condemnation) and its ineffective practices (inertia in the face of necessary intervention). The timing of Ferrara’s film, in particular, emphasises America’s paradoxical obsession with past conflicts (WWII and Vietnam in particular as sources of national pride or trauma) while blindly turning away from contemporary horrors abroad because they do not directly involve American lives. This meditation marks out Ferrara’s film as particularly resonant in the mid-1990s, as it calls to task inaction and a collective conscience for humanitarian need. Other coeval independent vampiric titles such as Irma Vep (1996) and Nadja (1994) also directly play with the vampiric past onscreen, whether it is though retracing the course of history in remaking previous vampire films, or directly citing influential antecedents: Irma Vep is a reworking of Les Vampires (1915) and Nadja is a revision of Dracula’s Daughter (1936), and playfully cites its lineage to these earlier masterpieces. Larry Fessenden’s lesser-known Habit (1995) playfully cites tiny elements of Stoker’s Dracula at its margins, in



a serious film concerned with Sam’s (Larry Fessenden) addiction-soaked spiral into self-annihilation, grief, and sexual danger in 1990s New York. As bleak intellectual indie-vampire films, both Fessenden and Ferrara’s films speak to 1990s culture as a split and jarring experience. While Ferrara’s film ruminates on privilege, empty rhetoric, and complacency, Fessenden’s film feels somewhat similar in its gritty realism and by stripping down vampirism to corrosion of the soul in the depths of depression and isolation; both films remind us that societal failures resonate both personally and nationally, producing fissures upon which the invading vampire can openly capitalise. The Addiction makes explicit reference to the massacre of My-Lai in Vietnam (16 March 1968) largely because it was at the hands of American soldiers, but such semantics should not excuse ignorance or the ability to confront mass murder or genocidal campaigns. If anything, by highlighting American participation in crimes of mass murder, it suppresses the historical lesson that later erupts in a repetition of similar atrocities elsewhere. Kathleen’s vampirism is explicitly filtered through a form of collective guilt in her covering up mirrors of her apartment: ‘Guilt doesn’t pass with time, it’s eternal….The mirrors in my house I had to cover them up. What is it in my face that I don’t want to look at? I’m rotting on the inside but I’m not dying’ (Ferrara 1995). Consumed by self-loathing borne of culpability and shame, Kathleen believes that only those who protest audibly against atrocity should be spared such guilt and wrath; testing her hypothesis, she repeatedly asks her victims, ‘Look evil in the face, and tell me to go away’—none succeed. At her PhD graduation party, Kathleen recruits a vampire ensemble to attack the guests, systematically murdering the entire philosophy faculty at NYU including the Dean. She targets those whom she holds responsible for bourgeois silence and turns scholarship into praxis, ‘sharing a little bit of what [she] learned through these long years of study’ by staging a horrific mass murder in her own right. Kathleen’s final redemption, then, as she places a rose beneath her own tombstone, which bears the scripture ‘I am the resurrection’ (John XI: 25), suggests her only course is to try to reject the addictions of mortal life—to cast off her struggle with her mortal coil and by proxy the inherent wrongs of violence and suffering so interwoven with humanity’s collective sins. As Vicari cogently observes, ‘[t]he mythological vampire is the great troubled watcher of history, moving helplessly throughout all time and space, powerless either to change the world or, indeed, to leave it’ (2007: 4).


American Gothic Television: Broadcasting the Horrors of the Homeland Gothic television became a prominent feature of mainstream culture in the 1990s. The rise of Gothic disturbances became more culturally prominent during the decade in the dark and subversive television shows that were branded as must-see viewing, including Twin Peaks (1990–1991), The X-Files (1993–2002), and American Gothic (1995– 1996), but also through the ongoing doubling of celebrity and politicians figures whose sins were minutely documented through the media. The spin and flux of 1990s cultural turbulence gave way to a destruction of trust and engendered a new flourish for paranoia and conspiracy theories; the unmasking of familiar faces (celebrity trials) and historically trusted spaces (the government, the schoolyard, the church, the police) were rendered uncanny, recast as unsafe sites or groups rife with moral/ criminal wrongdoing. Televised images of the LA Riots transformed the perception of the city onscreen into one riven with racism and institutional violence in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, and now at an evident boiling point; in his emergency national address, President Bush deployed the National Guard to quell the civil unrest in response to these anarchic televised scenes (Bush 1992). Talk shows became more focused on the personal and the subjective experience divorced from larger spheres of cultural belonging. As Robert Putnam notes in his sociological study on the generational shift of social capital (civic belonging, group identity, and community inclusion) in America since the 1960s, ‘[b]y virtually every conceivable measure, social capital has eroded steadily and sometimes dramatically over the past two generations […] Americans have had a growing sense at some visceral level of disintegrating social bonds’ (Putnam 2000: 287). Putnam further evidences civic decline through decreasing levels of electoral turnout, noting that President Clinton’s 1992 election, designed to galvanise the youth vote, ironically achieved ‘nearly the lowest turnout in the 20th century’ (2000: 37). The increased emphasis on neoliberal atomisation, privatisation, and commodification of the traditional pillars of social culture brought about some benefits (a slow and steady increased visibility and recognition of queer culture as an important counter-narrative to heteronormativity and to further represent minorities in popular culture; wider media programming and burgeoning Internet culture) but by the same token it also fractured historically traditional strongholds of socially beneficial



empowerment such as community identity and collective action. It is no accident that Sam in Habit and Kathleen in The Addiction meander through urban spaces populated with impoverished and disenfranchised social cast-offs, both vampires yearning to make a meaningful connection. Furthermore, modes of artistic and aesthetic Gothic expression, a previously niche and often self-styled invention, gain economic capital that fluidly moves from subcultural social capital to a commodified mainstream product. Postmodernity’s mixing of styles and ‘culture has equally become profoundly economic or commodity orientated’ (Jameson 1998: 73). As Catherine Spooner notes, the flourish of Gothic (style and subtext) increases its visibility at the fin-de-millennium through economic circulation from bestsellers to television adverts: Yet Stephen King, writer of popular horror novels, is America’s bestselling author, the vampire chronicler Anne Rice is not far behind. The selfstyled ‘Anti-Christ Superstar’ Marilyn Manson has sold millions of copies of his Gothic-influenced albums across the world, while neo-Goth band Evanescence spent four weeks at the top of the British charts in 2003. Gothic images are used on television to sell everything from Smirnoff vodka to Ariel washing-powder […]. By the turn of the twentieth century, Gothic had consolidated its position as the material of mainstream entertainment. (2006: 25)

According to Richard Davenport-Hines, ‘Television […] has been the most important medium of Gothic infiltration’ (1998: 376). The TV set as Gothic object also becomes a site of uncanny doubling, a potential (and possibly ‘malevolent’) domestic ‘portal to other worlds’ (Abbott and Jowett 2013: 179–80): it can be a ‘window on the world’ (Wheatley 2006: 106) but also functions as a dark uncanny mirror. From outside, it brings Gothic subjects and images, war atrocities, confessions, news, drama, and entertainment into our homes, and yet, through this same action, it indulges a ‘collective pleasure in contemplating O.J., Michael Jackson, Freddy Krueger, the Satanic ritual scandals, Oprah’s guests […] we are drawn to such things […] because they reflect a pervasive interior state’ (Edmundson 1997: 132). In fiction, the decade began with David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks, a captivating show rich with cinematic aesthetics and surrealism, a then highly unusual feature for television programming, charting a murder mystery in a familiar if peculiar


north-western small-town laden with supernatural secrets, domestic horrors, and violence. The series would become a significant fountainhead for Gothic TV within the decade and through its striking production quality and unwavering commitment to its unique vision (particularly in Season one), it inaugurates a new Golden Age in serial television drama. Even within the diegetic world of Twin Peaks, it foreshadows the decade’s own uncanny dualities on a macro-level, for doubles abound in its characters (Laura/Maddie, both played by Sheryl Lee), familiar spaces (White Lodge/Black Lodge; Red Room/Double R Diner), and supernatural elements (The Arm/The Man from Another Place) to name only a brief few (see also Kuzniar 1995: 120–9). On a micro-level, the show’s diegetic soap opera Invitation to Love announces clues and explicitly signals doubling, attuned to and reflecting Twin Peaks’ own episodic developments; the TV set in the series is an uncanny mirror framed within a frame—it simultaneously points outward and inward. Linda Badley observes the peculiarity of 1990s culture, as a period made strange by national and personal domestic disturbances, in that ‘the horrors that Stephen King imagined in the 1970s and 1980s have become the news of the 1990s […] the real world had become fantastic: it mimicked and absorbed fantasy and was now indistinguishable from it’ (Badley 1995: 157). Badley’s assessment is accurate: President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, the O. J. Simpson Bronco chase on the Los Angeles 405 Freeway and the subsequent ‘trial of the century’, and the siege at Waco, some of the decade’s most incendiary events, were all broadcast live on (Gothic) TV. On 1990s network television, vampires wandered in from the margins of TV culture to occupy its prime-time epicentre by the decade’s end. Vampires always lurked somewhere in the shadows of Gothic TV, occasionally in episodic inclusion (typically as Dracula variants) on horror shows such as Friday the 13th: The Series (1987–1990) and Tales from the Crypt (1989–1996), but seemed limited in their mass appeal beyond being interesting and occasional interlopers. The unsuccessful revival of Dark Shadows (1991) and limited success of hybrid vampire-cop show Forever Knight (1992–1996) also emphasises this period was one in which vampires were subdued in public imagination. The X-Files featured two superb and polarised representations of vampirism: ‘3’ (2.07) concerned cult membership, blood rituals, and folkloric belief, while conversely, ‘Bad Blood’ (5.12) is a comedic Rashomon-styled narrative about conflicting subjective perceptions on contemporary vampirism and



performativity in popular culture (see Ní Fhlainn 2017: 255–74). Both episodes cleverly revised, rewrote, and played with two reigning divisions within vampire popular culture, namely the ongoing fascination with blood cults and sanguinarian practices (no doubt an extension of late 1980s fascination with Satanic cults), and the fantasy of Hollywoodstyled vampirism as an ideal in undead culture. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) is an important text in the resurgence of vampires onscreen in the late 1990s. Originally a low budget, unsuccessful comedy-horror film starring Rutger Hauer, Donald Sutherland, and Kristy Swanson as Buffy, the television series was resurrected from the box-office failure of the film and developed by writer/ creator Joss Whedon once he regained control of the project in 1996. Vampires in this series are hybrids of sorts—in tune with many other Postmodern vampires they are positioned as potential monsters with human faces and riddled with existential angst. For Whedon, vampires are Gothic embodiments of human sin, forced to endure the emotional and spiritual weight of their transgressions eternally with precious few opportunities for redemption. The premise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer centres on Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a 16-year-old high school student who is the ‘Chosen One’, a slayer of vampires born every generation to protect the world. Accompanying her on her quest is her ‘Watcher’, the school librarian Giles (Anthony Stuart Head) and a selection of typical ‘high-school rejects’—archetypes of the American high school experience including ‘funny’ guy Xander (Nicholas Brendon), the shy intellectual Willow (Alyson Hannigan), and popular cheerleader Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), alongside a host of other ‘Scooby Gang’ members over the course of its seven seasons. Whedon’s early episodes in particular hinge upon the timeworn belief that high school is ‘literally’ hell, with its weekly array of demons, black magic, cliques, hellhounds, and worse intruding upon Buffy’s desire to pursue a normal teenage existence. On the surface, Buffy hinges on the destruction of a slasher-film trope. Whedon’s Postmodern re-evaluation of such limited representations of women in slasher films (victims in particular) queries and re-appropriates these typical hallmarks in earlier slasher fare. Rather than await rescue or barely survive her ordeals, Buffy rescues everyone else and often actively seeks out the weekly monstrous intrusion in Sunnydale. In many ways, Buffy extends Carol Clover’s paradigm of the Final Girl (Clover 1993: 35–37), violating some identifiers in Clover’s schema


(sexually inactive, bookish, or having an androgynous name, for example) and embracing explicit markers of femininity that, typically in early slashers, announce potential onscreen nudity and certain death. From the offset, the show reverses the power dynamics of women onscreen and repositions them as physically and emotionally self-reliant in their own right. Replete with 1990s sassy valley-girl one-liners, Buffy was a timely voice during a steady revision of female representation onscreen in popular culture (though it still had limitations). The popularity of Buffy’s Girl Power nestled within a significant mid-to-late 1990s teen-focused commercial wave in film and television, including Scream, The Craft (1996), Clueless (1996), I Know What you Did Last Summer (1997), The Faculty (1998), Urban Legend (1998), 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), She’s All That (1999), Never Been Kissed (1999), Teaching Mrs Tingle (1999), and series which occasionally engaged with serious teen issues including My So-Called Life (1994–1995) and Dawson’s Creek (1998–2003). Buffy managed to combine and reflexively comment upon many pressing social issues including high school massacres (the episode ‘Earshot’ [3.18] featuring guns on campus coincidently was due to air a week after the Columbine High School Massacre in April 1999, and was quickly rescheduled and aired five months later); abusive relationships; the breakdown of parental and romantic relationships, among other social concerns, within a fantasy premise that at once contained Gothic darkness and also rendered it safe and glossy through allegory. Its dramatic core centred on friendships and relationships, teenage angst, and the pain of oncoming adulthood, with vampires relegated as secondary concerns. Doubling runs riot throughout Buffy, not only in the physical doubling of characters onscreen including Xander and Willow (both of whom are literally doubled), but also character echoes and shadow selves in slayers Buffy and Faith (Eliza Dushku), vampires Angel (David Boreanaz) and Spike (James Marsters) (and their former human names, Liam and William), and Watchers Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof). In one of its most interesting examples of splitting, the series plays with a revision of its own history (and not for the first time) in ‘Normal, Again’ (6.17). In this episode, after being stung by a demon, Buffy experiences psychotic flashes of being confined to an institution where she is undergoing therapy to break free of her delusion that she is the slayer. Buffy’s mental break with reality, emotionally charged with the presence of her recently deceased mother and absent father in the institutional setting, foreground narrative discontinuity and



the rewriting of history (Palmer’s notion of 1990s spin), with the introduction of her younger teenage sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) in Season five, but also, crucially, the episode circles back to the show’s pre-history of Buffy’s life before Sunnydale itself to question the veracity of her fantastical experiences and the show’s world view from its inception. The delusional fantasy the episode explores centres on the horrors of our own experiential spins, the terror of self-awakening to discover our lives as an illusory lie or a powerful self-deception trapped within an unstable mind (a feature also prominent in 1990s puzzle cinema, including The Usual Suspects [1995] and The Game [1997]), or within a simulation such as The Matrix (1999). Vampire faces also change significantly onscreen in Buffy, transforming from human to demonic appearance with an emphasised ‘bumpy’ brow and lurid eyes to signal a supernatural shift, while remaining within strict television and censorship guidelines. Fangs are evident and promptly pop out when the vampire face morphs, but without dwelling on their symbolic sexual and penetrative capabilities. Blood is rarely visible onscreen and violence is often ramped up with gymnastic displays and comic-book sassiness, rather than emphasising prolonged distress or injury (though Season six in particular pivots on human violence, addiction and misogyny). For the two prominent vampires in the series, Angel and Spike, the series reins in their bloody appetites by deploying folklore (a curse) and technology (a microchip) as necessary devices to domesticate them, and to differentiate their purpose from other occasional undead interlopers that Buffy must dispatch. The use of the curse is particularly appealing in characterising Angel, as it ties in with vampirism’s own folkloric history and contemporary variants of post-Ricean vampires, noted to wallow in suffering, reflection, and self-torture. According to Vivian Burr, this expands Angel’s appeal by shrouding him in torment and uncertainty, for ‘one persona is dormant in the other; we are never sure when he may turn again […]. Buffy too is seen in both loving and murderous modes with Angel; she loves him but must ultimately kill him’ (Burr 2003: 353). Once Angel is released from the grip of his curse after experiencing one moment of happiness with Buffy as they consummate their relationship (in ‘Surprise’ [2.13] and ‘Innocence’ [2.14]), his dormant evil nature quickly becomes a grim allegory for the horrors of teenage relationships, in which women are mere conquests to be discarded by misogynistic suitors. Ultimately, this broodiness codes Angel as a traditional emotional repository for ‘various clichés


of heterosexual romance, such as the redemptive power of dyadic love, the agony and angst of star-crossed lovers, the allure of secret trysts, and the deflowering of the female virgin’ (Owen 1999: 27), in line with the hyperbolic emotions of teen romance and the paranormal-romance genre, in which vampires like Angel are frequently and idealistically routed through familiar stereotypes including ‘the older boyfriend, the dangerous lover, and the mysterious stranger’ (Jowett 2005: 152). The binaries that Angel embodies and occasionally contradicts is an homage to and, later in Angel (1999–2004), a collapsing together of Rice’s Louis and Lestat, for he fluctuates between weakness and strength, feminine and hyper-masculine traits, moments of kindness and sadism, and tensions between Euro-centric and New World vampirism. In the end, like Lestat, Angel turns corporate, first as a private detective in Los Angeles, and then in the role of CEO at the evil international law firm, Wolfram & Hart, gleefully literalising the metaphor of lawyers as perennial bloodsuckers. Where religion is absent from the narrative, technology quickly stands in to replace its influence; Spike, neutered by technology by having a microchip implanted into his head that prevents him from harming humans at the hands of a secret government agency in ‘The Initiative’ (4.07) describes himself as a neutered dog—‘Spike had a little trip to the vet and now he doesn’t chase the other puppies anymore’. Domesticated and policed by outside forces much like Angel, he is no longer able to attack humans without experiencing physical pain. Rhonda Wilcox reads this behavioural transformation as ‘parallel to psychiatric medications which allow sufferers a respite and the chance to work through their psychological issues. The subsequent change is thus not simply physiological’ (Wilcox 2005: 87), and, as demonstrated by Spike in later seasons, produces psychologically learned responses, and complex emotional pain. While existential damnation looms over many sympathetic vampires, resulting in significantly altered vampiric behaviour, largely through self-penance, as evidenced by Rice’s Louis and Yarbro’s Saint Germain, technology becomes a prominent contemporary alternative to reign in vampiric thirst under human control. In the age of genome mapping, cloning, and paranoia about clandestine government projects, anxieties surrounding genetic engineering, human cloning, and behaviour modification all find purchase through Buffy’s battle against The Initiative and the complexity of Spike’s technologically hybridised conditioning.



Another type of technological categorisation and attempt to police and eradicate the vampire body as a type of virulent politicised virus is evident in the Channel 4 series Ultraviolet (1998). While the series grapples with age-old concerns about the viral and contagious differences between vampires and humans, it takes on a particular politicised viewpoint in relation to divided states at war (such as Northern Ireland) when read through the coding of dehumanising the political ‘other’, secret government directives and operations, and the blurring of stark lines of identity in under-cover or sympathetic monsters who are deemed to threaten national and biological security in contested conflict zones (see also McWilliam 2013: 44–54). While McWilliam reads Ultraviolet as a Žižekian response to the Real post-9/11 and the War on Terror, one can also read this as a political allegory about the centuries of conflict across the border in Northern Ireland between those who hide in plain sight as sympathetic to the struggle against colonial occupation, and the colonial occupier who attempts to police the borders between nations, between bodies, and between species in the series, at all costs. This policing of identity and the terror of secret or repressed political sympathies are played out in the margins of Buffy and Angel also. As competing and doubled vampires, Angel and Spike also distinctly mirror other political and social tensions drawn specifically from their human European origins. On a nominal level, Liam (Angel) and William (Spike) are mirrored names, drawing attention to a cultural divide through which Irish romanticism and immigration and British colonialism is traced and problematised. Liam/Angel’s Irish identity extends a series of contradictions, Geraldine Meaney observes, a move which ‘deploys stereotypes of Irishness, but it also subverts them […] the feckless son of a merchant, not a dispossessed peasant […] seeking a new un-life in despair rather than hope […] a romantic hero who represents dangerous sexuality but can have no sex life […] a father whose best legacy to his son is obliteration of his parentage’ (2006: 279). In Buffy, this vampiric lineage is transferred and economically recirculated through traditional and popular symbolic identifiers of Irish belonging, emphasised explicitly in Angel’s gift of a Claddagh ring to Buffy in a declaration of love (‘Surprise’, 2.13). Celtic symbols such as the Claddagh ring (an old Irish ring used to convey feelings of love, loyalty and friendship, depending on how it is worn) and Angel’s shoulder tattoo (which resembles a griffin design from The Book of Kells), emphasise the skin-deep nature of his Irish past, while simultaneously masking the transformation of


his immigrant psyche once his integration is successfully achieved in the New World. By the late 1990s, it became hip to be Irish and to discover, trace, and declare one’s Irish heritage, particularly following the rise of the economic roar of the Celtic Tiger. This turn was facilitated by the popularity of Irish music (traditional, contemporary, and fusion); the increased ease in nurturing transatlantic emigrant bonds (largely through cheaper technology and travel); renewed national and international investment in the Irish language (Gaeilge/Gaelic); and the unprecedented popularity of Riverdance, all of which aided this interest in and nostalgia for Irish bonds. Donna Potts argues that Irish identity in the series is frequently filtered through colonial English attitudes, with Spike as an oppositional vampiric representation ‘in the manner typical of the colonial Englishman, purport[ing] to be the model of restraint in contrast with the “wild Irish”’ (2003: 7). Irish identity is distinctly muted in Buffy in contrast with the prominent playfulness of Englishness. Spike and Giles occupy conflicting stereotypical representations of Englishness split across generational lines, whereas Wesley, another English Watcher in both series, assumes the role of Spike’s English double in Giles’ absence in Angel. Drusilla’s (Juliet Landau) subjectivity is split through her fragmented memories and visions, marking her as a compromised and discontinuous representation of the past as an English vampire seer. Where Giles stands in for propriety, restraint, and knowledge (well-worn clichés of Englishness in American popular culture, thanks in part to the popularity of James Bond), Spike’s attitude, dress, and demeanour signal a bricolage of punk-rock rebellion, urban grit, late 1970s/early 1980s exported youth culture, football hooliganism (Pateman 2006: 57), combined with The Sex Pistols’ notorious bad attitude via the MTV fashion of Billy Idol. Neither Englishman, however, loses his distinctive accent or lexical markers; moreover, both maintain much of their cultural belonging to English culture as a badge of pride wholly and distinctly different to American actions, language (particularly swearing), and emotional displays (though the class signifiers of their British accents do fluctuate over time). Englishness can be cool, comedic and/or repressive in the series, but it cannot be discarded because it is explicitly embodied. The inverse is true for Angel’s Irishness: upon arrival in America, his accent is promptly lost. Moreover, his subsequent corporate nature in later seasons of Angel erases almost all markers of his immigrant past as the immortal CEO of an incorporated multinational (or indeed



multidimensional) law firm. In the end, Angel appropriates the rhetoric of the American dream of wealth and success as a direct result of his American assimilation. His Irishness does resurface on occasion: in the Angel episode ‘Spin the Bottle’ (4.06), following a spell-induced memory lapse, Angel regresses back into Liam’s historical memory and explodes at Wesley: ‘I’m not your friend, you English pig! We never wanted you in Ireland. We don’t want you now!’ This outburst, coupled with Angel’s evident loss of his Irish accent (which he too openly observes about his voice) contrasts with Wesley’s accentuated English accent in the same scene, employed to emphasise the painful cultural memory of colonial occupation. The political discourse of colonial tension and history in Ireland is no longer localised to the six counties of Ulster under British rule in the twentieth century, but rather explodes in this scene as an explicit totality of Irish rage at the colonial infiltration of the whole island over 800 years. Such an outburst demonstrates American awareness of the conflict and the international involvement provided by American politicians to secure a peaceful resolution during the 1990s. Angel’s outburst acts as a reminder that the pain of colonial occupation haunts the Irish psyche, but, as an Irish-American, his temporary regression back to his human memories emphasises its firm belonging in the past. Angel’s Irish-American heritage in a globalised context moves beyond the horrors of colonial rule in Ireland and deliberately sidesteps its complexities in favour of moving on; it informs his human identity and the wrongs of the past but does not define his future as an Irish-American immigrant vampire. Spike and Angel’s contrasting characterisation, ancestry, and spats in both series—progressing from nemeses in early Buffy to allies by the fifth (and final) season of Angel—allude to simmering British and Irish tensions at the end of the 1990s, and crucially, political frustrations that predate their mutual interest in Buffy Summers, but are continually played out for her affection. Buffy’s own body, as a symbolic American Eden, is emotionally and sexually infiltrated by both vampires through tragic romance and warring violence (which cools over time) as representative of both nation’s distinctive yet formative contributions to America’s foundation. Whedon demonstrates ‘not only familiarity with the Irish colonial situation, but active political concern for it’ (Jencson 2011: 245) during this transformational period in Anglo/Irish history in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This fascination is revisited beyond vampirism (despite being its most potent deployment), evident not only in Angel


(with Season one’s Doyle (Glen Quinn) as a displaced demon-Dubliner in Los Angeles) but also expressed through repeated themes of rebellion and the inclusion of Irish music, as noted by Jencson (2011: 245) on Whedon’s parallel projects Firefly (2002–2003) and Serenity (2005). In American popular culture, American connections to Irishness can be traced back and hybridised, to be either minimised or mythologised or economically deployed as desired. This works both ways, of course, as the Irish-American special relationship also fosters direct (and often multi-generational) claims to the lineage of numerous American presidents since John F. Kennedy, a claim repeatedly reprised as part cultural fondness and part economic encouragement to continue presidential relationships into the future (with a heavy leaning towards Democrats in office). President Clinton’s political visits and public events were openly celebrated in Ireland surrounding the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) in April 1998, which, alongside pledges of support from leading political figures including Senator George Mitchell and the UN, became global news by the end of the 1990s, and raised awareness worldwide of the soothing of Anglo/Irish tensions. The doubling of Liam/Angel and William/Spike as deployed in Buffy and Angel serve as pop-culture echoes of the shifting nature of the Anglo/Irish relationship across centuries; they are exemplary undead bodies attuned to contemporary expressions of the difference between Ireland and England as filtered through American popular culture for an American audience. As such, their vampiric bodies are initially externally mediated and policed by curses and technology only to graduate to self-monitoring and contemplation, as the shackles of history steadily evolve from enmity to devolved partnership at an epoch of renewed optimism, meaningful mediation, and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. The 1990s was a decade of deep divisions and the public exposure of shadow selves, during which fractured domestic, national, and international conflicts were expressed through a Gothic lens. Fragmented under George H. W. Bush, only to become marginalised, addicted, and spiritually jaded under Bill Clinton, 1990s subjective vampires stood in for a keenly felt decentred sense of history throughout the decade, a period in which New Historicism contested established historical narratives and conventions by listening to ‘voices that had not been heard by traditional historians’ (Palmer 2009: 22). Gothic time ticked down



to a technological, if not divine, apocalypse that never came. Even Buffy, heroine of 1990s teen Gothic TV, dispatches established vampiric history with aplomb by destroying Dracula’s diegetic intrusion into her world (‘Buffy vs. Dracula’, 5.01), draining this televisual ‘conglomeration of [cinematic] Draculas’ (Abbott 2017: 184) in an episode wherein Dracula’s ‘affects and his Gothic narrative are textually construed as obsolete’ (Hills 2005: 122). This intrusion of the Gothic past exhausts rather than exhilarates, and is all too neatly refracted in denying Dracula’s literary legacy, remoulding him as a disposable Dracula variant, which erases Stoker’s literary progenitor; Buffy quips as she bests him not once but twice (of course) to close off the cultural decade: ‘You think I don’t watch your movies? … You always come back!’

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Film and TV The Addiction. Dir. Abel Ferrara, Polygram, 1995. Angel. Created by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 1999–2004. Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, Columbia Pictures, 1992. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Created by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 1997–2003. Cronos. Dir. Guillermo del Toro, October Films, 1993. The Crow. Dir. Alex Proyas, Dimension Films, 1994. Dark Shadows. Created by Dan Curtis, NBC, 1991. del Toro, Guillermo. Director’s Commentary. Cronos [1993], October Films, Special Edition DVD, 2006. Dracula’s Daughter. Dir. Lambert Hillyer, Universal Pictures, 1936. Forever Night. Created by Barney Cohen and James D. Parriott, CBS, 1992–1996. Friday the 13th: The Series. Created by Larry B. Williams and Frank Mancuso Jr., Paramount Television, 1987–1990. From Dusk Till Dawn. Dir Robert Rodriguez, Dimension Films, 1996. The Game. Dir. David Fincher, Polygram, 1997. Gone with the Wind. Dir. Victor Fleming, 1939. Habit. Dir. Larry Fessenden, Glass Eye Pix, 1995. Interview with the Vampire. Dir. Neil Jordan, Geffen Pictures, 1994. Irma Vep. Dir. Olivier Assayas, Canal+, 1996. Kindergarten Cop. Dir. Ivan Reitman, Imagine Entertainment, 1990. L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat. Dirs. Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1896. Les Vampires. Dir. Louis Feuillade, Artificial Eye, 1915. Lethal Weapon. Dir. Richard Donner, Warner Bros., 1987. Misery. Dir. Rob Reiner, Castle Rock, 1990. Nadja. Dir. Michael Almereyda, Kino Link Company, 1994. Nosferatu. Dir. F. W. Murnau, Prana, 1922. Oscar. Dir. John Landis, Touchstone Pictures, 1991. The Silence of the Lambs. Dir. Jonathan Demme, Orion Pictures, 1991. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Dir. F. W Murnau, Fox Film Corporation, 1927. Superman. Dir. Richard Donner, Warner Bros., 1978. Tales from the Crypt. Created by Steven Dodd, HBO, 1989–1996. Terminator II: Judgment Day. Dir. James Cameron, Carolco, 1991. Twin Peaks. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Lynch/Frost Productions, 1990–1991. Twins. Dir. Ivan Reitman, Universal, 1988. Ultraviolet. Created by Joe Ahearne. Channel 4 Productions, 1998. The Usual Suspects. Dir. Bryan Singer, Polygram, 1995. The X-Files. Created by Chris Carter. Ten Thirteen Productions, 1993–2002.


Fundamentalism, Hybridity, and Remapping the Vampire Body

After the scholarly, literary, and cultural celebrations of Dracula’s centenary ended in the late 1990s, the Count required revitalisation for a new century. As the Buffy episode ‘Buffy vs. Dracula’ (5.01) so painfully demonstrated, the cinematic bricolage the Count had accumulated in the advent of his centenary proved that Dracula was weighed down and exhausted by his twentieth-century evolution. Updating Stoker’s character from the late nineteenth century to the new millennium found expression through combinations of technology that embraced folkloric undeath alongside the vampire’s technological transformation onscreen. In Shadow of the Vampire (2000), a brilliant fictionalised narrative of the making of Murnau’s Nosferatu meta-textually told through Murnau’s (John Malkovich) obsessive quest to realise his cinematic vision while his cast grow increasingly suspicious that the film’s leading actor Max Shreck (Willem Dafoe) may be an actual revenant. Predicated on the vampire as a source of wonder to be exploited, the film traces Murnau’s blind ambition which culminates in the destruction of the vampire onscreen in order to profit from this spectacle. Directly adding to the cinematic legacy of vampiric immolation by sunlight, Murnau is recast as the true source of horror, while Schreck’s Gothic wonder is sacrificed for profit. One could argue that Hollywood has kept with this tradition in updating its Draculas in particular. Vampires in the twenty-first century are realigned into narratives of extremist and divisive representations, signposted through explicit political, religious, and scientific themes. Rice’s own Lestat states a declarative religiosity following his adventures with © The Author(s) 2019 S. Ní Fhlainn, Postmodern Vampires,



his infernal majesty in Memnoch the Devil (1995), entering the new millennium dreaming of his transformation from Brat Prince of the damned into canonised sainthood: ‘I want be a saint, I want save souls by the millions. I want to fight evil! I want my life-size statue in every church’ (Rice 2003: 3). In the increasing polarised discourse of post-millennial American politics, vampires have been remapped and reclaimed to voice both sides of this divide. From narratives invoking Christ and Judas to racial politics localised to the ‘mulatto’ vampire body, all imbued with the atmosphere of apocalypse, the twenty-first-century vampire has absorbed these tensions and gives voice to both sides of this extremist division. The theme of cultural war is common to all the films and novels discussed in this chapter; religious belief and scientific progress feature with particular emphasis while religious subscription and secularism each lay separate claims to the vampire body as a political barometer. Throughout this cultural decade of the second Bush administration, leading into the Obama administration by the decade’s end, vampires emerge fully realised and radicalised from the cultural wars that have dominated the popular discourse since the millennium. Hiding from that neoconservative Republican sun previously destructive to vampires in the 1980s under Reagan, vampires have recently been domesticated by technology in Buffy and Angel, or hybridised like Blade (1998). In many of the textual readings to follow, vampires are dominated by, or in pursuit of, technological wonders. Science and weaponry are also present in a myriad of other horror and action genre films in recent years, usually anticipating a chemical or biological apocalypse from which zombies, vampires, and hybridised monsters emerge to pick off the remains of humankind. This new millennium is preoccupied with apocalypse; while Y2K brought about none of the projected fears of meltdown, 9/11 became the event marking the beginning of the first cultural decade of the twenty-­ first century, casting off previously held isolationist and more-­ relaxed cultural security enjoyed during the 1990s; the explicit global focus on American foreign policy was in direct response to the shocking images of the destruction of the World Trade Centre towers, broadcast live on TV across the world. Vampires too, have gone global, as Stacey Abbott affirms, for they ‘continue to be a product of the changing modern world, this time by expanding its freedom of mobility beyond the borders of America’ (2007: 215). It seems no borders shackle their influence or prevent their infiltration; from small isolated towns in northern



Sweden and Alaska to major American cities, vampires gang up, compete for influence and status, and create more revenants. Of course, vampiric invasions beyond defined national borders have always been a source of national anxiety; from Stoker’s Dracula to Stephen King’s vampire-king Barlow in ’Salem’s Lot, vampires frequently permeate through or slip behind closed borders. Becoming truly globalised beings, vampires frequently highlight the vulnerability of a nation’s ‘blood and soil’ and destabilise the security of boundaries, inside/outside, home/abroad, which define our perceptions of identity. Examples of this extensive influence are found in Blade II (2002) which takes place in Prague, while Blade: Trinity (2004) locates its vampiric inception in the Syrian desert; 30 Days of Night (2007) highlights Alaska as a weak permeable point for a heavily suggested Russian invasion across the Bering Strait and into the very margins of US geography, and Queen of the Damned (2002) shifts location continuously—from the Caribbean to London to the Nevada desert—as Lestat (Stuart Townsend) knows no geographical boundaries. In the concluding months of the 2008 presidential election, Alaska was brought into sharp focus when Governor Sarah Palin ran as the Republican vice-presidential candidate on John McCain’s ticket. Palin’s candidacy placed her home state Alaska, an often-overlooked outlier in presidential contests, as an ideologically neglected outpost which could be potentially threatened from external forces, and in need of renewed recognition and security. This was gleefully satirised in Tina Fey’s uncanny impersonation of Palin on Saturday Night Live which caricatured her political inexperience on the national stage with the suitably wry jab, ‘I can see Russia from my house!’ (13 September 2008). Palin’s candidacy temporarily brought Alaska in from the fringes of American geography to the heart of Washington politics, stirring up large support from the conservative Republican base and the evangelical Christian right; ideologically quiet but ever-present under Clinton, this voting base waxed its influence throughout President George W. Bush’s terms in office. The vampire narrative facilitates a recapitulation of nineteenth-century themes of invasion, cultural dilution, and infiltration, recalling Stephen D. Arata’s reading of Stoker’s novel as symbolically articulating a fear of reverse colonisation. The unprecedented level of aggressive globalisation in the twenty-first century is not only for commercial gain; post 9/11 the reinstatement of Western cultural metanarratives incorporated fundamentalist rhetoric on Armageddon, paranoia regarding the cultural and physical borders of the USA, reigniting pockets of racism and ethnic othering


by recasting outsiders and non-Westerners as hateful and barbaric ‘others’. This rhetoric was also evident in the use of the term ‘evildoers’ in President Bush’s remarks to the press in describing the 9/11 terrorists in the aftermath of the attacks. Samuel Huntington’s influential hypothesis in The Clash of Civilizations (2002) seemed to bear out his tense prediction that the rise of bloody borders and future wars would be fought on ideologically inflamed cultural differences rather than between nation states. This too facilitated an uneasy galvanising of international public debates on cultural supremacy and denouncements of opposing cultural blocs, threatening to reignite East vs. West cultural tensions that lingered in parts of Europe since the Crusades in 1095. It seemed this new millennium would be marred with the same tarnished bloody history of the previous one. These cultural anxieties were swiftly absorbed into the horror narrative, giving rise to the ‘torture porn’ cycle of horror films spearheaded by Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005) and Hostel II (2007) and Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s Saw films (2004–2010; 2017). These film series consciously remapped victimhood as an extension of national identity and perceived social or financial ‘value’: In the case of Roth’s Hostel films, passports are used to classify the pricing of victims for purchase in order to underscore distinct cultural hierarchies (Western/Eastern) and to assign a monetary value to particular victims for the purposes of murder tourism. Conversely, the Saw series focused on extreme moral lessons and the value of life as a sermon to be imparted on the (national) body politic for its sins of cultural and moral complacency. Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) survivors must endure a physical or moral sacrifice in order to atone for their past transgressions and to re-awaken their desire to survive the ordeals of the contemporary moment (often in the guise of destructive ludic traps). While torture porn was causing controversy as both a problematic label and as an explicit form of violent entertainment dominating horror box office in the mid-decade—David Edelstein’s piece in New York Magazine (28 January 2006), wherein a subeditor coined the now infamous term, saw his initial complaint about cinema becoming overly focused on pain and suffering across multiple film genres mutate into a succinct phrase for this particular strand of body horror—it nonetheless reflected prevalent anxieties about war and torture (in detainee camps in both Guantanamo Bay and Iraqi prisons by coalition forces) and created a cathartic cinematic space to psychologically explore unimaginably horrific scenarios rendered temporarily safe through entertainment. All the while, real Internet videos depicting beheadings of Western captives by



Islamic extremists were digitally published as near-instant reminders of the real horrors practised by terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. Vampires of the early twenty-first century (particularly in the Bush years, 2001– 2009) are deployed as symbols of fragmented and occasionally polarised geopolitical and cultural divisions; they can be evil prophets, or symbolic of unjust military intrusion, become chastity pledge group members, represent racist elitists or foreign invaders at national outposts, or manifest as divine wrath in a global apocalypse—they embody the uncertain cultural terrain we tread, and give voice to our repressed, darker selves.

9/11, Apocalypse, and Religious Fervour The uncertainties and fears that have dominated the cultural terrain in the early twenty-first century-stem largely from the events of 9/11, a catastrophic televised terrorist attack that shifted perceptions on political and cultural blocs considered stable since the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. 9/11, in all of its key unedited live images, transmitted worldwide for all to observe in horror, is the historically definitive ‘moment’ associated with the first decade of this new century. According to Martin Amis, It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty: that was the defining moment…. That plane looked eagerly alive, and galvanised with malice, and wholly alien. For those thousands in the South Tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future. (Amis 2008: 3)

The immediate reaction to the terrorist attack was one of shock and anger, which quickly spiralled into assigning blame. The descriptions used to decipher the chaos were steeped in political and religious rhetoric; from the advent of World War III to Armageddon, the attacks so resembled images of modern cinema as a contemporary vision of Hell. The initial scenes and reactions to the attacks recall paintings of Hell as depicted in Herrad of Landsberg’s Hortus deliciarum (1879–1899) with its distinct levels of torment, or Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, or The Millennium (1503–1504), with its third panel depicting the apocalypse and rains of fire and ash. Pieter Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death (1562) depiction of scattered bodies and a smouldering horizon also feels eerily close to the gloomy aftermath. In popular literature,


such imagery conjures up the end times as described in the Left Behind series (1995–2007) by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, in which Nicolae Carpathia, a symbolically and nominally loaded ‘vampire’ and Anti-Christ, becomes Secretary-General of the United Nations and leader of the ‘Global Community’ (a single world government), his consolidated power garnered to dispose of the followers of Christ in a final war. Of course, Carpathia’s evil intent is codified through ‘a chain of associations […] that includes humanism, academia, [and] the occult’ (Burack 2008: 19), giving rise to fears of the spread of liberal beliefs and leftist politics that have directly enabled his ascent to power. The novels envision the Evangelical eschatology of the rapture, wherein all those who are to be saved ascend into heaven, leaving those ‘left behind’ to battle in Armageddon on Earth. Amis described the World Trade Centre buildings aflame appearing ‘opulently evil, with their vampiric reds and blacks’ (Amis 2008: 5), suggesting a distinctly infernal quality, while Rachel Falconer finds echoes of the event in Dante’s Inferno, in which a terrible prison of torment is twinned with eerie accuracy: From Dante, Bosch, Brueghel [sic] and Michelangelo, as well as more recent fictions, one recognised the heat and flames, the crowds of souls amassing in terror, the verticalisation of space into distinct levels or circles of entrapment, the physical torments of burning, suffocation and dismemberment, even the still living bodies fatally plummeting to earth from the windows of the towers. (Falconer 2005: 225)

Falconer’s description uses the language of the apocalypse and is most certainly apt in capturing its horror. The quiet continued growth of the Religious Right in the USA, particularly towards the end of Clinton’s presidency, gained a significant foothold within the Republican Party base, a core of hard-line messianic devotees dedicated to securing George W. Bush’s presidency from Clinton’s Vice-President Al Gore, and in effect extend and ‘“remoralize” America’s role in the world’ (Grandin 2007: 220). However, rather than recognise 9/11 as a ‘shock and awe’ military manoeuvre—designed to create widespread disorientation, direct force with surgical precision, and evaluated by means of technique, objective, scope, and casualties—some Evangelicals feared it was a stern warning about America’s increasingly ‘errant’ secular society. Jerry Falwell stoked the flames of religious fervour on television by



proclaiming that the nation’s ‘sins had so angered God that he had withdrawn his protection from the country… that the paganists, the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians, the ACLU… I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen”’ (Sutton 2014: 370). Commentators such as Falwell and Rush Limbaugh, along with a group of emboldened pastors, directly called on President Bush to reintroduce prayer in schools, to reject Darwinian teachings on evolution and promote creationism and intelligent design, and to abolish abortion rights (Roe vs. Wade) to right the wayward direction of the nation without delay, while other believers shared their interpretation of the attack as a direct sign of the coming Rapture: Rev. Peter Gomes, a Baptist theologian at Harvard University, is one of this country’s preeminent Christian thinkers. Gomes believes that this provides some kind of solace and encouragement to believers in today’s society: ‘The events of September 11 gave an even greater urgency to believers and some non-believers.’ ‘I think 9/11 was a wake-up call to America. Suddenly, our false sense of security was shaken. And we’re vulnerable. And that fear can lead many people to Christ,’ says LaHaye [co-author of the Left Behind series], who takes that message around the country. (CBS 60 Minutes 2004)

The palpable shift towards the New Right after the Clinton presidency stirred up the sizable conservative Evangelical support base for the Republican Party, which ultimately secured George W. Bush his presidency in 2000. Al Gore, Bush’s opponent, won the popular vote but the Electoral College system awarded Bush the election, the results of which were bitterly contested in the courts for weeks after election night, and similarly contested in the media. Since Bush entered office under this divisive start, vampires have been split into separate forms of representation: they affirm a return to narratives of religious values or traditional roots in an increasingly conservative America; or, in stark opposition, embody liberal scientific discourse and technological progress. Vampires under Bush are substantially different than under the previous Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush; no longer sick and dying as they once did under Reagan, nor wholly sympathetic and doubled as evidenced under the first Bush presidency and Clinton’s two terms, vampires are reinvigorated but polarised, bifurcated as steadfast embodiments of Blue and Red on the American electoral map.


Vampire Creed: Dracula 2000 and Van Helsing Dracula 2000 (2000) reawakens Dracula (Gerard Butler) from his centurylong sleep by way of a band of opportunistic burglars and immoral action. Much like Blacula’s own accidental return hidden among pillaged antiques in the 1972 Blaxploitation film, Dracula’s reawakening is not to serve any ideological purpose but rather is tinged with capitalistic greed and immoral acquisition. His coffin is buried under technological lock and key in Carfax Abbey, atop of which an aged Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) has built a vast business empire founded in antiques (an echo of Stephen King’s evil duo Barlow and Straker), secreting the Abbey at its buried centre. Van Helsing has been prolonging his life through leeching blood directly from Dracula; injecting himself with the elixir to stave off his inevitable mortal death, Van Helsing poses as his own ‘grandson’ Matthew to avoid arousing suspicion. Once awakened and reinvigorated through fresh blood, Dracula begins his pursuit of Van Helsing’s daughter Mary (Justine Waddell), who resides in New Orleans. His attraction to her is based on a psychic link, resulting from a lingering blood connection gleaned from Van Helsing’s fusion of his blood with Dracula’s own, giving Mary a unique insight into Dracula’s desires, visions, and eternal suffering. The film is extremely religious in its symbolism, language, and imagery: frequently, in scenes pre-empting the Count’s arrival in New Orleans, crucifixes, religious banners (from Mardi Gras parades), and churches feature to emphasise the transgressive religious sins the film tries to negotiate. St. Louis’ Cathedral in Jackson Square features heavily in New Orleans’ establishing shots, for example, a striking church where, in Anne Rice’s novel Interview with the Vampire, Louis attacks a priest on the holy alter after seeking forgiveness from God (Rice 1994: 161–2). As Stacey Abbott notes, Dracula 2000 ‘offers a modern rereading of the Dracula story to reinstate the significance of Christianity to the vampire myth’ (Abbott 2007: 239 n4) but also overtly attempts to mesh it with Rice’s distinctive Southern Gothic geography by relocating Dracula quest to New Orleans in a deliberate nod to Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and the city’s growing vampire tourism. Vampires who claim atheism are dismissed by Van Helsing’s nephew, the aptly named Simon Sheppard (Jonny Lee Miller), who quips ‘God loves you anyway!’ as a religious justification to reinforce his moral righteousness. The use of the name Matthew by Van Helsing is also interestingly employed in the film to



recall Matthew the Evangelist, who is significantly known by two names in Biblical history; Matthew the Apostle and Levi the tax collector. The biblical connection, in particular, is enlarged by the film’s religious ending, revealing Dracula not as the familiar aristocratic Count of Stoker’s 1897 novel, but as Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ to the Romans. According to the Gospel of Matthew (27: 9–10), Judas, consumed by guilt, attempted to return the thirty pieces of silver in vain, and committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree. Lussier’s film links the use of silver against vampires to Judas’s payment in silver coins, citing the Eastern European belief that vampires are weakened by the metal. Dracula also quotes Christ in Aramaic, paraphrasing his teachings on eternal life: ‘I am the way to eternity’ (John 14: 6). Similarly, Judas’s kiss of betrayal is linked to the vampire bite with quick intercutting between the Last Supper and his claiming of Mary as his vampire bride. Framed by a neon-lit cross with an illustration of the crucified Christ upon it, Dracula is hanged and burned by daylight; purified by fire (and presumably released from his immortal curse with God’s forgiveness) he succumbs and dies in this replay of theological allegory. Retold as a deeply conservative reimagining of the Count’s origins, Dracula 2000 suffers from a bricolage of tropes and film citations that liberally borrow from religion and folklore to explain away Dracula’s undead purpose in the new millennium. The overreliance on biblical material limits Dracula’s agency to little more than a catch-all for sin— an embodiment of lust, power, treachery, hypocrisy, and vainglorious immortality—while heavily propagating a conservative Christian moral code in advocating religious membership over any other possible lifestyles or alternatives. The use of heavy metal music in the soundtrack (particularly when Butler is onscreen) further emphasises its conservative Christian leanings that such music is a corrupting influence and an aural conduit for infernal forces. And yet the interpretation of this Dracula as Judas Iscariot is a highly imaginative one in Dracula’s cinematic evolution, if not entirely original in vampire folklore. In popular culture, Judas has been identified as a red-haired young man, an attribute which, according to anthropologist Paul Barber, was also considered to be one of many markings indicative of vampirism in the Middle Ages. In Romanian myth, ‘people with red hair and blue eyes are said to be viewed (in Romania) as potential strigoï’ (Barber 1988: 32), a particular type of vampire with a ruddy complexion and two beating hearts. Folklorist Montague Summers asserts that ‘[t]hose whose hair is red, of


a certain peculiar shade, are unmistakably vampires… Red was the hair of Judas Iscariot and of Cain [who murdered Abel]’ (2008: 163). While Butler’s Dracula does not have red hair to demarcate his folkloric vampire heritage as Barber and Summers identify in their respective histories, the explicit invocation of Dracula as Judas functions as an interesting means to bypass direct Satanic invocation (which had surged in popular culture leading up to and into the new millennium) while also feeling suitably proximate as a cultural shorthand to denote betrayal and immorality without much religious teaching. Elsewhere in popular fiction, it is important to note that many post-millennial best-sellers revised interpretations of Jesus and biblical texts, reinterpreted renaissance paintings, and firmly situated apocalyptic prophecy as nestled within Vatican conspiracies. The search for the Holy Grail regained popularity, as had the covert power of the Illuminati thanks to Dan Brown’s two best-selling novels Angels and Demons (2000) and The Da Vinci Code (2003), and their blockbuster film adaptations starring Tom Hanks. Brown’s ongoing Robert Langdon novels all explicitly situate their conspiracies of symbolic interpretation, hidden archives, and church/religious corruption and collusion as central obstacles to the discovery of a historically obscured ‘truth’. Such tantalising conspiracies emanating from inside the Vatican walls do inform such entertainment well (and horrifically echo actual institutional secrets regarding crimes including sexual abuse and cover-ups spanning the late twentieth century) but fundamentally such suspicions emphasise growing fissures of doubt surrounding the Vatican’s authority in the new millennium. With similar concerns about access to seats of global power, Richard Donner’s 1976 film The Omen taps into this terror in popular fiction through its focus on the birth of the Anti-Christ in Europe. Resident in Rome when his pregnant wife gives birth to a stillborn child, American ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is approached by a mysterious priest who offers a living baby to replace his wife’s dead child without her knowledge. As Damien (Harvey Stephens) turns increasingly sinister and murderous, Thorn attempts to kill him with the Daggers of Megiddo but falters at the crucial moment and is shot by police. The film’s coda is particularly Evangelical in its eschatology as we see young Damien led away from Thorn’s funeral by the President of the USA, the child Anti-Christ’s access to power now assured, ‘presaging the final conflict of the Apocalypse’ (Schreck 2001: 183); this ability to access and influence world governing powers is central to Evangelical suspicion



of Catholicism. Furthermore, reported increases in cult memberships, fringe religions ranging from scientology to New Age mysticism (alongside more militant variations) signal evident unease felt in popular culture at the cusp of the fin-de-millennium. As Michael Barkun notes, the turning of time itself underscores its significance which, as expected, swelled at the nearing of the new millennium: [M]illennialism has always encouraged dualistic world views, with sharply defined spheres of good and evil. [T]he millennialism that fastens on the year 2000 seizes upon that date in part because it is seen as a boundary between perfect and imperfect time. And those who believe perfect time will arrive suddenly, in an instant, often join that to a belief in a coming final battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. (1999: 171)

This split between the forces of good and evil permit vampirism to be (re)interpreted and realigned as an affliction rather than an eternal damnation; vampires can, and occasionally do, represent honourable intentions in rising up against darker forces greater than their own morally problematic existence. Particularly in the case of Blade, this vampire superhero uses his warrior strength and self-determinism to defeat evil and suppresses his urge to feed on human blood with chemical synthetics. However, most vampire narratives since 2000 contain higher orders of power within their vampire communities, ancient sects, houses, and organisations which, while not necessarily primitive, do contain bloodlines and inviolable rules of their own. Vampires such as Blade continue to straddle the liminal space between the ancient and the modern, the flesh and the technologically advanced, in order to explore these cultural rifts. Contemporary advancements in bioscience and technologically advanced weaponry, alongside the mapping the human genome, cloning and genetic modification, affirm science as a platform upon which important battles will continue to be waged. On screen, this merging of scientific enhancement with sanguine immortals is evident: John J. Jordan’s case for the development of the vampire-cyborg observes the vampire’s screen evolution from an organic, fleshy, and sanguine state to that of a generated (and regenerating) mechanism. Jordan states that in Blade ‘mysticism is marginalized and devalued, and science is brought into occupy the now vacant center’, [sic] (Jordan 1999: 10) while Abbott, expanding on Jordan’s article, argues that vampires ‘are no longer defined by the boundaries of their


bodies but are often able to transcend and redefine them at their will […] vampire hunters embrace technology while the vampires come to embody it, as they are transformed, both narratively and aesthetically, into vampire cyborgs’ (Abbott 2007: 198). The digital frontier of designing vampire-cyborgs explicitly codifies vampires as ­embodiments of the ‘up to date’ mechanics of Hollywood industrial special effects from the late 1990s onwards. These incorporated vampire bodies (helmed by major studios) become increasingly fluid, glossy, and seamless as SFX screen technologies enhanced throughout the decade. Twenty-first-century vampires court science as an ultimate weapon to spread their particular set of beliefs, or to expand their threatened empire. Both vampire-killers and revenants embrace technology to destroy each other. Despite these technological developments, and an increasing abandonment of religious paraphernalia by the vampire hunter in favour of modern weaponry, traces of religious influence or sponsorship linger to warn that technology does not entirely replace its significance. While Dracula 2000 effectively skips over the twentieth century, jumping straight from 1897 to 2000, Van Helsing (2004) retraces and revises the Victorian landscape by collapsing pop culture pastiche representations of that period, created across the twentieth century, into one narrative. Science, fiction, and super-heroism combine in Van Helsing in a sweeping attempt to contain nearly all of the major Gothic narratives of the nineteenth century via twenty-first-century screen technology; even its Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) voices these self-same goals as ‘the triumph of science over god!’ Sommers’s film clumsily combines three prominent Gothic and horror texts—Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and The Wolf Man (1941) and attempts to weave these tales through the diegesis, as was the case for other Universal ensemble monster films such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), in his mashed up multi-verse. Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a youthful representation of Stoker’s learned professor, discarding his academic background in an anti-intellectual volte-face in favour of morphing into a conventional superhero by hunting monsters. Suffering from memory loss and found on the steps of the church by monks, Van Helsing swears allegiance to defend the church above all else as an effective but unthinking secret agent and soldier—‘I usually just ask “What is it?” and “How do I kill it?”’—following orders from his patrons to contain Stevenson’s Jekyll (and Hyde), and to eliminate Dracula. Accompanied by Friar Carl (David Wenham), who acts as Van Helsing’s aide and weapons expert,



in an homage to James Bond’s Q (Desmond Llewellyn), their mission is to rid the world of Dracula who has effectively become an imperishable immortal hell-bent on breeding a legion of vampire children using Dr. Frankenstein’s scientific discovery of galvanism. Abbott and Jordan’s vampire-cyborg is at its most prevalent here, not only by way of Sommers’s CGI film-making technique to morph and stretch Dracula’s body onscreen, but also in Sommers’s insistence that Dracula should be virtually unstoppable: he physically reassembles after being scorched and impaled, remaining impervious to any force (or, most crucially narrative rules) which would have physically destroyed previous vampires. Metaphorically, Dracula’s ideology is more threatening and loaded than his literary legacy (which alongside other Gothic narratives is thoroughly obliterated by Sommers’s hyper-combinations which read as a series of ill-fitting set pieces) because his goal stokes the anxieties of an unstoppable cultural invasion, an awakening of near-dead vampire children who can, with the right technology, be triggered into direct action as thinly veiled sleeper cells awaiting instruction and deployment. Even the vampire visage here is simply an assortment of camouflages exemplifying his metamorphic capabilities; Roxburgh’s own face as Dracula is one of many shifting computer-generated masks and forms to emphasise the monster housed within the ideology of a seemingly musty Gothic monster, simmering beneath a façade undetected. In many ways, Van Helsing articulates the return of a post 9/11 imperial Gothic, particularly in its stripping away of Van Helsing’s academic honours and cunning in favour of an Indiana Jones style costume, physical strength and mercenary attitude which rewrites Stoker’s vampire hunter into an American hero from the adventure genre. His unequivocal moral superiority is also reflected through his sponsorship by the Vatican Cardinals as is his name, Gabriel, which confers his honour as ‘the right hand of God’. As a War on Terror narrative, it characterises Dracula as an Anti-Christ terrorist ‘who distinctly recalls the popular representation of both Saddam Hussein and Usama Bin Laden [sic] […] [in] plotting the destruction of the civilised world through his legion of vampire offspring […] [As with bin Laden and Saddam Hussein] Dracula is in cowardly hiding from the justice Van Helsing intends to mete out’ (Höglund 2005: 251). Further still, the landscape of Romania in the film is reductionist, flattening its history into that of a barren landscape wholly divorced from Western culture. Riven with native tribes who view Van Helsing with suspicion and horror at


first, the film rewrites Romania and her people as allegories to replay the invasion of Afghanistan by American forces under Operation Enduring Freedom, as Höglund shrewdly observes: this military incursion is repackaged as necessary ‘to the survival of the entire world as the Count is planning to fill the world with his own weapons of mass destruction’ (2005: 251). Mirroring the reclusive nature of these powerful figureheads in international terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan during the War on Terror, this Dracula, much like bin Laden and Hussein, does not physically penetrate American borders in order to provoke terror but rather deploys theological and ideological agency through the power of technology (be it through Web communication or through the threat of biological warfare) to spread his influence. And, as with both Saddam and bin Laden, Dracula is hunted down by Van Helsing’s hyperbolic representation of American machismo in a determined attempt to cast off national trauma and anxiety in favour of gung-ho retribution. To reinforce national security, these villains are sought out during the decade by invading American military forces, as in the case of Hussein’s capture in Tikrit, Iraq (on 14 December 2003), or located in bordering third party countries as per the targeted assassination of bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan (on 1 May 2011); the containment and ultimate destruction of such figureheads deemed responsible for acts of ideological terrorism aims to redress and/or counteract the prevalence of American cultural turmoil. Such tactics may be expected in the theatre of modern warfare (despite the caution expressed by international allies at America’s campaign to seek out undesirable targets with drones and black ops), but nonetheless it erodes America’s claim of idealism and her exceptionalism when it metes out justice tinged with revenge. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams admonished such geopolitical tactics on ideological grounds (a fundamental founding ideal, in that he resolutely guards American foreign policy and isolationism, particularly in relation to European wars) in his address on American values to the House of Representatives on 4 July 1821. Adams poetically declared, ‘[America] goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own’. America must safeguard her isolationist position on the geopolitical front because to do otherwise would repudiate or compromise the nation’s special moral claim. Adams warns, ‘The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty



to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit’ (Adams qtd in McDougall 2016: 66–7). This spirit of idealism, isolationism, and self-governance has been lauded as an ideological bedrock of American values since the founding of the Republic, and has been invoked (and oft quoted) across the political spectrum, from hard isolationists on the conservative right to pacifists on the liberal left, as a moral compass for the nation in moments of fractious division and geopolitical instability. While Adams affirmed that America must defend her own security and independence, modern warfare has enabled the inverse of his declaration to become a reality, whereby new horizons and political goals equipped by technology and ideologically driven warfare can be activated directly within the homeland, and the dangerous demonisation of representative figureheads carves out the creation of new enemies to seek out under the moral banner of freedom, while often ignoring the complexity underpinning foreign regimes. This is not to say that all interventions were the wrong course of action, but such actions threaten the precarious balance between enabling the ideals of freedom and the reality of globalised ‘moral’ policing. Across the twentieth century in particular, from Hitler and Stalin, to Milosevic, bin Laden and Hussein, ‘the American public is never more ready to approve of international interventions than when there are identifiable monsters to be destroyed…. The very personal demonization of opponents is a reliable tradition of American foreign policy’ (Schweigler 2003: 60). Within the homeland, the Patriot Act (2001) eroded civil liberties by increasing surveillance of citizens and fed a pronounced culture of paranoia which festered in the aftermath of the attacks. The oceans which had, at least psychologically, assured safe distance evaporated away in the chaos. In the aftermath of an initial (and fleeting) feeling of national political solidarity between parties, the fissures of blame emerged. Rick Perlstein observed, The things that happen every time God’s chosen nation goes to war to save civilization happened again. We witnessed civil-liberties violations, knuckleheaded jingoism, attacks on internal enemies (and not just Arab Americans), and the almost systematic suspension of sound judgment by experts and mandarins, who sought monsters to slay. Michael Kelly, editor of The Atlantic, called the left “objectively pro-terrorist,” and blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote that “the decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts … may well mount what amounts to a fifth column”. (Perlstein 2011: n.p.)


While vampire narratives of the early twenty-first century are largely fuelled by racial tension as embodiments of increased rage and incredulity at ancient, or foreign, religious groups threatening the ideology of American influence, other artists used the vampire metaphor as an apt form of political caricature to voice their dissent from within American culture to protest the erosion of sacrosanct American values for her own citizens. Accompanying a political essay by Rick Perlstein on the timely reassessment of Richard Nixon’s presidency and legacy, The Village Voice (26 October 2004) also featured Alex Ross’s painting ‘Sucking Democracy Dry’ (the cover art of this book) to accompany Perlstein’s analysis on Nixon’s turbulent presidency and its influence in the contemporary moment. For some, Ross’s arresting image reinforced the true cost of revised post-9/11 civil liberties on American citizens, a mixture of draining the body politic of its fundamental rights in order to prop up increasingly consolidated centres of power and influence. For others, it was offensive to present the President in this manner, reading his vampirism as a Gothic critique that radically calls his administration’s true intentions into question. Ross’s image adorned T-shirts, posters, and featured in the True Blood (2008–2014) episode ‘Escape from Dragon House’ (1.04), in a brief moment that suggests the outgoing incumbent was a vampire all along. Ross’s artwork protests against Bush’s ideological crusade while eloquently marrying the symbiotic reflective relationship between the Postmodern vampire and the American presidency in popular culture. Its vivid depiction of President G. W. Bush draining a reclined Lady Liberty—recalling a similar Christopher Lee pose in poster art for Hammer’s Horror of Dracula (1958)—succinctly articulates the political left’s anger at the invasive price of the Patriot Act and other far-reaching legal measures that were swiftly approved under the banner of national security. Ross’s stunning image articulates a deep ideological frustration at the high personal cost of terror prevention that fundamentally drains away personal liberty, one of the nation’s most prized principles, by those sworn to protect her citizens.

Hybridity, Race, and Global Consumption Tracing back to earlier outliers in vampire film and fiction whose legacy rose to prominence via its early twenty-first-century sequels, Blade, based on the 1970s Marvel comic, and portrayed with gusto by Wesley Snipes, features a half-vampire ‘daywalker’ hunting his vicious vampire brethren.



The film’s cult status (ensuring two sequels) introduced new technological solutions to slaying vampires, while simultaneously disregarding and mocking previous vampire myths and strategies. Indeed, Blade is, in many ways, a highly Postmodern film in that the true moments of tension and battle take place within the world of vampire politics. The language of the film is laced with aristocratic notions of the past, favouring ‘pure’ blood vampires over ‘turned’ ones, emphasised in the casting of horror icon Udo Kier (Dracula in Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula [1974]) as Dragonetti, the head vampire of the Noble House of Errebus. However, juxtaposed against this background of aristocracy and the historically weighted cachet of nobility, there is a notable reliance on science to account for the vampire condition and the necessity of technological weaponry in order to defeat them. The vampire body is reduced to a series of medical allergies, effectively casting aside myth and legend and imposing visceral physical responses: As Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) informs Karen (N’Bushe Wright): Crosses don’t do squat. Some legends are true though. Vampires are severely allergic to silver. Feed them garlic, and they go into anaphylactic shock. Then, of course, there’s always sunlight, ultraviolet rays…

Blade continues, forget what you’ve seen in the movies. You use a stake, silver or sunlight. You know how to use one of these? [Blade gives Karen a gun] Safety is off, round’s already chambered, silver hollow point filled with garlic. You aim for the head or the heart. Anything else is your ass. (Norrington 1998)

The battle between the Noble House of Errebus and Deacon Frost’s (Stephen Dorff) vampire faction is central to Blade’s departure from other Postmodern vampire texts which precede it. Harbouring vampires in high society and business, The House of Errebus reads as a Gothic space secreted within the modern world: its archives are filled with encrypted ancient texts (including the Vampire Bible), overseen by its migrant elders with exotic accents and ancient bloodlines that speak directly to America’s first colonisation and its protectionism. Blood lineage is heavily weighted in Blade, ‘for the vampire world is plagued with racial prejudice’ (Abbott 2006: 137) while subtly denouncing any American (or youthful) lineage as merely inferior and ‘other’. Spurned


for their impure vampirism, Frost’s gang ‘embrace their identity as vampires through violence and bloodlust rather than heritage and tradition’ (Abbott 2006: 137). These historical tensions boil down to issues of race and purity, for Frost also makes continual reference to Blade’s transgression as a racially liminal ‘daywalker’, a pointed and layered term suggesting miscegenation and Gothic otherness. Blade’s own vampirism originated in the womb, as his mother was attacked by a vampire while pregnant. His transformation in utero illustrates vampirism is a viral infection, and casts Blade himself as the result of a contaminating rape, reinforced by the complexity of his mixed lineage as vampire victim and the reluctant genetic bearer of its powers. The word ‘daywalker’ can be read as a mixed-race anomaly in this vampire world which complicates the structure of blood purity in the narrative. While Blade is physically ‘other’ because of his abilities—his strength, speed, and regenerative qualities including walking in daylight unharmed—he nonetheless thirsts for blood which he suppresses with a synthetic serum. Frost denounces Blade’s use of a blood serum in distinctly painful racial terms, taunting him as an ‘Uncle Tom’ because of his refusal to abuse his unique ability to seize power for himself. Yet Frost’s name also implies a particular racial otherness too, as his name suggests the colour grey—a ‘dirty white’—announcing his white impurity. Such inferiority consumes Frost as he assumes control of the House of Errebus for himself; desperate to declare himself superior, Frost confronts Blade in the daylight, smearing himself in streaks of thick white sunblock to temporarily equal Blade’s exceptional status, while simultaneously making his appearance even whiter in order to achieve it. Frances Gateward’s observes the film’s defining degrees of whiteness and blackness as it maps onto America’s complex history with race, immigration, and slavery: The film’s obsession with racial purity is even recognized by the designations of vampires, such as the more aristocratic council, made up of pure bloods, and the lesser beings who became vampires not by birth but by being turned - analogous to the levels of Whiteness that places WASPS at the apex, and Jews, the Irish, and Italians at the bottom. Frost’s frustration in the film, which leads to his violence and plan for vampire domination, is fuelled by a pathology that discerns him as “not white enough”. (2004: n.p.)

Similarly, Blade’s blackness is called into question by Frost’s ‘Uncle Tom’ taunt. Frost regards his blackness as a front for Blade’s genetic



miscegenation (his part whiteness as a half-vampire), an inversion of the one-drop rule of racial segregation, which, until 1967, was used in US law to classify persons of colour from mixed ancestry. Blade’s exceptionalism as a ‘hybrid of human and vampire, and a born vampire’ (Abbott 2016: 133), marks out his blood as a fusion that violates segregationist hierarchies with which the vampire world is riven, and, ironically, due to the rarity of Blade’s blood, it is required to bestow god-like power through La Magra (The Blood God). Blade’s blood, then, simultaneously breaks the code of the vampire world with its unique qualities but is nonetheless required for a powerful ritual based on the sanctity of bloodlines within vampire culture. In its obsession with lineage and ancestry, the domain of ‘white science’ emerges as the elite order that desires to control Blade’s blood, and yet it is rendered archaic if the future of vampire ascension can only be achieved through the mixture of racial lines. These themes recall the abhorrent and racist debates in early twentieth-­ century eugenics which promoted biological superiority in particular races or groups, mostly Northern Europeans, above all others. First coined by Francis Galton in 1883, ‘[e]ugenics is the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage’ (Galton 2000: 79), a definition later used to argue the inferiority of black people, ‘invalids’, and people afflicted with mental disorders. As Braslow outlines, under the 1909 ‘Asexualisation’ act (until 1979), the state of California forcibly castrated or sterilised individuals under the state’s care, peaking prior to 1950 at the height of the eugenic movement; in 1921 alone, California accounted for over 80% of all hospital sterilisations in the USA. While eugenics is commonly associated with the horrors of Nazi Germany, it was the defence of those who conducted such experiments at the Nuremberg trials that their scientific experiments had been inspired by Californian state policy (Braslow 1997: 56). The policing of bodies, in reproductive or genetic terms, fits neatly into the racially inflamed history of urban Los Angeles in Blade, specifically through its vampire gang inhabitants, the bland yet vast cityscape, and the explicit police brutality towards black people, recalling the filmed attack on Rodney King and the subsequent carnage of the LA Riots only five years prior to the film’s production. On many levels, Blade is a necessary rebellion against the systemic horrors of racial violence (be it castration, imprisonment, or ghettoisation) to preserve unjust social hierarchies (via the police, the


law, or government agencies) that institutionalise the brutal policing of blackness and the black body. In sharp contrast, the white body in Blade runs the gamut of representation, from the European ‘ideal’ to the ‘undesirable immigrant’ down to the comically abject. Pearl (Eric Edwards), the blubbery white vampire archivist, is the epitome of white consumption gone amok. Appearing onscreen as literal folds of fat as a white hyper-consumer, Pearl is the keeper of vampire knowledge and power. Sean Redmond’s analysis of the racial myths of white and black brains and bodies in science fiction is reinforced in the scene in which Blade and Pearl briefly standoff. Pearl is configured as all brain and technologically wired, a fleshy modern oracle of racial privilege spread out to emphasise his abjectness. Pearl conforms to what Sean Redmond’s terms as ‘white science’ onscreen (as the bearer of knowledge such as a professor/physicist and so on) as ‘this figure embodies the racial myth that white people are, in effect, cerebral entities; all brain and no body entities that can and do solve the mysteries of the universe, and who therefore resonate at the core of the story of creation itself….’ [my emphasis] (Redmond 2006: n.p.) Blade, representing hyper-physicality, responds to Pearl’s reluctance in giving up knowledge of the vampire origin with torture, scorching Pearl with a UV light in provocation because he requires Pearl’s crucial insight to complete his quest. Lacking access to knowledge, Blade is coded as Pearl’s opposite, where ‘the myth of the black as all body and no brain - bodies that have no place in the ‘enlightened’ narratives of science fiction cinema - unless that is, of course, they occur in the symbolic form of the marauding alien creature’ (Redmond 2006: n.p.). As Blade is celebrated as a liminal being, a combination of made and turned bloodlines and a powerful daywalker hybrid being capable of controlling his sanguine thirst, his body is constructed as a powerful alien vampire in sharp contrast with his riven half-brethren as Redmond’s coding suggests. His racial power and vampiric liminality enable him, through conflict and worthiness, to uniquely contest the ancient racist principles of this vampire world. In Andrew Fox’s novel, Fat White Vampire Blues, black blood is similarly fetishised for its rich taste and flavour by its anti-hero Jules Duchon. A 450 lb vampire masquerading as a New Orleans cab driver, Jules adapts his vampire life around his particularly awkward physical size, which prohibits his ability to morph into animals and his use of a standard coffin, having to make do with sleeping in a piano box. Representing the



commodity culture and its victimisation of the working class, Jules treats overweight black women as fast food: picking them up in his cab, gassing them, feeding and then draining the remaining blood into canisters. The taste he has acquired for New Orleans’ black blood is his reasoning for his substantial weight gain, which he attributes to his victims’ traditions of Creole cooking. Fox’s novel uses many negative stereotypes of black culture in his novel, particularly in the character of Malice X (undoubtedly inspired by Malcolm X, using X to denote that their given names were in fact slave names), a black athletic vampire who is depicted as a gang leader and thug, and determined to exact revenge on Jules for his consumption of ‘sisters and brothers’. Like Blade’s Frost, Jules’s racism is expressed through the perceived whiteness of vampirism and the expected power it implicitly confers. Consulting with vampire elder, Mr. Besthoff, he vents: ‘There’s a new vampire tryin’ to muscle in on our territory. A black vampire…How much plainer do I hafta make this? We’re all white, Caucasian, pale-skinned vampires’ [Fox’s emphasis] (Fox 2002: 38). This worldview demarcates whites as entitled consumers of black bodies. However, Mr. Besthoff cultivates his own special blood source by breeding ‘invalids’ in order to keep a fresh stock of blood for those in his fold, replicating a similar ‘farming’ practice in Thirst (1979). According to Jules, whiteness commands authority but tastes revolting (with the inverse logic applying to all forms of blackness), describing California blood, clearly implied as affluent and Caucasian, as unappealing as ‘downing a vitamin shake’ (Fox 2002: 307). Where Jules blames his preferred victims for his health issues (in the same vein that corporations apportion blame on their consumers for regular consumption of their product), his insatiable vampiric thirst and sedentary lifestyle clearly contribute to his unhealthy condition. He is representative of a white neoliberal capitalistic ideology wherein appetite trumps responsibility for its destructive powers. Eric Schlosser’s best-seller Fast Food Nation and Morgan Spurlock’s Oscar nominated documentary Super-Size Me (2004)—and its legal precursors The McLibel Trial (1994–1997) and Pelman vs. McDonald’s Corp. (2002)—brought diet culture and fast-food horrors to international prominence and, in so doing, publicly affirmed privately held suspicions about fast food’s potential impact. It holds little surprise, then, that vampires such as Jules would also bear out a similarly destructive appetite mirroring our own unhealthy obsession with cheap, tasty food, as he views it. The convenience and immediate gratification trump the social and cultural costs to communities and public health (for more on


this, see Austin 2007: 701–5). Schlosser aptly observes in his study that ‘A nation’s diet can be more revealing than its art or literature’ (2002: 3), focalising his key findings concerning the correlation between poverty and obesity, which disproportionately affects ethnic minorities and black communities, as a corollary of problematic social/housing conditions, class exclusion, and food insecurity. By virtue of the growing recognition of the chemical and industrial processes which make McFoods uniform across the globe, terms such as ‘free range’ (a term ironically used to describe Jules’s own diet in New Orleans, eating freely from the population) and organic have become increasingly desirable, connoting affluent ‘purity’ and wholesome alternatives to pre-packaged processed food. Science and blood become increasingly entwined in vampire culture at the fin-de-millennium, whereby ‘blood signifies the potential of modern genetics and the mysteries of DNA’ (Abbott 2007: 200), a potentially restorative pure scientific cure or a perceived pollutant through evolutionary hybridity. The unlimited potential of science becomes a cultural keystone in the early twenty-first century, a means to map the human genome (in 2003), for example, but also harbours the possibility of horrors if left unchecked (human cloning). Blood secretes the potential of genetics and mutation, but also highlights its adaptable yet frail nature as a mysterious, near-magical property in vampire culture. In Blade II (2002), the vampire mutations of the twenty-first century become overtly monstrous in the hands of white vampires, with evident elements of cyborg technology, eugenic programs, and alien otherness. The technology of film-making allows the vampire body to become a virtually limitless landscape onscreen, stretching, splitting, bleeding, and warping the body into new dimensions. The corporeally limited body becomes weak in the two Blade sequels as mutations and adaptations are central to the origins of the vampire. Blade II concerns itself with a new form of vampire, the Reapers—a Nosferatu-styled hyper-consumer combining a mutated mouth and unending hunger—who feed on both humans and vampires. Blade engages in a temporary truce with the vampire council to eradicate this new ‘diseased’ vampire and joins up with the Bloodpack, an elite hunting team trained to match Blade’s skill and strength. The Bloodpack are styled on Blade’s familiar image of leather and sleekness, emulating his look to distinguish them as an elite hunting team bearing costumes which signal their bodies as ‘closed off’ to the vampiric ‘disease’ they must collectively eradicate. Other vampires onscreen are viscerally displayed as opened up, expressing their undead



fleshy pleasures through tattooing, scarification, mutilation, and sexual hedonism as seen in the vampire club The House of Pain. We witness razor-blade bloody kisses, with vampires flaying and wounding their bodies for others to feed from as the film deliberately sets out to align subcultural fetish clubs and vampire promiscuity as a hedonistic and shared arena, in stark contrast with Blade’s established disgust with vampirism and his closed off body. Presented as feral, asexual, and uncommunicative, only the leader of the Reapers, Nomak (Luke Goss), the carrier of this new strain of vampirism, speaks at all for this new breed. The Reaper’s evolutionary advancement is described as ‘cancer with a purpose’, passed into the bloodstream which transforms the entire physiology of the body into a horrific hyper-consumer. When Bloodpack member Nyssa (Leonor Varela) performs an autopsy on a dead Reaper, the skin-stripped torso violently shudders in response to drops of blood poured into the exposed chest cavity, its diseased body still attempting to feed even after it has been killed. The Reaper vampire body is also radically different internally: the heart is encased in bone preventing death by staking and genetic modification has removed all medical allergies afflicting the ‘typical’ vampire body such as garlic and silver. Blade’s sword, usually cindering a vampire’s body with a single deadly blow, instead becomes stuck in the Reaper body and causes little damage. The physical armour of the ribs protecting the organs housed in the body cavity reveal the Reaper to be a compact ‘eating machine’; wholly alien (their blood is a greenish pus colour) and pathologically ‘hard-wired’ to adapt and protect itself in its fleshy environment. The Reaper mouth is distinctly alien in design, opening out the lower jaw by way of eliminating the mandible bone and using barbs from the tongue to transmit the virus and consume victims. Such technological stretching of the vampire body as evolutionary alienware updates the traditional associations of the vampire mouth as vagina dentata (Creed 2007: 65–6) and imbues it with new terrifying hyper-stretched possibilities through unbridled reproductive science and consumption. The evolution of the Reaper body also incorporates elements of eugenic experimentation: every Reaper when ‘infected’ becomes marbleised white in appearance, transforming the host into a hegemonic replica of a ‘Nosferatu’ vampire. Again, the purity of ‘whiteness’ is a key feature of this engineered eugenic ‘master race’ of vampires. The regressive aesthetic of the Reaper that echoes Schreck’s Count Orlok is deliberately deployed, for the Blade trilogy is narratively obsessed with origins and


past heritage. The virus, constructed to create a ‘master race’ of vampires is considered a vile, failed experiment of mad science, created to overcome Blade’s genetic advantages of hybridity and altering vampire genetics to be impervious to all other methods of killing except sunlight. The true horror of the Reapers, then, lies in their corporeal efficiency as omnivorous ‘eating machines’, a perfect example of vampire bio-horror. Bio-horror, as Eugene Thacker observes, most often features genetics and biotechnology as experiments gone wrong. The difference, however, is that in biohorror what goes wrong is that everything works perfectly. An engineered virus for instance ‘goes wrong’ not because it does not work, but because it works too well. The molecular level takes on a life of its own, with aims that are often counter to those of the human hosts they inhabit. (Thacker 2005: 388)

By Blade: Trinity (2004), however, evolutionary advancement as a scientific experiment is abandoned and the focus returns to unearthing the origins of vampirism to harvest its ancient potential. The ancient fount of vampirism is visually, aesthetically, and physically presented as an incorporated entity in the neoliberal world, a hyper-citational image which is resurrected to be drained of its ‘unique’ diegetic qualities. While CGI special effects have stretched the boundaries of possibility for the vampire onscreen, vampire allegiances, identities and empires have increasingly forged links with corporate entities. Blade’s blood, the plot catalyst for the first two films, is no longer of interest to the corporate vampire gang; instead they seek out the much coveted body of Dracula (renamed Drake [and portrayed by Dominic Purcell]) to empower themselves. Genetic engineering and DNA manipulation of Drake’s blood is desired to empower the gang and phase out their weaknesses to daylight and other ‘allergies’ (for Drake, as with Stoker’s Dracula, possesses none of these debilitations), enabling them to biologically replicate Drake’s unique imperviousness for themselves. This band of vampires is essentially bound up in replicating themselves in Drake’s own image (he is both a vampire god and corporate product with his literary eponym emblazoned on cereal boxes and Gothic paraphernalia), and their mimicry of his powers speaks as much to the late 1990s and early 2000s Draculas as simulacra as it does to the increased corporate profiteering of Gothic subculture/fandoms. Interestingly, Blade: Trinity shares much of its political narrative with Van Helsing, in that, Drake is buried deep within a Middle Eastern



temple echoing Van Helsing’s depiction of Romania as an imitation of war-torn Afghanistan housing ancient evils. Freed from his temple, Drake is suitably reconfigured as an unspeakable, unstoppable monster flirting with the genetic possibilities of mad science for the global pandemic spread of vampirism. These War on Terror texts actively reposition Dracula’s origins to the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan all meld into one seemingly hellish, barren and borderless place on screen) to serve contemporary political frustrations in the region, and to demarcate the space as concealing ‘others’ that must be tamed or destroyed. In Blade: Trinity’s prologue, Drake is ‘freed’ from an accessible yet hidden hole underground in modern-day Syria, which immediately evokes the capture of Saddam Hussein from a ‘spider hole’ bunker near his hometown of Tikrit, Iraq (BBC News 2003), one year earlier. The unearthing of these ‘monsters’ infuses mystery, if not suggested sourness, into Middle Eastern soil for its capability to harbour ancient evil power or to secret a former dictator. Furthermore, both images station Americans digging up these powerful former leaders in hiding for the benefit of public reassurance and political restoration. Such hubris hints at the human horrors to come: The vampire gang’s proposed ‘final solution’ to eradicate all ‘free’ humans from the population, including the homeless, is linguistically charged in its sanctioned destruction of the liberal left by a violent neoconservative ideology. It also reads as a clumsy attempt to deploy the language of slavery by using the term ‘free’ in a trilogy obsessed with origins and ethnicity, including demarcating its progenitor of vampirism, Drake, as white. Blade’s sidekick Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) outlines Drake and Blade’s shared status of being ‘born perfect’ in evolutionary terms, requiring neither of them to adapt. This scene is playfully undercut by directly citing both the origins of Blade in Marvel’s comic book The Tomb of Dracula (in July 1973) and the modern ‘origins’ of Dracula on screen, explicitly routed by director David S. Goyer through the prologue to Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). With its mysterious engravings and mosaics dreamily awakened with droplets of blood, Dracula’s decorative armour is lit in sumptuous reds and golds that scintillate in homage to Coppola’s warrior costuming for the Count; this variation, when worn on screen, becomes a morphing outer shell combined with cyborg technology rather than Coppola’s metaphor for flayed muscle and evident human corporality. Blade too embraces cyborg-fusion onscreen with his synthetic blood and technological means to destroy vampires but, as both hero and nemesis are


born ‘perfect’, Goyer’s film reads as homage to their respective origins and Marvel’s graphic novel, privileging narrative antecedence over technological wonder. At its conclusion, Drake is eradicated through a gene-altering chemical compound, designed to kill all vampires with one effective infection. Recalling Saddam’s history of experimenting with biochemical weaponry, at its climax, the film indulges in a fantasy of revenge whereby the burning of Drake’s body is evocative of the violence of chemical warfare. According to Samantha Power, Saddam’s sanctioned the gassing of Kurdish rebels in Halabja, north-east Iraq, on 16 March 1988, exposing them ‘to mustard gas, which burns, mutates DNA, and causes malformations and cancer; and the nerve gas sarin and tabun, which can kill, [and] paralyze … some 5,000 Kurds were killed immediately’ (Power 2003: 188–9). This sickening act of genocide illustrates the ruthless depravity of Saddam’s former regime. By poisoning Drake (as a Dracula variant) with a similar form of chemical compound, which visually mimics the radiation burns Power describes, it eradicates the entire vampire corporation under Drake’s sway, and poisons this representation of Saddam and his ideological acolytes in retribution with his own chemical arsenal. Other vampires also wage war with similarly themed racial and genetic grievances to those that dominate the Blade trilogy. The Underworld (2003–2016) franchise also shares considerable overlap in the use of technological weaponry including guns, UV and silver nitrate bullets, ninja stars and swords, in a bleak urban noir world in which vampires and lycanthropes have been embroiled in a war for centuries. Attempting to mimic much of the plot construction and style of Blade, Underworld is mired in fears of miscegenation, interracial relationships and slave narratives, emphasising tensions concerning hybrid offspring between revenants and lycans, demarcated as lower class non-white subservient animals to the ancient master race of vampires. The passing of the old political guard in favour of new younger agents of social and political change as propagated by vampire-warrior Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and lycan-hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman) underscores the ongoing obsession with vampire races and scientific experiments, while striving for the cultural rejection of past prejudices in favour of attaining positive social, political, and racial progress. Similarly, Sergei Lukyanenko’s Russian tetralogy Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozer) explores post-Soviet Russia through the lens of secret warring factions and magical realism. This hybrid science fiction/fantasy series, in which vampires feature as a part of a magical



and diverse population of warring Russian factions—caught in the midst of capitalism’s newfound grip on the nation in a metaphorical battle for its soul—bridges the urban decay of Underworld’s noir with the cultural and psychological dislocation of Arctic Gothic. Vampires, spread across the globe in the early twenty-first century, prove to be riven as a community at war with progress and with their own heritage. Illustrating the globalised nature of vampire infection, Sweden’s first vampire film Frostbite (aka Frostbiten) (2006) is equally invested in this narrative of genetics and DNA mutation. Set in a small town in the Norrbotten province in northern Sweden (the name of the town is not mentioned), geneticist Gerhard Beckert (Carl-Ake Eriksson), is perfecting the vampire virus he succumbed to during World War II through a genetic fusion of vampire and human blood. He claims to be the next step in the vampire evolution and, as with the Reapers in Blade II, Beckert survives on both species. Perfecting the genetic mutations of vampirism, he drugs a comatose patient at his hospital and monitors her adaptation to the experiment, transferring the virus to her with ominous red medicinal capsules. The capsules replace the infecting bite of the vampire, virally transmitting ‘a rhabdovirus, similar to rabies but a lot more aggressive’ (Banke 2006). Following a mix up with the capsules, vampirism eats through the community as they are distributed at a college party, which concludes in a violent bloodbath. Frostbite enjoys the inadvertent spread of vampirism as another disease that rips through isolated towns and communities; as with other similar instances of ‘Arctic Gothic’ (Cherry 2010: n.p.) in popular culture, vampiric infiltration transforms the sublime white landscape into a blood-spattered inescapable void. In Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s 2002 graphic novel 30 Days of Night, turning people into vampires is strictly forbidden. Humans are for feeding only; their brains dashed out and their bodies mutilated and decapitated to prevent vampirism from spreading. Set in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost settlement in the USA mainland, and 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, vampirism invades this outpost at the end of the world as an opportunistic feast, a permeable border to exploit in counterpoint with the desert-hot origins of evil and misrule that dominates early twenty-first-century War on Terror cinema. Niles and Templesmith present their vampire infiltration of Barrow with blurred depictions of violence in bursts and smudges of reds and oranges, and atmospheric illustrations in black, blue, and white tones to capture the bloodshed


against the void of the Arctic hinterland. In the 2007 film adaptation directed by David Slade, the images, tones, and scenery set out by Templesmith and Niles are largely intact, but the vampires are subtly altered to convey a more animalistic physicality and presence. Marlow (Danny Huston), leader of the vampire pack, speaks two languages, a vampiric tribal dialect and English, while the remainder of the vampire pack scream, howl, and nod in communication. As with Blade II, the use of language is only bestowed upon the central source of power or the leader of the undead invaders. These vampires possess invulnerability to all weaponry bar sunlight and UV light, and, like many other millennial revenants, a variety of folkloric and modern weapons are used against them to no avail: ‘They tried everything. Bullets, knives, wooden stakes. Stella even tried a cross. The thing just laughed at her’ (Niles and Templesmith 2002: 44). Religious tokens are notably absent in the fight to fend off the violence, and, in a cruel moment to underscore the futility of such beliefs, Marlow further tortures a whimpering victim as he looks skyward in response to her calls for divine mercy with his nihilistic epiplexis, ‘God? … No God!’ Identifying this vulnerable outpost as a point of entry to the USA, 30 Days of Night delights in the violent fantasy in deploying the paranoid Republican politics it satirises via its godless foreign invaders. Slade’s film critiques the political isolationism that creeps into the American psyche in the wake of 9/11, and the evident terror in defending all national borders from feral outsiders, however remote or distant from centres of power, and the visceral and ideological sacrifices that must be made to secure them.

Remapping the Vampire Body: Vampire Evolution I, or, Penitent Transformations and Apocalypse In the closing pages of Memnoch the Devil (1995), as discussed in the previous chapter, Anne Rice left her ‘brat prince’ Lestat inert in a ‘spiritual’ coma following his adventures with both God and the Devil. The novels published while her beloved protagonist remained in stasis largely use the same confessional template as established in Interview with the Vampire; individual subjective tales by secondary characters expand her narrative universe in which they obsess over vampire origins, peppered across history and geography, including the hedonistic worlds of maharajas, kingly patronages, and artistic and scholarly pursuits. In essence, Rice’s other vampire tales obsessively look back to, and are



narratively mired in, the past. Lestat’s narrative inertia in the contemporary era of the series, following his spiritual tryst with Memnoch the devil which renders him inert and voiceless, leads Rice to a serious occlusion: her series can only look back and flesh out secondary characters’ undead histories while Lestat, the narrative soul of the series, remains in stasis. His eventual reawakening, staggered across three post-millennial Vampire Chronicle instalments, suggests that Rice also readjusted the direction and tone of the series in response to readers’ frustrations at Lestat’s narrative absence for the remainder of the Chronicles published in the late 1990s. Rice eventually returns to Lestat’s narrative in which his sluggish revival is drawn out over three novels—his brief awakening at the end of The Vampire Armand (1998), his corporeal realisation in Merrick (2000), and finally, his full narrative restoration in Blackwood Farm (2002)—to insert religiosity and to remould the legacy of the series, a turn that caused further furore in online fan culture. When Lestat returns as the series’ narrative centre, we find him transformed from an icon of dandyism and devilish charm into a fevered and pontificating religious anti-hero, bloated with hubris and Catholic angst. Such a hostile turn, as it was perceived by her many fans who vented their displeasure online, ultimately brings the Vampire Chronicles to a decade-long conclusion (only to be revived, to the astonishment of many, in 2014 with the publication of Prince Lestat). Lestat’s turn to religious fervour nonetheless melds perfectly with the rising tide towards overt religious conservativism in popular discourse. In many ways, Rice’s doppelganger novel Blackwood Farm reads as a product of the 1990s popular culture, split across familiar Gothic tropes and new devout fervour, a bridge between two distinctly different periods which hints at the conflicted religious world view of its author. Rice gathers together her cast from her Mayfair Witches trilogy—The Witching Hour (1990), Lasher (1993), and Taltos (1994)—and the Vampire Chronicles only to promptly disavow both series at its conclusion in favour of her renewed religious interest in Jesus Christ. Through Lestat’s confessed personal quest to become a saint, as confessed to his readers, his ego wallows in his newfound transformation from rebel revenant to pseudo-religious icon. In Blood Canticle’s opening pages, he demands: ‘I want to have my life-sized plaster statue in every church in the world. Me… looking down with gently parted hands on the faithful who pray as they touch my foot’ (Rice 2003: 7). Addressing her readership and fans through Lestat’s religious fervour, through which Lestat claims


fans begged him to produce another blood-soaked Vampire Chronicle as both the tale’s author and subject, he abruptly renounces his wickedness in this ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion: ‘I DON’T WANT TO BE EVIL ANYMORE’ [Rice’s emphasis] (Rice 2003: 6). Lestat’s vanity permits him to imagine his sainthood acknowledged by Pope John Paul II at the pontiff’s deathbed, who listens to Lestat’s oration on the crumbling morals of the modern world, and his conjecture on Christ’s eventual triumph in the third millennium. Lestat’s contradictory millennialism shines through (for he chides readers for their apocalyptic thinking while voicing its familiar violence) with all the fervour of a convert: ‘we are at the dawn of a sublime age! Enemies will no longer be conquered. They will be devoured and transformed’ (Rice 2003: 11). Lestat’s homily (2003: 9–13) is critical of the modern world insofar as the ruthless pursuit of science has, in some capacity, demeaned a moral respect for God. At its end, his oration is a hollow fantasy of impossible purity which he knows he cannot attain; however, it also becomes a blunt tool for Rice to respond to criticism by her fans who demand she continues publishing the series in its former thematic vein. Lestat’s monologue suggests a suppressed temptation to return, but his conviction eclipses it with a resolute finality: ‘be gone from me, oh mortals who are pure of heart. Be gone from my thoughts, oh souls that dream great dreams… I am the magnet for the damned… – the blood that teaches life will not teach lies, and love becomes my reprimand, my goad, my song’ (Rice 2003: 306). The backlash online was unpleasant, even for the early days of digital fan cultures. Rice’s conclusion to the series was met with considerable hostility and negative reviews, with some fans claiming that she had utterly betrayed her legacy and readership by ending the series so contentiously and, in its stead, concentrating on ‘only writ[ing] for the Lord’ (Gates 2005: n.p.). The queen of vampire literature had turned on her heel for an altogether more conservative immortal, to the distaste of many, and, it has been speculated that this turn was brought about by the untimely death of her husband, the poet Stan Rice, in December 2002. If the Vampire Chronicles served any particular cultural purpose for its devoted readers, it was that it gave voice to an array of marginalised queer immortals, typically shunned by mainstream centres of cultural power; thus, the Chronicles opened up vampire subjectivity as a space for rebellious experiences and Gothic transgressions for its readers. Its central premise of a parallel and undocumented undead experience is so alluring, so full of promise with the charge of queer voices and



(in particular) homoerotic desire, that it feels distinctly countercultural in its roots. This conclusion, then, to subsume Lestat into the folds of established and distinctly exclusionary, anti-queer Catholicism reads as a final betrayal to many who found solace and celebration in Rice’s saga, an affront to many in its final acquiescence to conservative forces which earlier tales (certainly its first four novels) vehemently resisted. The whimpering apocalypse for the Chronicles lies in Lestat’s penitence and grandiose, if uniquely bland, delusions of belonging at its end—had his literary rebellion ultimately amounted to nothing?—or had Rice’s conservatism always been hidden in plain sight, as Haggerty claims, whereby queer desire for her vampires is inherently tied to a darker, repressed self, ‘a symptom of everything that is most thrilling and most deadly in contemporary culture’ (2006: 196). Interviewed in Christianity Today, Rice stated that her first book in the wake of the Vampire Chronicles, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (2005) ‘means more to me than anything I’ve ever done… I’m not offering agnostic explanations. He is real. He worked miracles. He is the Son of God! And there is so much more to write’ (Crosby 2005: n.p.). The palpable ire of fans at the discontinuation of the series resulted in a public spat between Rice and negative reviewers of Blood Canticle on Amazon. com, securing coverage in the International Herald Tribune (Lyall 2004b: n.p.) for her dismissal of literary editors and contesting the ‘slanderous’ comments by reviewers about her writing practices and the religious turn of her formerly rebellious anti-hero. Rice did not help matters with her (since deleted) response, entitled ‘From the Author to the Some of the Negative Voices Here’ [sic] (6 September 2004), in which she confirms the conclusion of her vampire mythology in a perplexing mixture of acidic jubilance and harsh finality: ‘Yes, The “Chronicles” are no more! Thank God!’ (Lyall 2004a: n.p.). Rice’s Chronicles have also had a peculiar afterlife onscreen which failed to encompass the complexity of her vast vampire world. While Rice’s series certainly gives voice and song to the immortal experience, these limited adaptations and reimaginings reveal Rice’s world is brittle in the commercial hands of trans-media adaptation: to date, there has been a Broadway musical composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Lestat (2006), which closed within two months after a string of negative reviews; and a 2002 sequel to Neil Jordan’s film which, like the later failed musical, gives voice to the vampire through song but redirects its musical drive at a different audience. Queen of the Damned (2002) is one such example:


it is an awkward attempt to combine the end of Rice’s second novel, The Vampire Lestat (1985) with its sequel Queen of the Damned (1988) into a hundred-minute running time, sacrificing narrative clarity and nuance for a confusing and glossy extended music video, which spins Lestat (Stuart Townsend) as a celebrity idol articulating his immortal isolation through Nu metal music. ‘Ghost voiced’ with distinction by Korn’s lead-singer Jonathan Davis for the film’s musical performances and videos, Lestat’s music colours the entire mood of the film, moving it away from Jordan’s sumptuous tone for contemporary metal aesthetic and set pieces which, while pleasurable in their own right, cannot compensate for the dramatic narrative shift in Lestat’s characterisation and development. There is little doubt that these two very different screen iterations of Lestat serve two divergent audience demographics, not to mention the stage adaptation which only complicates this vampire’s hybridised musical expression further. With Queen of the Damned’s box office failure (but nonetheless strong and popular soundtrack), Lestat’s narrative onscreen comes to an end (for now), though rumours continue to circulate in undead fashion about a pending long-form television series. Stacey Abbott also observes that the ‘spirit of apocalypse… underpins our times’ (2016: 5), particularly evident in the proliferation of vampire and zombie TV series and films in the twenty-first century. Endings of any sort may be reinterpreted as potential new beginnings (as they are for many sentient vampires and zombies who commence their ‘second’ chance in undeath following the end of their human life) but are, nonetheless, mired in apocalyptic themes. Joss Whedon’s Angel sees vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) and his motley crew of friends regularly prevent all attempts to bring forth an apocalypse, if only by delaying the inevitable. As Lindsay, a partner in the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart informs our heroes in the concluding narrative arc of the final season, these aversions are only temporary as we are all ‘soaking’ in the apocalyptic culture of the end times. For Angel, concluding the TV series by confronting the ‘end of everything’ is remarkably fitting (especially in the face of the contested decision by the WB network to cancel the series despite its increased ratings) closing with our heroes dashing out to do battle and into certain death, fighting the good fight against the tide of this all-­ consuming cultural hegemony. In 2007, Richard Matheson’s classic apocalyptic vampire novel I Am Legend was adapted for the screen for the third time. Both previous adaptations, The Last Man on Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price



and The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, were relatively faithful to Matheson’s vision. As the last man on Earth, Robert Neville survives in a post-apocalyptic world where plague and mutation have overrun the human population, turning all who survived the nuclear war into vampiric mutants. In Matheson’s Cold War riven novel, science is presented as both the cause of and a potential solution to a bacterium-­ based vampire infection (originating from a biological weapon and spread by dust clouds) that transformed all humans into insatiable vampires. Religion, whether it is deployed as a potential weapon or used to provide personal comfort, is entirely absent in the novel: ‘The cross. No, that couldn’t have anything to do with the bacilli. If anything, it was psychological’ (Matheson 2001: 85). In conducting his nightly amateur experiments to uncover a greater understanding of this vampire apocalypse, Neville becomes a modern version of Van Helsing, making weapons, conducting rudimentary experiments on infected blood and staking and burning the vampires who attack his home-turned-fortress. Enduring the nightly attacks and catcalls by his former neighbour and friend, Ben Cortman, Neville experiences fits of rage and psychotic episodes, vowing to kill Cortman for leading the continual attacks on his home; channelling his profound loathing at the vampire condition, and fuelled by alcohol to cope with the trauma, Cortman becomes representative of this apocalyptic world view for the traumatised Neville. Charged with the evolutionary desire to survive these horrors, he documents their ceaseless torments, ‘their murmuring and their walkings about and their cries, their snarling and their fighting amongst themselves… and they were all there for the same thing’ (Matheson 2001: 12). Neville’s own body is the desired craving of this unending appetite, a hunger of ‘feral desperation’ laced with ‘th[e] constant threat of cannibalism’ (Pharr 1999: 95) which on occasion sees them resort to eating one of their own. Neville discovers that the vampire germ, a bacillus that sporulates from the starved vampire body, spreads when the vampire body begins to ‘metabolize abnormally, absorb water, and swell up, ultimately explode and destroy all cells’, (Matheson 2001: 81) thus contaminating the air and further spread by dust storms. As a ‘characteristic 1950s’ document’ (Jones 2002: 159) loaded with scientific experimentation, explanations, and the palpable fear of cultural invasion, I Am Legend effaces any religious power on this vampire populace, leaving them as cellular, scientifically altered beings. Studying the vampire’s pathology, Neville experiments on test subjects with garlic serums, crosses, and mirrors,


which generate fearful responses in the captured undead, but these trials ultimately fail to provide concrete answers. Matheson’s novel, in essence, secularises the vampire as a creature born of science gone awry, and posits that responses to previous vampire ‘tests’ may be culturally imbibed responses (or simply false positives) rather than mythological explanation. As a minority of one, Neville’s own genetic distinction curbs his evolutionary advancement in a world overrun with vampires. It is he who has become the mass killer ‘who deserves to be hunted and killed […] [for] the monstrosity is his’ (Jones 2002: 160). The 2007 film adaptation situates this Neville (Will Smith) as a virologist and army colonel who opts to stay in New York as the contagion spreads, desperate to find a cure to the vampire pathogen. This relocation from the novel’s Los Angeles setting not only facilitates the cinematic imagery of Armageddon in which Manhattan’s iconic landscape is spectacularly deserted and overgrown, lined with debris and destruction left in its wake, it is also eerie in its immediate familiarity from news broadcasts and columns in the days following 9/11, as journalist James Estrin wrote of walking ‘through the empty streets past the carcasses of cars damaged in the explosion … I thought that this is what nuclear winter might look like’ (Estrin 2001: n.p.). Unlike Matheson’s Neville who conducts his rudimentary experiments on vampire women, Smith’s Neville experiments on rats in his subterranean laboratory before moving on to human trials of his synthesised chemical serum, documenting his steady progress towards a significant breakthrough. The vampire infection is referred to as KV, the Krippin Virus, a strain of the measles virus genetically reprogrammed to eradicate cancer which mutated into an airborne pathogen, infecting nearly all humans on the planet. The few who survived have a natural immunity to the reprogrammed virus, and the ‘infected’ indicate partial DNA mutation. The word ‘vampire’ is never used; instead the term Dark Seeker (or Hemocyte) refers to the affected mutants. For all of its origins in classic vampire literature, this twenty-first-century adaptation is more aligned with a reprisal of vaccine hesitancy narratives, underpinned by fears of secondary outcomes to immunisation and criticism of scientific hubris in its accidental creation of this condition. The choice of measles as the modified virus that unleashes the apocalypse is significant also as it was, according to Parker et al., in The New England Journal of Medicine declared ‘eliminated in the United States in 2000’ (2006: 447) but had recently resurfaced in a significant outbreak in Indiana in 2005, affecting a small minority of families due to their ‘preference for naturally



acquired immunity’. The families stated they were anxious of undergoing vaccine immunisation due to ‘media reports of a putative association between vaccinations and autism’ (Parker et al. 2006: 451–2). What I Am Legend facilitates is the hyperbolic terror that underpins vaccine hesitancy wherein all who receive immunisation are affected and the virus, evolving quickly, attacks everyone else save those precious few who are naturally immune. That Neville and barely 10% of the world’s population by his calculation are naturally immune aligns his exceptionalism with a chosen set of survivors, akin to a divine and preordained band of post-­apocalyptic warriors whose biology demarcates their exceptionalism. Alongside this exceptionalism is their willingness to find religious salvation and to remake the world anew armed with the ‘right’ kind of science (the science of salvation, which Neville discovers and offers in his dying moments), quietly guided by God’s symbolic reminders rather than the conceits of science alone. Such fantasies reinforce dangerous trends whereby health professionals and science are vehemently contested, if not vilified, in favour of religious piety and ignorance. Adaptations of Matheson’s seminal novel increasingly, and deliberately, erase its vampires in favour of revenants more akin with echoes of the contemporary zombie. While these zombie variants are certainly descendants of the perambulating hordes of Romero’s ghouls (inspired, if not loosely plagiarised, from Matheson’s novel as Romero stated in a 2008 interview—see Chapter 2), the use of zombie/ghoul-esque creatures ultimately denies us access to the subjectivity of the afflicted. This denial reinforces an othering of the infected group as a horde by incorrectly conflating those who favour maintaining herd immunity with an unthinking herd mentality. Furthermore, this adaptation in particular compromises the complexity of Matheson’s novel which centres on Neville’s own monstrosity rather than that of the revenants he hunts down. Here, Neville is remoulded through ennobling self-­ sacrifice, diverging sharply from Matheson’s anti-hero Van Helsing-turnedmonster, a bigoted alcoholic and unfortunate biological exception in a world which has simply left him in its wake. This most recent adaptation also provides an ‘uplifting’ (and deeply conservative) ending, culminating in a found cure and a renewed world that wholly embraces religion. With each mention of God throughout the film, butterflies are also frequently signalled: Neville’s daughter Marley (Willow Smith) repeatedly signals to her father to look at or for the butterfly, a sign to which he later attributes some religious significance, particularly in its


symbolic cues of resurrection and rebirth. When survivor Anna (Alice Braga) informs Neville that there is a survivors’ colony in Vermont, a walled Eden known to her through a religious vision, her butterfly tattoo takes on new significance as an oracle encouraging ‘mysterious’ devotion. Neville, declaring his lack of belief in such a God, lashes out in frustration at her shared vision: All right, let me tell you about your ‘God’s plan’. Six billion people on Earth when the infection hit. KV had a ninety-percent kill rate, that’s five point four billion people dead. Crashed and bled out. Dead. Less than one-percent immunity. That left twelve million healthy people, like you, me, and Ethan. The other five hundred and eighty-eight million turned into your dark seekers, and then they got hungry and they killed and fed on everybody. Everybody! Every single person that you or I have ever known is dead! Dead! There is no God! (Lawrence 2007)

Such negative feelings of hopelessness are, in the end, contested through Neville’s final understanding of earlier events dotted with symbolic butterflies he scarcely noticed before, which now hint at an eventual religious salvation. Realising Anna’s butterfly tattoo marks her as a divine messenger (as was Neville’s own daughter), he gives Anna a vial of the healed test-subject’s blood to bring to the Vermont colony to create a cure. Science and religion are awkwardly mixed in a conservative tone which reframes the conclusion of Matheson’s tale into one of sacrifice and salvation—it finds an out for this by inferring that science guided by God, rather than man alone, cannot be truly sinful, whereas Dr. Krippin, in trying to eradicate cancer supersedes divine law and provokes a suggested biblical punishment for her unnatural infringement. In its final moments, Neville shouts to the afflicted who storm his home, ‘I can save you, I can help you, you are sick and I can help you, I can help everybody!’ recasting his legacy as a fallen saviour (later corroborated in Anna’s final voice-over which also alters the central tenet of Neville’s ‘legend’), and remade a hero rather than the genetic aberration he is revealed to be at the novel’s conclusion. Smith’s Neville is moulded and converted into a reluctant crusader of the Christian Right; one who was left behind to find a cure, and through divine intervention is shown the way towards salvation, to ‘light up the darkness’ of our current age. The closing shots of the film follow Anna’s and her son Ethan’s arrival at the colony, which we briefly glimpse through its imposing gates. The gated community,



guarded by the army, open to reveal in the centre of the shot a church towering above all other buildings in the newfound congregation, with bells tolling softly. God and his congregation have endured the apocalyptic catastrophe, and the final shot reaffirms the idyllic vision of George W. Bush’s Republican values—a world of guns, god and government, called to worship by a gently tolling bell in a new American Eden in New England, arisen from the ashes of this man-made, scientific catastrophe.

Vampire Evolution II: Chastity Culture and Vagina Dentata Other forms of evolutionary horror surface as displaced forms of vampirism that overtly mock the culture of sexual oppression and religious dogma in American schools. To prohibit full understanding of sexual development actively encourages deep-seated cultural misogyny, preventing biological understanding by encouraging religious subscription as a panacea for normal emotional and sexual maturation. Mitchell Lichtenstein’s satire Teeth (2007) echoes other vampiric narratives that hinge upon virginal innocence and satirise the presidential investment in such ‘moral’ instruction. Teeth centres on chastity pledge group leader Dawn (Jess Weixler) who discovers she physically harbours a vagina dentata, a displaced internal vampiric mouth with fangs to reclaim power and protect against symbolic (or physical) invasion by the patriarchal phallus. This displaced vampiric mouth as potential penile amputator literalises Creed’s reading of vagina as a space of abjection and blood flow, and as a site of male apprehension (Creed 2007: 106). In making this literal position darkly comical and quasi-feminist (for it still subjects Dawn to sustained sexual exploitation, rendered in a queasy manner to further our discomfort), the film amplifies criticisms of chastity-only groups and censoring necessary knowledge. At its core, Teeth rages against the encroachment of creationism and mandated teaching of abstinence-based biology and sex education in public schools, denouncing the movement as a cultural failure that leaves the young open to unrealistic expectations and vulnerable to patriarchal, religious, and emotional exploitation. Founded in 1995 in Yuma, Arizona, by Denny and Amy Pattyn, The Silver Ring Thing group is an abstinence-only program which gained a lot of attention in the mid-2000s, particularly in its federally funded


targeting of youth culture to encourage chastity; there were subsequent attempts to migrate its teachings to the UK, which temporarily spiked international media interest before withering on the vine. Alongside other similar groups, such as True Love Waits, which flourished with substantially increased federal funding under George W. Bush, the Silver Ring Thing explicitly redesigned the more traditionally dusty approach to abstinence with pop-concert styled social events, attempting to deploy messages of coolness in purity through the slick refashioning of image-based promises about the fulfilment of future sexual experiences within marriage. The movement was publicly promoted by influencers and popstars including the Jonas Brothers, 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, and Disney pop stars including Miley Cyrus, which aided recruitment. It was no accident either that the visibility of the movement was quietly supported by Disney, strictly safeguarding its bluechip brand with clean ‘family values’ entertainment, as ‘most who had music careers with Disney were wearing the rings’ (Cills 2018: n.p.). Pamphlets are distributed in schools (depending on school district and state laws) and at social events to counteract any ‘moral decay’ among teenagers and the resultant ‘problems’ they may experience due to premarital sexual activity. Participants wear pledge (or promise) rings on their fourth finger on the left hand, and to be exchanged for a wedding ring once married as ‘an external reminder of their internal decision’ (Silver Ring Thing Website). The Bush administration avidly promoted abstinence-only sex education, which has enjoyed ‘more than $1.5 billion in federal funding’ (Gardner 2011: 2) since 1996 despite repeated scientific studies and medical reports of its failure (Guttmacher Institute 2007). The wave of federal funding for abstinence introduced under President Clinton as part of a companion bill (Title V of the Social Security Act) to his sweeping welfare reforms earmarked $50 million per year for its implementation for five years (Stolberg 2002: n.p.), a placatory gesture to rehabilitate the persistent rumours about the president’s own moral slippages. In stark contrast, President Bush’s financial commitment doubled its annual federal funding as promised in his 2004 State of the Union address (Bush 2004), a promise he actively made on the presidential campaign trail in 2000. As a response to the spike in teen pregnancies in the USA in the late 1980s, Republicans and socially conservative Democrats funded initiatives which promoted abstinence alongside



contraceptive education, a method which was regarded as the most effective educational strategy for sexual health and religious and social inclusivity. Under President Bush, abstinence-only funding (with no permission to discuss contraception and safe sex practices) has accelerated in schools while many contraceptive initiatives have been severely compromised and/or actively defunded (Finlay 2006: 67). Chastity group culture is fiercely faith-based, and wholly rejects teaching that provides adequate information on contraception, biology and human reproduction, explicitly advocating states to teach ‘that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity’ (Warner 1999: 203). Further to this, it deliberately polarises its position against all others outside the group, by heavily implying ‘that any other sort of behaviour, or by extension the mere desire for something other than monogamous marriage, is not human, and so those who experience it are not deserving of human rights’ (Siegel 2005: 42). Alarmingly, many abstinence programs also deliberately misinform students about sexual health, condemning the use of condoms, masturbation, abortion (which one source claims leads to infertility and suicide), and distorting the prevalence of HIV rates in America and how the virus is transmitted. An investigation by Congressional Representative Henry A. Waxman (Democrat— California) in 2004 concluded that significant misconceptions were propagated as facts by such groups. The examples of Abstinence teaching deceptions cited by Waxman’s investigators include: […] that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person’s genitals ‘can result in pregnancy’…. A 43-day-old fetus [sic] is a ‘thinking person.’ HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears. Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse. One curriculum, called “Me, My World, My Future,” teaches that women who have an abortion ‘are more prone to suicide’ and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion. (Connolly 2004: A01)

Teeth taps into the rage and dizzying medical and social falsities circulating under the banner of education and righteous behaviour in the American public education system, from the querying of Darwinian


evolution to religion as panacea to defend intentional misrepresentation and censorship of education for students. In Dawn’s biology class, the textbooks are censored to completely conceal an anatomical drawing of the vagina and womb, a decision defended by her biology teacher that the school-board has rightly ordered it be concealed. By censoring the drawing of female genitalia and reproductive systems, there is a clear anxiety of female sexuality and the powers it may secret behind the ‘devil’s gateway’ (Creed 2007: 106), body parts that are tarnished with mystery and shame; the essence of the ‘monstrous feminine’. On a date with Dawn, fellow pledge member Tobey (Hale Appleman) rapes her during which, in self-defence, she unwittingly severs his penis with her i­nternal fangs. Shell-shocked from her violation and physically naive about her own body and its unique defence mechanism, she hallucinates while delivering a motivational speech at school the following day, hearing the crowd quote scripture at her in judgement: Crowd: She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man… Dawn: There is something inside of me… which is lethal. Group Leader: What Dawn has said is important… [leading her offstage] exile from the Garden of Eden. Crowd (hissing): The serpent, the serpent!

Following her ordeal, Dawn wets and removes the sticker censoring the vagina diagram in her biology book and fully realises her genetic mutation. Consulting a gynaecologist about her condition, he too begins to molest her, and, upon discovering her internal teeth, has four fingers severed and screams ‘It’s true! Vagina Dentata, Vagina Dentata!’ Increasingly aware of her internal fangs and their protective capabilities from patriarchal violation, Dawn begins to associate herself with Medusa, the gorgon femme castratrice. This realisation aurally cues a rattlesnakes’ rattle, a recurring metaphor for a necessary evolutionary defence mechanism (which was also discussed in her science class), aligning Dawn’s mutation with an evolutionary attribute that will protect her from ‘the penis as an instrument of violence’ (Creed 2007: 157), which her abstinence program cannot. It is suggested throughout the film that Dawn has adapted or mutated because she lives uncomfortably close to a nuclear facility. While this hints at an evolutionary aberration brought about by environmental



pollution, it is the widespread cultural pollution of misogyny—in her home (her vile step-brother), at the school (educational censorship), in her peer-group (chastity groups as failed panacea) and in society (her molestation by her gynaecologist)—that necessitates the development of her evolutionary defence mechanism. Just as Medusa was raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena and transformed from a maiden beauty into a serpent-haired gorgon, Dawn is transformed emotionally by her repeated sexual degradation and fully embraces the empowerment of Medusan vengeance by fiercely reclaiming her sexual and biological agency. Armed with ‘forbidden’ biological knowledge and secret fangs which aesthetically correlates the snakebite and vampiric bite (Creed 2007: 64–5), Dawn’s tale is simultaneously up to date in its representations of sexual exploitation and misogyny, propped up by misguided teachings that deny necessary knowledge in public education, and brings to the fore archaic anxieties and brutal misogyny whereby women are cast off as sexual others, harbouring dangerous powers or nightmarishly Freudian internal jaws. Teeth reminds us that horror culture has absorbed the evangelical roots of George W. Bush’s Republican support base in a period that reawakened retrograde anxieties and myths about sexual purity, a trope revisited at times of national trauma and American insecurity (Faludi 2007: 370–5). While critics may feel uncertain about Teeth belonging to the vampire genre, it serves a greater purpose here as a logical constellation of misogynistic pressure points, articulating thematic and psychoanalytical nightmares that find purchase in dominant political and educational discourse, and bleeds into popular culture. These themes underpin and sustain more overt and popular vampire narratives too, and aspects of fan culture, in texts such as the Twilight saga (novels: 2005–2008; films: 2008–2012—see Chapter 6). This trend towards chastity narratives synchronously triggers a cultural reversal whereby Gothic iconography is openly reappropriated and renegotiated by conservative audiences, now rendered tame and ‘suitably’ de-Gothicised for young adult audiences. As I explore this trend further in Chapter 6, vampire evolution and adaptation, whether it is expressed physically or digitally manufactured to stretch beyond the possible borders of the corporeal, centres on vampire sexuality, performativity, and intimacy, and underpins this extensive and varied set of twenty-first-century vampire narratives.


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Cills, Hazel. 2018. ‘The Rise and Fall of the Pop Star Purity Ring’. The Muse. 25 January. Accessed 18 July 2018. Connolly, Ceci. 2004. ‘Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens’. The Washington Post. 2 December. p. A01. wp-dyn/articles/A26623-2004Dec1.html. Accessed 7 July 2018. Creed, Barbara. [1993] 2007. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. Crosby, Cindy. 2005. ‘Interview with a Penitent’. Christianity Today. 1 December. Vol. 49; 12. december/11.50.html. Accessed 10 July 2018. Edelstein, David. 2006. ‘Now Playing at Your Local Multiplex: Torture Porn’. New York Magazine. 28 January. Accessed 1 May 2018. Estrin, James. 2001. ‘Behind the Lens: Walking in the Aftermath’. New York Times. 16 September. behind-the-lens-walking-in-the-aftermath/. Accessed 10 July 2018. Falconer, Rachel. 2005. Hell in Contemporary Literature. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Faludi, Susan. 2007. The Terror Dream: Myth and Misogyny in an Insecure America. New York: Picador. Finlay, Barbara. 2006. George W. Bush and the War on Women: Turning Back the Clock on Progress. London: Zed Books. Fox, Andrew. 2002. Fat White Vampire Blues. New York: Ballantine Books. Galton, Francis. 2000. ‘Eugenics: Its Definition, Scope and Aims’ [1904 lecture]. Rpt in The Idea of Race, edited by Robert Bernasconi and Tommy L. Lott. Indianapolis: Hackett. pp. 79–83. Gardner, Christine J. 2011. Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gates, David. 2005. ‘The Gospel According to Anne’. Newsweek. 30 October. Accessed 10 July 2018. Gateward, Frances. 2004. ‘Daywalkin’ Nightstalkin’ Bloodsuckas: Black Vampires in Contemporary Film’. Genders. Issue 40. Boulder, CO. Accessed 17 May 2018. Grandin, Greg. 2007. ‘The Imperial Presidency: The Legacy of Reagan’s Central America Policy’. In Confronting the New Conservatism: The Rise of the Right in America, edited by Michael J. Thompson. New York: New York University Press. Guttmacher Institute. 2007. ‘Abstinence-Only Programs Do Not Work, New Study Shows’. 18 April. Accessed 17 July 2018.

212  S. NÍ FHLAINN Haggerty, George E. 2006. Queer Gothic. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Höglund, Johan. 2005. ‘Gothic Haunting Empire’. In Memory, Haunting, Discourse, edited by Maria Holmgren Troy and Elisabeth Wenno. Karlstad, Sweden: University of Karlstad Press. pp. 243–54. ‘How Saddam Hussein Was Captured’. 2003. BBC News Online. 15 December. Accessed 2 July 2018. Huntington, Samuel P. [1996] 2002. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Free Press. Jones, Darryl. 2002. Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film. London: Arnold. Jordan, John J. 1999. ‘Vampire Cyborgs and Scientific Imperialism: A Reading of the Science-Mysticism Polemic in Blade’. Journal of Popular Film and Television. Vol. 27, No. 2. pp. 4–15. LaHaye, Tim, and Jerry B. Jenkins. 1995. Left Behind. Carol Stream, IL: Tynedale House Publishers. Lukyanenko, Sergei. 2004. The Night Watch. Translated by Andrew Bromfield. London: William Heinemann. Lyall, Sarah. 2004a. ‘The People Have Spoken, and Rice Takes Offence’. New York Times. 11 October. the-people-have-spoken-and-rice-takes-offense.html. Accessed 10 July 2018. ———. 2004b. ‘Fan Power Takes On New Meaning’. International Herald Tribune. 14 October. Accessed 10 July 2018. Matheson, Richard. [1954] 2001. I Am Legend. London: Gollancz. Niles, Steve, and Ben Templesmith. 2002. 30 Days of Night. San Diego: IWD Publishing. Story by Steve Niles and Artwork by Ben Templesmith. Parker, Amy A., Wayne Staggs, and Gustavo H. Dayan. 2006. ‘Implications of a 2005 Measles Outbreak in Indiana for Sustained Elimination of Measles in the United States’. The New England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 355, No. 5 (3 August), pp. 447–455. Perlstein, Rick. 2011. ‘Solidarity Squandered’. The American Prospect. 30 August. Accessed 12 May 2018. Pharr, Mary. 1999. ‘Vampiric Appetite in I Am Legend, ’Salem’s Lot and The Hunger’. In The Blood Is the Life: Vampires in Literature, edited by Leonard G. Heldreth and Mary Pharr. Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press. pp. 93–103. Power, Samantha. 2003. ‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide. London: Flamingo. Redmond, Sean. 2006. ‘The Science Fiction of Whiteness’. Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies. No. 6 (October). n.p. http://www. Accessed 8 June 18. Rice, Anne. [1976] 1994. Interview with the Vampire. London: Warner Books.



———. 1998. The Vampire Armand. London: Chatto & Windus. ———. 2000. Merrick. London: Chatto & Windus. ———. 2002. Blackwood Farm. London: Chatto & Windus. ———. 2003. Blood Canticle. London: Chatto & Windus. ———. 2014. Prince Lestat. London: Chatto & Windus. Schlosser, Eric. 2002. Fast Food Nation. London: Penguin. Schreck, Nikolas. 2001. The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema. London: Creation Books. Schweigler, Gebhard. 2003. ‘Domestic Sources of U.S. Foreign Policy’. In The Uncertain Superpower: Domestic Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy After the Cold War, edited by Bernhard May and Michaela Hoenicke-Moore. Berlin: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. pp. 57–65. Siegel, Carol. 2005. Goth’s Dark Empire. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Silver Ring Thing. ‘What Is the Silver Ring Thing?’ https://www.silverringthing. com/what-is-silver-ring-thing. Accessed 16 July 2018. Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. 2002. ‘Abstinence-Only Initiative Advancing’. New York Times. 28 February. Accessed 16 July 2018. Summers, Montague. [1928] 2008. The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. London: Forgotten Books. Sutton, Matthew Avery. 2014. American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Thacker, Eugene. 2005. The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture. Boston: MIT Press. Warner, Michael. 1999. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Film and TV 30 Days of Night. Dir. David Slade, Columbia Pictures, 2007. Angel. Created by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, 1999–2004. Blade. Dir. Stephen Norrington, New Line Cinema, 1998. Blade II. Dir. Guillermo del Toro, New Line Cinema, 2002. Blade: Trinity. Dir. David S. Goyer, New Line Cinema, 2004. Blood for Dracula. Dir. Paul Morrissey, The Criterion Collection [1974] 1998. DVD. Dracula. Dir. Tod Browning, Universal Pictures, 1931. Dracula 2000. Dir. Patrick Lussier, Dimension Films, 2000. Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale, Universal Pictures, 1931. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. Dir. Roy William Neill, Universal Pictures, 1943. Frostbite. Dir. Anders Banke, Genius Products, 2006. Horror of Dracula. Dir. Terence Fisher, Hammer Films, 1958.

214  S. NÍ FHLAINN Hostel. Dir. Eli Roth, Lionsgate, 2005. Hostel II. Dir. Eli Roth, Lionsgate, 2007. I Am Legend. Dir. Francis Lawrence, Warner Bros, 2007. Queen of the Damned. Dir. Michael Rymer, Warner Bros, 2002. ‘Rise of the Righteous Army’. CBS 60 Minutes. Air Date: 8 February 2004. shtml. Saturday Night Live. Created by Lorne Michaels, NBC, 1975–. Saw. Dir. James Wan, Twisted Pictures, 2004. Shadow of the Vampire. Dir. E. Elias Merhige, Saturn Films, 2000. Teeth. Dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein, Lions Gate, 2007. The Wolf Man. Dir. George Waggner, Universal Pictures, 1941. True Blood. Created by Alan Ball, HBO, 2008–2014. Underworld. Dir. Len Wiseman, Lakeshore International, 2003. Van Helsing. Dir. Stephen Sommers, Universal Pictures, 2004.


Vampire Intimacy, Profusion, and Rewriting Undeath

The election of President Barack Obama on 4 November 2008 was an historic moment in US history. As the first African American to be elected to the highest office in the nation, his ascension initially signalled a coming of age in American politics whereby African Americans could dare share in his ‘audacity of hope’ in achieving visible and meaningful equality. For so many Americans, it signalled a sea change in the culture of white privilege and suffocating neoconservatism in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s promise of change would not be fully realised: stifled by a hostile Congress and the 2008 global financial meltdown just weeks prior to the November election, the subsequent domino effect of failing banks and businesses would not be rectified for years to come. The conservative culture of George W. Bush’s presidency continued unabated in right-wing commentary by critics and pundits who used their media platforms to decry the Democrats at every turn in their various attempts at economic recovery. The opposition to Obama’s electoral win was seared with palpable anger, crystallised with partisan fury by detractors and Republican hardliners (and non-party aligned conspiracy theorists, thanks to the flourishing of Internet culture and social media) all determined to detract from his electoral mandate. In murkier quarters, a vocal minority queried his eligibility to hold elected office by contesting his American citizenship (the ‘birther’ movement) and his religious beliefs, believing him to be an African by birth, a secret devout Muslim, and a © The Author(s) 2019 S. Ní Fhlainn, Postmodern Vampires,



liar with a forged birth certificate; views espoused by a segregationist minority who would view any non-white elected official as an unqualified non-American ‘other’. For this minority, Obama represented a significant decline in their privileged position as external threats (immigration, ideological warfare, multiculturalism, terrorism, foreign spending) chipped away at the fiction of their entitlement, with some finding comfort in the rhetoric of extreme patriotism and racism. And yet, for those who felt marginalised or suffocated under previous conservative administrations, hope was roused through Obama’s campaign mantra, ‘Yes We Can’, and promises of a new political vision, for ‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for… We are the change that we seek’ (Obama 2008). He was, according to Gary Younge, ‘the anti-Bush’ (Younge 2016: n.p.), a youthful and intellectual response to the declining Bush years proffering a hopeful future after a decade of crisis, cultural trauma, and neoconservative doctrine. In the end, Obama’s presidency promised more in its overdue stride towards equality than could be realistically delivered. In the wake of the 2008 global recession, with sharp declines in jobs and housing and bailouts for select banks, public anger about inequality, precarity, and social insecurity was palpable. Neoliberal social and economic practices introduced under Reaganomics in the early 1980s were exposed as having spawned a powerful 1% whose fiscal survival inflicted a collective misery of austerity on the remaining 99% left behind. For some, the fiscal fallout crystallised further partisan and class divisions buoyed up by populist rhetoric, only to be further spun out by overtly partisan news media and social media platforms. The Occupy Wall Street protests in September 2011 ‘embodie[d] a vision of democracy that is fundamentally antagonistic to the management of society as a corporate-controlled space that serves a political system to serve the wealthy, ignore the poor and answer […] however the hell it wants […] The Obama presidency may have been better than that of Bush, but it has not delivered on what millions of voting Americans […] wanted and continue to want’ (Ruggiero in Chomsky 2012: 15–16). Obama’s presidency is a mixed and occasionally contradictory period: his slow shift in support of the recognition of gay marriage; his failure to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; his mixed messages on the inherited War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan; and his administration’s failure to prosecute crimes relating to the banking crisis—all contribute to the haphazard nature of his administration’s legacy and dampen the hope he was expected to reinstate in the nation.



By the end of Obama’s two-term presidency in 2016, these fiscal and social divisions, which helped bolster movements such as the Tea Party, would come to fruition in a seismic shift in geopolitics. On the surface, Obama’s presidency reads as a temporary harmonisation of plural ideals before the catastrophic rising tide of populism took hold by the end of his terms of office. In fact, Obama’s presidential campaign aligned traditional campaign strategies to tap into and ‘coexist – sometimes uneasily – with an unstructured digital democracy’ (Johnson and Perlmutter 2011: 2). Beneath this veneer of inclusivity and intellectual rejuvenation of the presidency, cultural contradictions emerge: whistle-­blowers exposing government wrongdoing and privacy violations were pursued (Edward Snowden) and prosecuted (Chelsea Manning) with greater ferocity than ever before, while grassroots political, social, and cultural groups (some giving voice to legitimate grievances, others decrying the gains of Civil Rights, Feminism, and LGBTQ cultures) flourish on social media as digital rhizomes to critique dominant political discourse. Under the Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918), the Obama administration has ‘prosecuted nine cases involving whistleblowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined’ (Risen 2016: n.p.), with a particular emphasis on stamping out government officials leaking to journalists. Traditional forth estate journalism found new, if uneasy, sources in emerging cyber warriors (as was evidenced with unredacted online document dumps by Wikileaks). As discussed in Chapter 2, vampires under President Nixon frequently functioned as whistle-blowers from the fringes of society, using their voices to counter official discourse and denials of wrongdoing, or at the very least evidence political and social hypocrisies. During the Obama presidency, the polished surface ideals of pluralism and digital democracy in action concealed growing bitter cultural and racial violence and partisan frustrations. This new arena of digital publishing was dismissed by many as illegitimate, if not outright dangerous, because it exposed secrets of national security or revealed high-value targets in the theatre of war. Furthermore, it also provided a platform for marginal voices espousing hate, division, and unfounded conspiracies to gain traction and representation, producing silos of thought, political and social echo chambers, and revisionism on an ever-expanding scale. As critic Michiko Kakutani notes, The Postmodernist argument that all truths are partial (and a function of one’s perspective) led to the related argument that there are many

218  S. NÍ FHLAINN legitimate ways to understand or represent an event. This both encouraged a more egalitarian discourse and made it possible for the voices of the previously disfranchised to be heard. (2018: n.p.)

Revising history also featured in popular fiction and film as a mashed-up fantasy, in which a heteroglossia of voices and styles are combined to produce new combinations of literary classics rewritten with contemporary-themed parodic additions. Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2010 novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and its glossy CGI-saturated 2012 film adaptation, introduces President Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) as the saviour of the nation warding off the south’s vampire slave masters. An overt critique of southern slavery and civil war divisions, Grahame-Smith’s novel is aware of Obama’s frequent invocation of Lincoln as his political paragon—including his use of the Lincoln Bible during his presidential inaugurations—and reimagines Lincoln’s legacy as one which ultimately salvaged a divided country, a promise that also informed Obama’s political ascension. The playful fantasy is assembled through Obama’s race, Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ (1863), and contemporary Hollywood fantasy-styled heroism partly informed by presidential biography, bookending its opening and closing shots in the modern day to reinforce its Postmodern historiography. By the end of Obama’s presidency, journalists and the traditional media are tarnished with the moniker of ‘fake news’ and decried as partisan liars by his far-right Republican successor, Donald J. Trump, on the campaign trail. Trump’s use of social media to then decree his presidential policies deliberately erodes traditional media relations, often contradicting or overshadowing The White House Press Office and its set procedures, and produces a set of contradictory ‘official’ voices in political discourse. Trump’s subjective social media statements and outbursts online occupy a liminal legal space between subjective social expression as championed on social media platforms and the official legal positions and limitations of the presidential administration. In so doing, the blurring of subjective and official administration statements deliberately overwrites traditional media relations and outlets in order to promote distrust in the administration’s critics, to poison public belief in the ideals of journalism and independent reporting, and to eclipse calls for political accountability. Vampires were certainly deployed in popular culture to represent partisan positions and deeply felt frustrations in American political culture during the Bush-Obama years. As symbols of contemporary culture, vampires



can occupy contradictory representations, offering an often seductive and charming emotional vulnerability which masks their violent potential, depending on who’s doing the looking. To some, the undead offered hope, even the potential for freedom after years of political oppression and stifling conservativism. Some revenants evidently critiqued the contemporary political landscape and its contradictions, foregrounding issues around race, class, sex, religion, and nationality (as in the HBO TV series True Blood [2008–2014]), while others were infused with conservative ideology from the outset (as in the novels and film adaptations of the Twilight Saga [2008–2012]), presenting a popular (and lucrative) counter-­ representation of the undead which channelled softer generic elements and galvanised a completely different readership and audience. As the most popular vampire narratives during Obama’s presidency, Twilight and True Blood best exemplify the polarised nature of contemporary vampirism and disclose its inherent internal contradictions. On the surface, their antithetical positions are evident in their stark arrangement of settings (north/ south); their representation of vampirism (white/plural); their access to class and privilege (wealth/precarity); the coding of sexuality (chastity/ raunchy); vampiric appetite (dieting/synthesis), and its central focus on belonging and identity (familial/regional). These markers deeply inform each text’s political focus and vampiric subjectivity. Of course, political, social, and cultural complexities and contradictions emerge in both texts, whether it concerns social or sexual inclusion or a reaffirmation of conservative heterosexual idealism. In sum, these texts affirm a steadfast bifurcation within mainstream vampire narratives informed by the Bush and Obama presidencies in the popular imagination. In other undead representations, the theme of Armageddon continued unabated and engaged the vampire in horde-led destruction. Thanks to popular zombie texts such as Max Brooks’ World War Z (2006) and its less successful film adaptation (2013), and The Walking Dead (2010–), these texts captured the cultural mood that, between the terror attacks of 9/11, the financial meltdown of 2008, the terrifying potential of technology, a rapid rise in unemployment and migrant crises due to civil wars (and in some circles, religious prophecies of doom), and the pathogenic spread of disease across borders, we are living in and perpetually reimagining an extended version of the end times in American popular entertainment. This conflation of vampires with the spread of infection offered up an alternative route whereby the vampire in not necessarily incepted by ancient folklore, rituals, or blood magic,


but reimagined as a scientific contamination. Forging a distinct path from Matheson’s I am Legend (1954) in which the vampire is presented as a pathogen, vampires as disease-born contaminants tend to generate less sympathetic representations, often reducing them to an assemblage of waste and perilous threat as they are ‘increasingly scrutinised and reinterpreted under a medical gaze’ (Abbott 2016: 44), which typically comes at the expense of subjectivity. A horde of vampires is clearly representative of a collective source of cultural anxiety, while the parallel subjective representation of the sympathetic vampire encourages human empathy. Sympathetic subjective vampires express familiar human traits and feelings and hide their abject nature, while vampire hordes are distinguished by their propensity for violence and infection, relying on instinct and lacking subjective insight. Furthermore, sympathetic vampires regularly encourage feelings of desire and/or to become undead oneself. Zombies rarely offer subjectivity and zombie transformation is visibly too abject, too corporeally open and repulsive to desire it for oneself (see Ní Fhlainn 2011: 139–57). As abject agents of deadly contamination capable of decimating global populations, vampires persist as viral contaminators, ideological threats, or experiments gone awry in texts such as Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s novel The Strain (2009) and its TV adaptation (2014–7), Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy (2010–2016), and films including Stake Land (2010) and Priest (2011), all of which play with forms of generic interlacing between vampire and zombie traditions onscreen (see Abbott 2016: 177–79). And as with the zombie’s intrinsic links to capitalism’s consumptive horrors, vampire capitalists re-emerge in apocalyptic ecological and viral narratives in keeping with Marxist rhetoric of elitist exploitation and condemnation of the masses. The vampire population has exploded on television too: Moonlight (2007), a short-lived series that concerns a vampire private detective, opens with another tell-all interview with a vampire espousing his moral boundaries and, like Rice’s Louis before him, casually dismissing established vampire tropes as ‘old-wives’ tales’; another revised retelling of Dracula (2013–2014) appears, drawing on many established tropes from previous Dracula adaptations (see Chapter 2) and herein rewrites the Count (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) as an invading American businessman bringing modern science to Victorian London and forging an unlikely alliance with Van Helsing; The Vampire Diaries (2009–2017), a popular and lengthy series based on an early 1990s series of novels by L. J. Maher, focuses on a high school girl caught in a triangle between two vampire brothers; and The Originals (2013–), a spin-off series of



The Vampire Diaries centres on three ancient vampire siblings in New Orleans, the city of vampires. Vampire TV picks up the various strands of vampire subjectivity and Postmodern fragmentation and explores it further as a long-form narrative. Other series feature vampires as prominent members of their supernatural cast in shows such as Being Human, a BBC 3 series (2008–2013) about a werewolf, a ghost and a vampire in a house share, which was also adapted for North American television (2011–2014); Penny Dreadful (2014–2016), a British-American Gothic hybrid series which cross-pollinates nineteenth-century Gothic classics (including Dracula and Frankenstein [1818]) into a playful NeoVictorian bricolage; and Hemlock Grove (2013–2015), based on the 2012 novel by Brian McGreevy, which is set in a doomed small town mired in Gothic secrets, supernatural intrusion, and murder. Each series delights in its parade of undead and supernatural creatures. As was the case in the 1990s and 1970s before that, popular vampires may emerge under Republican power, but they flourish during Democrat presidencies.

Undead Intimacy John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish vampire novel Let the Right One In offers an original and haunting reimagining of youth and vampirism. Translated into English in 2007 (originally published in 2004), Lindquist’s debut novel featured with critical praise during the brief run of Arctic Gothic interest. Unlike Frostbite’s (2006) manic mood which oscillates between avenging and purging Nazi-complicity at the fringes of Swedish society and the drug-induced culling it unleashes in a remote town, Let the Right One In claustrophobically crushes its characters with suburban banality and clandestine domestic violence. The novel spares no detail in documenting the isolation each character feels both in the home and community, in their romantic and social relationships, leaving an evident trail of emotional corrosion, broken promises, and dreams now firmly beyond reach. In stark contrast with its contemporary vampire literary rival Twilight (2005), which delights in the exceptional status of familial belonging and glamourous undeath, Lindqvist’s dark novel explores the taboo subjects of paedophilia and the sexual exploitation of children intermixed with the social corrosion of substance abuse, criminality, and bullying; vampirism is not celebrated but rather provides these adolescents temporary emotional respite from human horrors. Set in Stockholm’s impoverished suburb Blackeburg in 1982, twelveyear-old Oskar suffers extreme physical torment at the hands of school


bullies; to relieve his isolation, he collects a scrapbook on serial killers, fascinated with their crimes and power, and dreams of meting out brutal revenge against his tormentors. Oskar finds his new neighbours intriguing: living with a strange older man, Håkan, the young girl Eli only comes out at night and the windows of her apartment are permanently blacked-out. In many ways, Lindqvist’s novel is a tragic pre-adolescent love story between two children caught up in familial and social violence; Oskar and Eli find in each other the ability to trust a companion, to experience loyalty and friendship without exploitation or humiliation. The intimacies they share expressly arise due to our cultural and domestic proximity with the twenty-first-century vampire. As Gelder astutely observes (2012: 35–36), vampires increasingly become our neighbours. They infiltrate communities (or represent community anxieties as seen in True Blood), buy land or property (as Dracula did in Stoker’s novel) and promptly move next door (in Fright Night [1985] and its remake [2011]), and, on occasion, house share (Being Human and What We Do in the Shadows [2014]), with the intention of becoming our friends and lovers. As neighbours, Eli and Oskar communicate via Morse code through the same shared wall, each side of it is an architectural mirror, a physical and metaphorical boundary which reflects the shared world of vampires and humans while underscoring its vast difference; their shared wall functions as a metaphorical gateway between two versions of the same world, reflecting and emotionally amplifying what they each separately lack for domestic security. For example, note that Oskar’s home is warm and suitably inviting, while Eli’s is sparse, undecorated, and serves only as a basic dwelling; and that Oskar begins the tale obsessed with murder and crime, while Eli’s survival necessitates its practice. Equally, they represent a missing element or unfulfilled potential that the other fails to realise individually at the outset of the novel, and both overcome their emotional imbalance by providing one another with the necessary protective tenderness and brutal self-preservation they both need to survive; in essence, by the novel’s conclusion, they temporarily realise a brief and blissful completion by fulfilling each other’s needs. Nevertheless, both humans and vampires suffer terrible pain and loss in Lindqvist’s version of vampire domesticity. As neighbours, Ken Gelder observes the novel and film sets up a cycle of ‘companionship, intimacy and remoteness, neglect and death… condemned to be repeated over and over’ (Gelder 2012: 38), for loving thy neighbour in the end often seals the vampire’s lover/companion to a terrible fate. Oskar is one of a precious few human familiars who remains devoted to his vampire companion



without wishing for immortality—most are, like Renfield, Mr. Straker (’Salem’s Lot), or Billy Cole (Fright Night) bestowed with some form of financial or magical recompense, or promised the (ever deferred) conferral of immortality in the future (as with vampire devotee Jackie (Jackie van Beek) in What We Do in the Shadows [2014]). Eli’s vampirism is animalistic and brutal, lacking the pre-requisite magical capabilities typically relished in American texts, and as it has little to offer in terms of hope or freedom, it is understandable why Oskar does not yearn for the experience. Their escape is merely a temporary solution to a recurring concern in vampire romance when a partner must decide to remain human or be turned into an immortal; the intermixing of life and undeath in romantic partnerships inevitably raises these concerns with precious few partnerships enduring without an eventual conversion to vampirism. The vampire body in Let the Right One In is remarkably different from other contemporary iterations; unlike Rice’s and Stephenie Meyer’s texts, which marvel at the vampire’s impossible beauty, Lindqvist’s novel (and both film adaptations) deliberately lingers on the physical perversity of vampirism, the demands it requires, and the cruelty it feeds and recirculates. For Lindqvist’s, the infected vampire body does not ‘die’ as such but rather develops and harbours a second brain attached to the heart. This brain is designed to take over bodily functions once the human brain and heart cease to function after death. Virginia’s transformation in the novel exemplifies this body horror with its supplemental vampire organ: ‘Inside Virginia’s heart a separate little brain is forming.… Now it is self-sufficient and what Virginia sensed during a terrible moment is completely correct: it would live on, even after her body died’ (Lindqvist 2007: 350). This physiological change in the vampire body is akin to a malignant abnormality, an infectious growth initiated by the vampire bite. Eli, the origin point of vampirism in the narrative, inadvertently spreads the infection when she is interrupted feeding on Virginia—only complete death before the second brain develops in the heart muscle will prohibit its spread. Virginia, a healthy human exposed to the infection experiences unending hunger and begins cutting herself and sucking on her wounds, coming perilously close to draining her entire body through self-suckling. On rare occasion, vampire self-harm manifests as a form of self-soothing to slake bloodthirst, a loaded metaphor for addiction and/ or suicidal ideation. In Andrew Fox’s Fat White Vampire Blues, one of the few vampire texts which features self-suckling and self-consumption, such practices result in vampire annihilation due to its twinning with the practice of self-cannibalism. In the end, Virginia exposes herself to


sunlight, self-immolating in abject horror at her infected bloodthirsty body. Håkan’s vampiric transformation unleashes his barely repressed sexual urges in favour of pure appetite. Literally anonymised by his acidburned face, his transformation by Eli to spare him from death bestows a horrific corporeal fixity of burned liquefied flesh and tissue, a distillation of parental terrors of child sex abuse by anonymous adults. His now ever-erect penis physically expresses his uninhibited desire for sexual violence, a horrific caricature of paedophilic sexuality and corporeal waste in search of victims, and recalls an earlier similar paedophilic zombie, Breer, in Clive Barker’s Faustian horror novel The Damnation Game (1985) who expresses a similarly insatiable appetite for young flesh. Given the difficulty to include such a sustained and explicit sexual threat to children onscreen, both film adaptations of Lindqvist’s novel have cut out its climactic Minotaur-esque confrontation between Eli and Håkan, leaving only the suggestion of sustained sexual abuse in their screen relationship by promptly removing him from the narrative once he is scarred and apprehended. Eli’s body is developmentally static but perilously porous and permeable: strictly adhering to the vampire myth of being invited into the home as the title of the novel warns, her body bleeds uncontrollably when she enters an owned dwelling uninvited: the horror of her intrusion becomes quickly evident as ‘[h]er eyes looked like they had sunk into their sockets, were filled with blood flowing out, running along the bridge of her nose over her lips into her mouth where more blood was coming out… She was bleeding out of all the pores in her body’ (Lindqvist 2007: 376). When Oskar invites her in, her bleeding abruptly ceases, coagulating and healing quickly to form lumps and scabs; nonetheless, her porous skin abjectly demarcates her as a domestic and supernatural transgressor of borders and a violator of the laws of time and entropy. Eli’s violation of the domestic space stresses the importance of home ownership and consent—areas frequently contested in vampire fiction through consistent thematic tropes of invasions, infiltration, and rape. Though permeable, Eli’s body is also asexual, ‘between her legs she had … nothing. No slit, no penis. Just a smooth surface’ (2007: 378), disclosing another slippage in Eli’s alterity. Eli’s (formally Elias) transformation, during which his genitals were sadistically removed during a vampire initiation ceremony, arrests him in the painful liminality of adolescence. As with Claudia in Interview with the Vampire, another vampire frozen in everlasting prepubescence, Eli(as) uses the perceived disadvantage of



perpetual childhood to his benefit to attract prey and to secure carers as needed. In Let Me In (Reeves 2010), the American remake of Tomas Alfredson’s superb Swedish 2008 film adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel, the need to translate culturally American signifiers of place and time comes into view at its margins. Certainly, Reeves’ film maintains the domestic claustrophobia of Lindqvist’s novel but also reduces its cast of secondary characters orbiting the narrative in order to centralise the effects of vampirism and its horrors within their shared apartment complex and between its neighbours. Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), here transformed from Eli and Oskar, dwell in the shadows of murky sociocultural divisions under Reagan’s first term as president. The film strives to recapture a sense of early 1980s nostalgia (favourite sweets, arcade games, pop songs which will in time become 1980s classics), citing just enough references to conjure a sense of American Southwestern realities (including its challenging climate) to transpose yet oddly complement Lindqvist’s Swedish domestic Gothic tale. Set firmly in the crucial early years of the Reagan Revolution, which would come to define the decade, Let Me In transposes its setting to 1983 (later than Lindqvist’s source novel, set in 1981) to channel specific moments of domestic and international horror. It is no accident, as Gelder observes (2012: 38–39) that Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speech (8 March 1983) denouncing ongoing Cold War tensions between the USA and the Soviet Union is heard in the opening hospital scenes in the film, an address to the National Association of Evangelicals during which Reagan cites the commandment ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Reagan 1983). This rhetoric takes on an ironic tone as it amplifies the failure to acknowledge the evils within American borders and instead externalises it as a foreign problem. This issue bleeds out to contemporary viewers in the twenty-first century where it becomes obvious that America has simply exchanged one foe for another during the War in Iraq under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The near-anonymous adults of Reeves’ film (and Lindqvist’s novel) either perpetuate violence or are too powerless or distracted to stop its proliferation. Owen’s mother is rendered anonymous and out-of-reach onscreen in her perpetually out-of-focus or partial screen presence which emphasises the emotional gulf between parent and child and her misguided religious devotion, a problem to which Owen’s unseen father later alludes when they briefly discuss the nature of evil on the telephone.


In one shot, his mother sleeps as a Public Service Announcement plays on television, ‘10 pm: Do You Know Where Your Children Are?’, a familiar notice to American audiences between the late 1960s and late 1980s which flags up parental responsibility, certainly a dig at non-­ traditional or divorced parents, and apportions blame on youth culture as a budding source of menace if left unchecked. The blame, of course, lies with the insurmountable generational gulf felt between parents/adults and children. In the snatches of televised images we do glimpse in the film, its messages direct us towards moral obligations (particularly the PSA message and Reagan’s speech) but offer no distraction or comfort; adult authority has been corroded, which the television set and the father of the nation promptly reprimand. To situate the film further within the broader context of 1980s paranoia, the Policeman (Elias Koteas) initially believes the local murders—­ committed by Abby’s father to source blood for her survival—signals the presence of a practising satanic cult. While such ritualistic activities were never conclusively proven to have occurred, it was believed to be a real threat to young children in the 1980s (in cases such as the infamous McMartin Pre-School trial—see Haberman 2014) thanks to the media wildfire it generated throughout the decade. ‘Stranger Danger’ campaigns and Milk Carton kids (pictures of missing children which adorned milk cartons) all contributed to the palpable feeling of threat within the community, alongside terrible cases including the 1982 Tylenol murders in Chicago (where pain medication was randomly laced with potassium cyanide, resulting in seven deaths), and the Texas Halloween ‘Candy-Man’ murderer Ronald Clark O’Bryan who poisoned his own son (and attempted to poison his daughter and three other neighbourhood children) with potassium cyanide-­laced Pixie Stix. The terror of these cases lies in the hidden threats in the community, perpetrated either by parents or anonymous adults who hide behind the façade of banal normality. In Let Me In, appearing faceless is also coded as coming into contact with brewing violence, not only in the horrific acid burns which are self-inflicted by Abby’s father (Richard Jenkins) or the selective cinematography that captures the vague presence of Owen’s mother (Cara Buono), but also in Owen’s flirtation with violence when he dons a mask and stares at himself in the mirror, brandishing a knife and mimicking the brutal bullying and cat calls to which he is subjected by three schoolboys. This melted mask foreshadows the chemically burned visage of Abby’s father, while signposting the terrible fate that awaits Owen, fleeing with Abby secreted in a box, in the film’s final frames. Their destination is unknown, but the future is already stained with blood.



In contrast, Stephenie Meyer’s adolescent vampire series, the Twilight saga (2005–2008), offers a polar opposite composition of the vampiric body and on the power of the family unit from Lindqvist’s dark tale. As contemporaries in vampire fiction, on the surface both novels share an outlook on vampirism as a site of potential salvation, offering the prospect of an immortal companion who truly understands the suffering of each tale’s emotionally adrift protagonist. Both novels also speak to a generation of young adolescents who feel wholly disconnected from their parents, their peers, and their communities, and find solace in an immortal companion who is dislocated in time, but this is where the similarities end. Lindqvist presents a porous vampire whose flesh is revealed to be too soft, whereas Meyer’s vampires possess skin resembling gemstones, hardened and closed off from mortal threats and rules. The breakdown of the family unit is key to Lindqvist’s exploration of isolation and cruelty, while the Cullens enjoy familial security as the ideological bedrock of their conservative values. Consisting of four novels and five film adaptations (as the final novel Breaking Dawn was spilt into two parts), the Twilight saga—Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007), and Breaking Dawn (2008)— centres on the all-consuming romance between seventeen-year-old Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, a 109-year-old vampire who finds himself utterly drawn and increasingly devoted to her. Their saga concerns the discovery of vampires and other supernatural forces nestled within the human world, and the necessary sacrifices both Bella and Edward must undertake to remain together. Over the course of the series, we are informed of rules that govern the immortal and supernatural realm, including the taboo nature of creating an immortal child, and forbidding humans to know of the vampire realm; equally, ancient feuds also underpin tensions between its prominent cast of werewolves and vampires, effectively triangulating Bella’s relationship with Edward and her childhood best friend Jacob, revealed to be a werewolf, as she repeatedly mediates their differences and devotion to her throughout the series. In the end, in order to consummate their relationship and to live the life she chooses to lead with her husband and his wealthy family, Bella is transformed into a vampire. Meyer’s series became a publishing sensation in its own right, a phenomenon which tapped into an audience primed for compulsive (and quickly published) dark fantasy having grown up during the global popularity of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. For other readers unengaged with vampire fiction, it was a gentle form of Gothic decoration as a tame, emotionally draining teenage melodrama. The timing of the novel’s publication was important as it swept up young adolescent readers into


a seemingly gentle form of vampire fiction that foregrounded the romantic potential of immortality without its abject consequences. As with Harry Potter’s own school-bound adventures, on the surface Twilight offered its painfully normal protagonist Bella a sense of belonging, a hint of supernatural predestination thinly disguised beneath the veneer of this world, breathlessly entwined with romantic overtures and adventure that pits the older worlds of European vampire elders, divorced parents, and cultural expectations against a young woman’s desire to belong with her immortal lover and his wealthy and restrained vampire family. Twilight is pitched as a fairly innocent escape from the mundane, away from increased impossibilities placed on the young who dream to experience the opportunities to which only the older generation have access. The culture of the novel rejects many of the difficulties and pains of growing up and exchanges it for a sustained adolescence and everlasting love. To gain access to the benefits of vampirism and its promised securities, Bella insists on being turned in order to devote herself to Edward; immortality has few drawbacks in the saga, which, alongside the seductive charms of the Cullens’ wealth, only furthers Bella’s desire to belong to the family’s chosen few immortals whose beauty and influence Meyer painstakingly reinforces. While many critics bemoaned the series’ conservative tone and representation of chastity (particularly as it was primed as an example of the virtues of true love in some conservative circles) coupled with Meyer’s own commitment to Mormonism, Joseph Crawford (2014: 224–26) notes that the critical dismissal by many had much to do with the lack of seriousness bestowed on genre fiction, particularly when labelled as ‘women’s fiction’; this was further problematised by its failure to provide a suitable ‘model’ for its female readership (2014: 225). Crawford is right in noting that there is a double standard here about female readers and the perceived ‘need’ to impart a certain type of exemplary lesson, which is not projected on to more ‘male-centred’ genres. Rather, the Twilight novels frustrate Gothic readings in their diminishment of the vampire narrative by draining away its darkness in favour of a safe, clean, moral, and bland version of undeath. Nonetheless, the series serves a very prominent conservative purpose in the backlash against the Postmodern messiness advanced by various feminist movements: it inculcates a conservative desire to return to patriarchal safety, a repeated cultural response which, according to Susan Faludi, swells in the aftermath of national trauma by ‘succumb[ing] to the hauntings of a



fabricated past’ (2008: 375) blindly and erroneously imagined to be free from such insecurities. In essence, with the vampire drained of its terror and transgressive qualities in Meyer’s series, Twilight’s immortal cast merely become a backdrop in a romance which orbits the fantasies and wish-fulfilment of a young woman. Yet, there is something more politically troubling at stake here too: the Twilight saga’s political frustration is one which pines for a time before the advent of perceived loose social mores, poverty, and single parenthood, and promotes a traditional return to conservative values rooted in a nostalgic mythical past. This fantasy of the past, having never fully existed, had been eroded since the 1960s by globalisation, immigration, economic precarity, and secularism. Following the election of President Obama, the rise of the Tea Party fringe movement gained further momentum in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and it exploited this platform to critique the waning of moral (as opposed to merely fiscal) conservativism. Rather than simply cast off vampires to die as Reagan did in the 1980s by positing them as cultural and moral pollutants (such was the case for the decade’s flirtation with half-vampirism), Meyer’s saga redeploys the vampire as the icon of these ‘traditional’ norms, repositioning their cultural desirability as one only achieved by conservative indoctrination and direct access to wealth and white privilege. This access is not the product of ‘honest’ hard work either but rather amassed over an extended set of lifetimes and aided by the (illegal) foresights provided by Alice Cullen, who can read and manipulate the stock market. The Cullens achieve their unique position through extensive manipulation of social structures and a fantastical variation on insider trading. Moreover, this creates a false idealism built upon the importance of prized female virtue and envy as a corollary to gain access to a secure future of inherited privileges closed-off to mere mortals: it presents religious conversion and devotion as a solution to safely perpetuate fantasies about a world built on female sacrifice and duty. It offers a ‘utopian vision’ of a ‘barricaded world of romance and perpetual adolescence’ (Kelly 2016: 27), bestowed by heteronormative expectations of sexual fulfilment that can only be achieved and morally stabilised through traditional marriage. In his attempt to garner support for his 2008 presidential campaign, Republican candidate John McCain courted radicalised factions from the base of the party, which swept away large swathes of the moderate ground. The outspoken platform used by the fringe Tea Party movement


enabled then prominent figureheads including Sarah Palin (see Zernike 2010: n.p.) to call out for ‘divine intervention’ for the nation to bring it back to the path of puritan righteousness. Such fiery rhetoric provoked vehement disagreement in liberal media discourse as it openly frustrated and chipped away at achieving beneficial policies including affordable health care, the recognition of minority rights and gay marriage, and access to reproductive health clinics. The Twilight saga contains trace evidence of this conservativism, provoking plenty of commentary (particularly with the release of the first film adaptation) in the weeks following the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008, as the series identifies core issues that would both frustrate and define his presidency. Crawford convincingly identifies myriad reasons why Twilight provoked a cultural backlash thanks to its firm place as an all-consuming romance: its invocation of vampires, werewolves, and ancient European orders were perceived as violations by some readers who fiercely protect the realms of Gothic and Horror fiction (and police its fandoms), and who were happy to defend these modes and genres from any romantic softness infecting the spheres of their own hard-won cultural ascension towards genre respectability. The battle lines were resolutely drawn in fandom circles. Sparkly vampires are a strong point of contention for Twilight’s critics, particularly evidenced in online memes and fora where fervent commentary—such as ‘real vampires don’t sparkle’—articulate its sta­ tus as interloper in Gothic circles. Yet, in Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark, the first novel in her Southern Vampire Mysteries series upon which True Blood was initially based, Sookie Stackhouse notes that her vampire suitor, Bill Compton, has a distinct glow emanating from his skin. Sookie’s ability to register a vampire’s glow is uncommon and foregrounds her own supernatural status as well as Bill’s own alterity (Harris 2001: 57). Unlike Meyer, Harris does not fetishise the vampire body as a jewel or status symbol, and perhaps this is one explanation why the Gothic status of her vampire cast is not as contested as Meyer’s restrained immortals. To glow and to sparkle differ as the former suggests a light emanating from within, hinting at depth, whereas to sparkle is to reflect and refract external light, to repel it on the surface. This addition of scintillating vampire skin that glitters rather than immolates in sunlight celebrates the near-angelic qualities the Cullens possess and reinforces their transcendence into something distinctly more beautiful than humans. In Twilight, Edward’s scintillating skin appears ‘like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface’ (Meyer 2005: 260) under



the gleam of sunlight, a feature that displays Edward as ‘the ultimate commodity… [and] leaves only the desire for more’ (Spooner 2017: 86). In the Postmodern transition from ghastly revenant to neighbour, Meyer deploys the vampire as a conscious consolidation of beauty, wealth, and angelic features without a trace of corporeal abjection; the Cullens are akin to demigods, reinforcing Bella’s inferiority complex in being merely human while Edward is ‘perfect’ and ‘good at everything’ (Meyer 2005: 301). For Hannah Priest, Edward’s sparkling skin stands in for the evolution of the Gothic form for the next generation: ‘the reason so many of us hate sparkly vampires is because, simply put, they are not written for us…. [W]e are railing against another generation’s Gothic’ (Priest 2011, n.p.). Indeed, this has much to do with generational rejection and ridicule but it also flags up the commodification of vampire flesh as a valuable, prized surface, exchanging the established tropes of power, knowledge and experience in subjective vampire fiction for effortless luminescence, surface value, and anti-intellectualism. Twilight’s central features of eternal love and sparkling skin-as-gemstone recalls elements of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s longstanding vampire hero Saint Germain, a gemmologist whose adventures span millennia of historical culture and romance (and twenty plus novels), and yet his intellectual riches or his selfless sexual worship of the female body does not commercially compare with the financial draw of Twilight’s twinkling surface. Vampire knowledge is not prized in the Twilight saga, but rather the appearance of value(s). These undead intimacies chart interesting and varied interpretations of vampire sexuality, ranging from the threat of sexual abuse by remaining in perpetual prepubescence in Let the Right One In and Let Me In, to restraint and chastity as a significant moral code in Twilight, to soft-core porn aesthetics and graphic straight and queered sex and desire onscreen in Alan Ball’s HBO series True Blood (2008–2014). Bodily fluids such as blood and semen require careful regulation in the Twilight saga, for these vampires are savage once their human-blood abstinence is broken, and, like sexual love, such physical cravings must be strictly regulated. Aro, the head of the Volturi, an ancient legion of European vampires, notes the significance of Edward’s abstinence, congratulating him for his unorthodox commitment and ‘restraint … I did not know such strength was possible. To inure yourself against such a siren call, not just once but again and again … I would not have believed’ (Meyer 2006: 472). Once married and turned (and bound to eternal domestic subservience),


Bella’s thirst, strength, and sexual appetite present as unstable and bordering on insatiable, her lust only condonable and manageable through her status as a wife, and her bloodthirst made moral under the guided tutelage of her undead husband. As Twilight’s ideological antithesis, blood and sexual fluids flow excessively in True Blood, from the introduction of the synthetic blood beverage ‘Tru Blood’ which enables vampires to ‘come out of the coffin’ and ‘mainstream’ (their term for integration) in society, to the circulation of vampire blood (known as V) as a traded black market commodity known for its powerful properties. From blood drinking between humans and vampires, blood donations by ‘fang bangers’, through to the sweat, saliva, blood tears, and orgasmic sexual fluids, vampire and human bodily fluids frequently intermingle. Ball pitched the core philosophy of the show as ‘the horrors of intimacy’ in its exploration of the heartbreak and complexities of adult relationships. Unlike any other big budget production, True Blood depicts vampire sex and intimacy as a sticky, graphic business, and often aesthetically mimics soft-core pornography in its lighting and frequent male and female near-nudity. Unafraid to foreground female and LGBTQ+ sexual pleasures, it is also a mainstay of the show to counter the closed-off deferral of pleasure in Meyer’s series and film adaptations, thereby differentiating Ball’s series as a show explicitly marketed at adults. The series treats sex as a complex act brimming with emotions and in a range of representational styles, from group sex and town-wide orgies (‘Hard-Hearted Hannah’, 2.06) to near magical wish fulfilment (as evidenced in Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) and Sookie’s (Anna Paquin) fairy-tale-styled sexual union in the woods in ‘I Wish I was the Moon’, 4.06) to abject alterity and violence [as seen when Bill (Stephen Moyer) stretches, twists, and breaks his maker Lorena’s (Mariana Klaveno) neck during violent, near-hateful intercourse (‘It Hurts Me Too’, 3.03)]. As J. M. Tyree observes, these twenty-first-­ century vampire intimacies ‘run the gamut of marginalised sex acts contained in the political unconscious: premarital hook-ups, gay and bisexual relationships, adultery, cheating, polygamy, S&M, the sexuality of children, and the hovering specter [sic] of quasi-willing sexual violence’ (Tyree 2009: 31), nestling neatly under the umbrella of non-normative and/or queer/ed desire. Furthermore, True Blood‘s reconfiguration of vampire blood serves as a superb signifier of supernatural alterity, for the vital fluid is used as a recreational psychotropic drug and a healing agent, but is never fully



recuperated from its abject status as a dead fluid. Humans frequently taste vampire blood (rather than simply have vampires fetishise drinking human blood as the genre demands) and have different experiences on the substance, ranging from narcotic addiction to healing wounds, or, when taken to excess, experiencing sexual highs. Vampire blood exceeds its former place as a property laced with the threat of eternal damnation once tasted by humans and becomes another system of financial and commodified circulation. As Susan Chaplin astutely observes, vampire blood in the series becomes pharmakon (Chaplin 2017: 48)—it functions as a medicine, a poison, and finally as a scapegoat for societal concerns. Similarly, as a fairy halfling, Sookie also occupies an exceptional status among the vampires due to her own coveted blood; her ‘curse’ of telepathy marking her as the townspeople’s weird scapegoat; and, in its final episodes, as an unwitting carrier of the deadly Hepatitis V virus that fatally infects Bill. Due to this radical overhaul of the symbolic and fiscal value of vampire blood, human ‘drainers’ torture and exploit captured vampires, often fatally exsanguinating them to sell it on the black market. At the outset of Dead Until Dark, Sookie intervenes in this very activity to save Bill Compton from the red neck Rattray couple (Harris 2001: 9–10). As in Harris’s novels, vampire death in True Blood is particularly violent and often hilariously disgusting; the TV series in particular delights in bloody spectacle as vampires explode or disintegrate onscreen into puddles of sticky goo, an abject mixture of sinew, effluvia, and viscera. These undead bodies are penetrable, vulnerable, and ultimately dead already beneath their desirable veneer. Blood is a scarce resource in Let Me In and, when visible, cues the spread of danger; it is a dangerous and deferred hunger in Twilight; but in True Blood it is crossed with all manner of meaning and symbolic loading. For example, it confers the power of the gods and the ability to walk in sunlight: the sacred blood of Lilith/Bill in seasons five and six consecrates Bill’s body and blood in order to feed and save interned vampires about to be scorched at an anti-vampire internment camp. Bill’s sacrificial feeding of the interred vampires literalises transubstantiation in order to save them from perils of sunlight—through him they walk into the light and live forever. Blood informs power dynamics between maker and progeny and bestows a near-psychic connection between vampires and the humans who ingest their blood. Supernatural blood has different effects on other magical beings: vampires get high on fairy blood; vampire blood is a crack-styled fix for werewolves; human blood is still


highly desired as an intimate and discrete practice—countering the narrative that synthetic blood alone suffices for the vampire population; and ‘Tru Blood’, the synthetic blood product, occupies the fragile centre of this delicate supernatural co-existence. Synthetic blood is not the desired blood of choice but offers tolerable subsistence for those vampires who wish to assimilate into human culture. As emphasised by the American Vampire League who promote vampire-human co-existence, ‘vampires were people, too’, and the opportunity to assimilate is desired by some revenants who find the isolation of immortality unbearable. In seasons six and seven of True Blood, the infection Hepatitis V acts as an extension of an AIDS narrative, visually mapped out with pulsating blackened veins and physical weakness, leading eventually to gruesome disintegration. Delivered through spiked bottles of Tru Blood at the command of the fanatical Religious Right, the Hepatitis V contamination is a weaponised form of 1980s and early 1990s extremist rhetoric that AIDS was a divine form of social cleansing for immoral queer culture. This leads to a narrative arc in which vampires are interred and experimented upon—a horrific modern version of an extermination camp wherein vampire detainees are studied and tortured for their ‘sinful’ capabilities and desires. The evident hatred roused up by the Religious Right who revoke vampire rights forewarns how quickly equality can be stripped from a particular group, race, or creed, and how precarious these hard-won rights are under political and social extremism. That the vampires in True Blood stand in for LGBTQ+ and minority rights is undeniable, despite Alan Ball’s protestation that this analogy may be reductive, ‘lazy’, or indeed potentially homophobic (Shen 2009: n.p.). Despite Ball’s fears that the metaphor is a problematic catch-all term to associate minorities and queer politics with violence, the show does not idealise vampirism as a condition but rather situates it as a parallel kingdom that is equally bound up in rules, laws, and complexities of its own. Supernaturalism functions as an extended metaphor for sexual fluidity and identity politics, facilitating a spectrum of complex representations in the series that ‘highlights hypocrisies within minority groups, where acceptance into the mainstream can either cause further divisions (subcultural rejection) or complete invisibility (assimilation and denial)’ (Elliot-Smith 2012: 150). Digital Kitchen’s striking opening credits for the show posits vampirism as a stand-in for LGBTQ groups in its arresting combination of contrasting representations of the sacred and the profane, quickly cutting between images of sex, death, and rebirth,



and directly pointing to political fissures as conveyed via the striking sign ‘God Hates Fangs’, a familiar pastiche of the hate-mongering placards used by the Westboro Baptist Church, to foreground political and social discrimination against specific groups. If anything, True Blood taps into liberal fears of Republican extremism if left unchecked and the need to strive for opportunities and equality etched out in Obama’s vision of a plural society (despite its numerous obstacles) as something worth fighting for. The series never loses sight of the divisive horrors in contemporary America; it continues to flirt with black humour even when it descends into occasional absurdities. It relishes in its distrust of Republican politics and its disgust at theocratic extremism with evident glee. A suitable example of this rejection of Republican identity is summed up by Pam (Kristen Bauer van Straten), who, while infiltrating a fundraiser for Republican Senator Ted Cruz at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas, caustically describes her undercover outfit of big hair and a spangly dress as the ‘Republicunt’ look (‘Lost Cause’, 7.05). The use of this provocative term caused a media flutter soon after airing in June 2014, when Ted Cruz publicly commented on social media (Facebook and later Twitter) that the misogynist episode was ‘shocking’ and that he was ‘astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends….’ (Facebook post), only to later tweet, ‘I guess I never had a chance w/the vampire vote since the dead tend to vote overwhelmingly for Dems’ (John 2014: n.p). While Cruz’s attempt to make a withering retort fell flat in its suggestion of voter fraud, he does point to the left leaning politics of its target audience which includes, according to actor Stephen Moyer (who plays Bill Compton), the incumbent president. True Blood’s writers openly goad Cruz’s then Republican poster-boy status in part because of his attempt to derail same-sex marriage recognition (the failed State Marriage Defense Act [2014]), while any publicity stunt during its final season could ultimately do the show no harm. And yet, even in this final season, which features explicit references to divisive figures such as Senator Cruz, True Blood calls out for bipartisan collaboration over divisive capitalist greed to foster meaningful national solutions. Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp), a central source of hateful religious proclamations against the vampire community throughout the series, proves to be the unlikely (but nonetheless fitting) living antidote for the Hepatitis V infection she helped develop and deploy into the vampire community. Those responsible for poisonous political and social


division can, the series suggests, also be the source of an antidote if they are willing to work towards an inclusive future. Sin cannot be washed away, but hope for the future can be mutually realised. Naturally, caricature images of both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama feature in the series to reinforce the show’s parallel realism. In the vampire club Fangtasia on Sookie’s first night there (‘Escape from Dragon House’, 1.04), the camera briefly hovers over Alex Ross’s image ‘Sucking Democracy Dry’ (the cover of this book) in order to ‘out’ George W. Bush with a wry nod, for if he doesn’t literally qualify as a vampire, his policies surely mark him as a figurative one. This comedic inclusion gestures towards vampiric ubiquity which literally and figuratively permeates as far as the Presidency itself. Barack Obama masks are worn by a splinter anti-supernatural white supremacist group as an ironic comment on his status as the first African American president. On a surface level, it is a dissonant political joke—the KKK-styled splinter group (judging by its white racist membership and ‘dragon’ leader) is obviously anathema to Obama’s politics and his race. Beneath this seemingly glib inclusion, the use of the Obama masks satirises the Republican right’s disaffection, which seeks to row back rights gained under Civil Rights and the attempt to secure the Vampire Rights Amendment in the show’s diegesis. Much like the caricatured masks worn by protesters at anti-Nixon protests in the 1970s, the masks distil group perceptions of partisan feelings of political duplicity and national frustration in popular culture. Overall, their use by the gang criticises political insincerity (by politicians, spokespeople, and special-interest groups) about wearing public masks that outwardly promote equality and liberal inclusivity but beneath which private prejudices continue to fester. In Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), led by their creative and emotional impulses, are sensuous, beautiful vampires who also exist in parallel with human history instead of mainstreaming. Jarmusch’s film can be read as a form of apolitical meta-commentary on the contemporary jaded use of the vampire metaphor in popular culture, whether it be representative of sex, violence, the desire for adoration, or the coveted gaze of fame. Rather, Jarmusch’s vampire couple rarely engage with stereotypical vampire behaviours, favouring instead the creative process and accumulating intellectual knowledge which feels like an entirely logical and deeply romantic manner to while away eternity. From the outset Jarmusch’s film ruminates on the passing nature of time—streaks of starlight dissolving



into the revolution of a record on a turntable—while immortality renders the parted couple adrift, often for decades. Their vampirism is at once a cosmic yet deeply intimate experience of the world, foregrounded through music, literature, poetry, and the appreciation of beauty. Grappling with the ubiquity of Postmodern emptiness, vampirism, the film posits, should be a vehicle for a voracious mind, a voyage in accumulating knowledge, meaning, and new discoveries, and yet, the human world is populated by ‘zombies’ as Adam terms them—vapid humans who seek fame over substance. Apart, both Adam and Eve seem to struggle and turn inward: the Postmodern condition of the erasure of originality and vacuity of fame over musical talent threatens to derail Adam’s desire to exist, while Eve, lost in intellectual pursuits, needs to nourish her emotional bonds following the death of her mentor, Marlowe (John Hurt). Jarmusch’s select few vampires endure in a parallel existence that necessitates shunning human discovery yet bestows literary, musical, and cultural treasures upon humankind. Attempting to live ‘ethically’ (sourcing nourishment from blood banks and doctors), they exist at the margins, knowing that, should their blood supply run dry or become contaminated, they will have to hunt humans again. Visually coded as yin and yang via their costuming, Adam and Eve’s duality and shared sense of immortal exhaustion, depression, and purposelessness is rooted in their seemingly harmonious co-existence with humans. Vampires that exist alongside humanity may temporarily quell their appetites and desires, but a prolonged denial of purpose, in the end, dulls the senses. Adam’s emotional isolation is mirrored in the decay of his surroundings in contemporary suburban Detroit, articulating his acute need to be revived from its post-capitalist suffocating emptiness. At the brink of losing his appetite for creativity, rejecting fame as a contamination from the realm of uninspired zombies who are ‘afraid of their own imagination’, he clings to a romantic past which slowly threatens to engulf him. Eventually restored with purpose by their relocation to Eve’s home in Tangiers, Morocco, a brief reprieve from the contemporary trappings of Postmodernity and fame, the couple are reinvigorated in their hunger as predators. This gateway city to older worlds and the continents of Africa and Europe enable this duo to remember and rediscover their historical vampiric past and purpose as reawakened by place and by nature. Adam and Eve’s domesticated appetites were only ever temporarily lulled, and their Gothic selves are liberated by the necessity of blood and purpose in Jarmusch’s final frames. Jarmusch’s serious meditation


on cultural production presents the contemporary need to find meaning and value in creation beyond capitalistic acquisition. Like so many vampire couples whose intimacies shape contemporary representations of vampirism, Adam and Eve need each other to survive the millennia to come; together, they provide the emotional and creative nurturing the other lacks. By denying (or barely supplementing) their appetites like the vampires in True Blood, their parallel existence with humanity can only be sustained for a limited time.

New Disclosures: Confessions, Secrets, and Rewriting Undeath Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (2013) foregrounds repressed female voices within the more traditional and male dominated arenas of vampiric power and creation. Also mired in the secret nature of vampire creation and the vampiric compulsion to tell stories, Jordan’s film offers itself up as a feminist companion piece to the queer disclosures in Interview with the Vampire (1994). Set predominantly in a nameless English seaside town, with brief interludes which overtly suggest (or were filmed in) Ireland, the film amplifies tensions between the present day and its flashbacks to the past of its vampires’ human lives, between the realm of folkloric knowledge and misguided patriarchal ‘reason’, to recuperate female voices swept underfoot by male dominance. This feminist revision of vampirism confers subjectivity and authorship onto female voices and vehemently critiques the exclusionary realms of knowledge and learning as prized masculine attributes in order to champion the tenacity of the suppressed female narrative experience. In both of Jordan’s vampire films, Interview with the Vampire and Byzantium, the disclosure of immortality and its secrets to mortals invites fatal consequences. In Byzantium’s opening scenes, Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan) writes down her life story, in which she discloses her immortality, only to scatter the pages to the wind; her narrative is fleeting at first and gathered only in snatches, symbolic of folklore and myth passed down in an incomplete form. Her torn pages are discovered by Robert Fowlds (Barry Cassin), who invites Eleanor into his home as a member of the neamh mairbh (Gaelic for undead) and asks her to relieve his suffering by taking his life. Eleanor uses her vampirism as a form of benevolent release for the dying and the sick to alleviate their pain, which enables her to retain a semblance of her humanity. There



are evident echoes here with Interview with the Vampire as Louis (Brad Pitt), its undead narrator, ruminates on the nature of guilt and suffering as a tenuous yet precious connection to his humanity; Eleanor’s similar raw emotional torment and proximity to human suffering fulfils this same fragile and mortal connection. Under the fierce regulation of the Brethren (a patriarchal vampire secret society), the natural gift of vampirism and knowledge of its miracles is transformed into ‘a fatal thing’, for ‘those with knowledge have to die’ (Jordan 2013) under their command. Eleanor comes to know most of the process of her own transformation but only retains incomplete memories of it. Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), the child vampire progeny of Lestat (Tom Cruise) and Louis, is also initially denied knowledge of how vampirism is conferred, and when she probes Lestat on the process further, he demeans her: ‘why should I tell you? It is within my power’ (Jordan 1994). Foregoing fangs for a subtle extending thumbnail to pierce the flesh in Byzantium, Jordan adds another visual echo from his earlier vampire film, trading Lestat’s decorative spiked silver thimble with a more organic but equally lethal variation. In the end, both narratives foster the continuance of vampire confessions by marginalised revenants, replete with new scribes to document its wonders. The film outlines the subtle differences between the masculine and feminine domains of vampirism in striking visual detail: Clara steals a secret map to a mysterious island where vampirism is conferred through magical interactions with the natural world as expressed in its strange landscape. The stylised ‘hyper-natural’ mise-en-scene of the island suggests vampiric transformation as a primal and sensual experience. Upon entering a cave, she is encircled by birds and re-emerges reborn a vampire, her transformation signalled as the island’s waterfall suddenly cascades rivers of blood-red water. Once her transgression is discovered by the Brethren, Clara is taken to a library to sign a contract to keep the secrets and honour of vampirism, as she is the first female of their kind. In a scene set against the backdrop of the Long Room Library in Trinity College, Dublin, the Brethren evaluate Clara’s worthiness of their shared gift; the mise-en-scène emphasises the totality of all written patriarchal knowledge and power, while Clara’s feminine dress and blunt manner announces her incongruity, only to be reinforced by her proud desire to use her gift ‘to punish those who prey on the weak [and] to curb the power of men’. Her feminist agenda contrasts so sharply with the Brethren’s ‘accepted’ honourable status as the self-defined ‘pointed


nails of justice’ that she is permitted to merely exist but banished and forbidden to create another revenant. In creating Eleanor and sparing her a cruel life at the hands of the misogynist Captain Ruthven (Jonny Lee Miller)—clearly a nod to John Polidori’s 1819 high-society immortal in The Vampyre—who had previously abused Clara and sold her into prostitution, Clara breaks the Brethren’s law and marks them both for censure. Escaping to the English seaside town, Eleanor’s compulsion to keep sharing her handwritten confession with humans is dismissed as unauthorised fiction, a subjective account that arouses suspicion among humans and results in multiple murders to keep and contain the gift of vampirism safe and within the sole domain of male privilege. Eleanor and Clara’s trespass into the realm of authorised mastery is rendered safe by their choosing of male companions at its conclusion; their partnerships with other male vampires spare them the frustration and emotional isolation of their own existence of female victims of male dominance; both look to the future with hope and companionship beyond the abuse that necessitated their vampiric transformations. To write and rewrite the origins of vampirism is not only compulsive in the realm of the undead—it is the key to immortality itself, to live on through narrative. In Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, scholars are selectively chosen to join a quest to solve a Gothic mystery from a series of clues, which lead to archives and libraries, monasteries and tombs, all to collect and chronicle the history of Count Dracula’s origins and afterlife. The novel suggests that narrative order is a facile expectation, for vampirism spills outward—in whispers and on paper—in Postmodernity and cannot remain neatly arranged; vampirism celebrates diverse expression, while Dracula’s extensive library—the destination at the end of this journey to collect literary narratives—is only for the benefit of the vampire (and thus at the mercy of his taste). The Count offers limitless knowledge but only at the expense of truly living. Kostova’s novel mimics Stoker’s narrative style through letters, diaries, and memories, epistolary snatches that document the threat of vampirism and familial trauma which lies at the core of its mystery. Vampirism achieves its cultural immortality not only in its extension of Dracula’s medieval body but lives on via the retelling. Using decorative blank books to entice (or rather inflict a Gothic curse upon) gifted historians, this vampire tale demands to be retraced and rewritten by those who uncover the quest set by the bibliophile Count and his librarian acolyte. The impossibility of documenting one version of history is traced through the novel’s unnamed narrator



and its epistolary gathering of documents and accounts. Professor Rossi begins the quest but vanishes, leaving the trail for the unnamed narrator’s parents Paul and Helen, and eventually the narrator herself, all of whom contribute to its multi-authored, multi-generational methodology: the gathering of knowledge, the discovery of origins, and the secrets of the printed word informs Dracula’s penchant for ‘scribes, archivists, librarians, historians – anyone who handled the past through books (Kostova 2006: 691)’ for it is a continual means to outwit death and remain relevant in the modern age. Surveying Wallacia’s first printing press at its conclusion (703–4), Dracula has discovered the means to achieve his literal (and literary) immortality through the replication of the printed word. The contestation and rewriting of vampire origins also underpins Dracula Untold (2014), a film which reboots Dracula’s vampiric inception as part of Universal Studios’ ‘Dark Universe’ series. Marketed as a rival to Marvel Studios’ dominance at the box office over the past decade, the film presents Dracula’s (Luke Evans) superhero-inflected ascension to vampiric immortality and generically oscillates between the weighty cinematic legacy of Coppola’s Dracula (1992) and contemporary superhero fantasy, which reduces this vampire to a problematic and bloodless spectacle. The film is all about contesting boundaries between the Gothic legacy of Dracula, now thoroughly divorced from Stoker’s novel, and the corporate appetite to capitalise upon Dracula as a franchise commodity. Crucially, the film actively overwrites its own literary origins—that story has already been told and must be recuperated from Stoker’s version, if one takes its title at face value—and expands upon James V. Hart’s framing device in his script for Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). As discussed in Chapter 4, the act of including both the auteur’s and author’s name in the title in Coppola’s version readily attempts to secure the branding of the film as a high-­ quality literary adaptation, while disavowing all other versions from the record. Dracula’s repurposed origin stories in literary and cinema history enable him to proliferate in Postmodernity through simulacra and overt familiarity through a multiplicity of cultural references, gathering apace when Coppola’s film eventually eclipses Stoker’s novel in popular cinema as a necessary citation. Dracula Untold extends Hart’s framing device outward into a feature-length retelling of events, attaching the superhero model of an injustice served upon a devoted and sacrificial leader who is elevated to immortality, to meet studio demands to rival Marvel’s multiverse box office returns.


The film is largely concerned with the benevolent Prince Vlad Dracul of Wallachia attempting to save his people from the savage Turks who threaten his kingdom—not only was Vlad trained to fight by the Turks as a child prisoner of the Sultan, but he knows that the Turks will return as their empire expands across Eastern Europe. Prince Dracul describes himself as ‘the son of the Dragon and the protector of the innocent’; he borrows the powers of a hidden Master Vampire (Charles Dance) to defeat the brutal invading army and protect his kingdom, wife, and child. Knowing that Vlad is limited in his ability to prevent the sacking of his land, the Master Vampire offers him a Faustian bargain through which he can temporarily experience vampirism, to become ‘a man worthy of the dark and its powers’. He must drink the Master Vampire’s blood and suffer three nights of an insatiable thirst for human blood. If he drinks, he will be turned to darkness forever; but if he resists, his powers will fade and he will remain human. Under this temporary dark spell, he commands colonies and transmogrifies into bats at will with supernatural speed and strength; subjective POV shots mimic the tone of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy in its gaming aesthetics and ‘sonar vision’ graphics, while the transmogrification into bats is akin to ‘levelling up’ features in Gothic video games such as the Castlevania (1986–2018) series. As Dracula Untold is the first major studio film on Dracula for more than a decade, it reveals that the only studio continuance for the Count at present is through a Postmodern reinterpretation, which simply recycles and nestles itself within earlier cinematic versions, while overtly courting commercial studio trends and superhero dominance in the modern blockbuster. Interestingly, the film shares some parallels with current US politics in the Middle East in its justification of ‘heroic’ monstrosity and necessary killings on the battlefield as inherently righteous in the face of invading barbaric ‘others’. It oddly complements Universal’s 2004 ‘War on Terror’ film Van Helsing as it simply exchanges Dracula’s role from terrorist antagonist to undead sympathetic monster, and both titles also share in the failure to separately launch the ‘Dark Universe’ film franchise which was eventually shelved due to poor reviews and lacklustre box office returns. Another attempt at rewriting and reclaiming past narratives to revamp marks the return of Dark Shadows (2012), Tim Burton’s playful tribute to Dan Curtis’s Gothic soap opera which featured the tragic sympathetic vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid). In its attempt to retell the origins of Barnabas’s (Johnny Depp) return to Collinsport as a member of the undead, Burton’s film delights in dislocating this vampire



from the contemporary moment (1972)—an interesting alignment that both restarts the narrative in the year following the end of the TV series and puts the vampire back into the Watergate era—following his cursed imprisonment in 1776 (and thus affirming his status as an American). The film boils his domestic disruption down to familiar and comedic Gothic conventions. In tribute to Dark Shadows’ (1966–1971) importance in domesticating stock Gothic characters and sympathetic vampires via the small screen, the film directly camps up its own intertextual origins in Barnabas’s dismissal of the ‘sorcery’ of television (Spooner 2017: 134) when he encounters it in the family home. Barnabas’s own contribution to the ubiquity of TV vampires has been recently recuperated by scholars such as Wheatley (2006), Spooner (2017), and Abbott (2017), but remains an important and sorely overlooked touchstone in extending the vampire’s cultural influence in domestic American life; Burton’s film calls attention to this debt but favours the comedic release of vampirism instead of its melodramatic possibilities. Returning to her Vampire Chronicles after an eleven year hiatus and its divisive finale, Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat (2014) re-enters her dizzying insular world of vampire fiction to further chronicle the adventures of her Brat Prince, Lestat, only to find him weary of the digital age that has consumed the modern world. Rice’s vampires are so bound up in their own petty grievances and affairs that the human world is of no interest whatsoever—indeed only indirect references to email and radio broadcasts hint at the passing of time since her previous instalment, Blood Canticle (2003). Rice’s new addition to the series reveals a deep irritation directed at other vampire fiction authors and explicitly frames the global vampire population as a herd to be culled by the author; there are simply too many vampires in popular culture in her view (representative of the booming vampire population in print and onscreen more generally), while fledglings are slaughtered or fail to pass on the gift because simply too many now possess it. Killer, a 1980s vampire recounts the horror of this impasse: Right before the massacres started, they were all talking about it, how hard it was to bring someone over. It was like the Blood was played out. Too many in the blood. Think about it. … last two times I tried to bring someone over, it flat-out failed… I tried to bring over the most beautiful little girl… she was a zombie thing, and she couldn’t even talk and her heart wasn’t beating, but she wasn’t dead. (Rice 2014: 129)


For Rice, vampiric agency and articulacy relies on their ability and desire to write or recount their own origin tales (hence the novel is obsessed with the lineage of the earlier Vampire Chronicles and all of the various tales which make up its forty-year legacy in vampire fiction) while disavowing all other vampire variations that have come before, or move the vampire narrative in general along beyond her fiction. As Killer’s account suggests, other vampires are reduced to ‘zombie things’—illegitimate undead corpses—that must be destroyed. Prince Lestat in particular is overzealous in its declaration of the Vampire Chronicles as the true vampire narrative (and reads as a combative response to competing novels such as Twilight and The Southern Vampire Mysteries). The book folds and twists around previous events in earlier Chronicles—specifically the events of Queen of the Damned (1988)—re-entering the saga as a direct sequel, with Lestat located as a prime celebrity in the undead world and the only hope of vampiric salvation. Lestat’s own voice is influential, particularly in earlier narratives, but here he finds another spiritual voice supplants the will of those turned with ‘the dark gift’. The voice, a telepathic entity who speaks and encourages vampire violence and mass killings in Prince Lestat is an interesting locus in Rice’s vampire fiction, particularly as it was she who openly championed vampire subjectivity in the very first sentence of Interview with the Vampire (1976): ‘“I see,” said the vampire thoughtfully’ (Rice 1994: 5). Rather than bolster the diverse voices turned to darkness in the digital age in Prince Lestat, Rice’s brand of vampire subjectivity has run amok and must be reined in as the privilege of the select few in this global destruction of the undead. For Rice, unfettered vampire subjectivity has become a viral contagion, a cacophonous din of too many voices—captured by radio transmissions, iPhones, the written word as sacred text, and oral testimonies in her own fiction (with further influence felt in other undead fiction)—and transforming that which was so rare and compelling at the beginning of the Vampire Chronicles into an overly familiar, if not commercially saturated, vampire narrative device. The world is overrun with vampires, and Lestat is charged with trying to rein in the divine force which demands selective consolidation of the vampire race, while also trying to save the select few whom he truly values. The novel calls attention to the surplus of vampire fiction which has emerged not only since the beginnings of Rice’s Chronicles, but also ones that have flourished in print and onscreen during her absence. What Rice has contributed in her popular novels is another way to capture the unsaid and the unspeakable, to live out fantasies of immortality and privilege in a



world which has become increasingly precarious and fractured with each passing decade. Lestat’s adventures begin anew in this rejuvenation of her series, but it is apparent that Rice’s gilded enclave has been left adrift in a sea of other popular vampire communities. One fascinating hybrid example of the inter-splicing of undead styles and vampire over-population can be found in Daybreakers (2009), an Australian-American co-production set in a necro-future overrun with vampires where blood is a limited resource. Once vampires cease to have access to human blood, they begin to devolve into ‘subsiders’, classified as a stage four degeneration which triggers retrograde evolutionary changes, such as bat ears, wings, and bone malformation. Denied access to human blood, these subsiders feed off of other vampires, perform fatal self-feeding, or eat any available creatures while their bodies evidence their substandard diet. On one level, Daybreakers articulates the growing horrors of the neoliberal agenda by using its vampires as precarious subjects at the mercy of hyper-capitalism. In its subways and futuristic cityscape, the film’s mise-en-scene is littered with advertising and news flashes about the escalating blood shortage, its vampire population continuing with their daily undead existence by working within this necro-­economy, where undeath does not set you free from the demands of labour or the reach of advertising. The film is particularly acute in its environmental warnings, presenting a world drained of blood where only the elite has access to any ‘pure’ form, and only 5% of the human population remains in reserve. Blood as metaphor stands in for real world concerns about the neoliberal ends served in the privatisation of food, agricultural, and energy supplies, where the flow of financial capital and access to oil reserves secures preferential or private sales of natural resources at the expense of long-term human survival. That private corporations have access to the military in Daybreakers scrutinises this uneasy mutual alliance between private business and national security, as did the securing of oil interests in the Persian Gulf during the early stages of the War on Terror (Ahmed 2014: n.p.). As Stacey Abbott and Sheryl Vint both observe, the film presents abject divisions between ‘healthy and unhealthy’ citizens (read through the lens of bio-politics, commodity, and productivity (Vint 2011: 167–168]), casting off starving immigrants and ‘undesirables’ [Abbott 2016: 185), and castigating the poor as social contaminants of a degenerative disease in late-stage capitalism and thus marking them as unworthy of redemption. This is vampirism laid bare as extreme necro-capitalism.


The blood shortage allegory also lends itself to concerns about reaching ‘peak oil’—a theorised moment in time beyond which, after maximum extraction, natural reserves spiral into terminal decline. By breaching the moment of ‘peak blood’, Daybreakers’ dystopian outlook deploys the language of energy discourse and the terror of unstable petro-futures as crude oil prices quadrupled on the international market from 2002 to 2008 (during the film’s production). The trend also called further attention to the dire ecological unsustainability in extracting and selling natural resources at this unprecedented rate, alongside growing demands by the media and ethical business think tanks for alternative sources to be developed. Former vampire Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Willem Dafoe) accidentally finds a means to burn the vampire virus from his body, to disentangle himself from the capitalistic stranglehold of his bloodthirst, and urges others to join him in his rebellious quest; allegorically ‘going green’ through ‘literal enlightenment’ (Canavan 2014: 346), Elvis and his select band of vampires are cured and transformed into antiviral agents to secure a hopeful alternative future beyond resource exploitation. While synthetic blood only assures repeat custom and financial monopoly, and simply extends this unresolved global crisis, the film reprimands these half measures and looks to energy hybridisation as merely another stop gap that fails to wean society effectively from its petrochemical appetite. The staked vampire body in Daybreakers best exemplifies this destructive addiction to oil by exploding into scorched embers and dust as a visible marker of entropy’s irreversibility. In its aesthetic design and plotting, the film actively parallels elements of Polanski’s neo-noir classic Chinatown (1974) in its anxiety about drought, corporate ownership, and corruption. Alongside its noir-­ influenced costuming of reluctant vampire protagonist Ed Dalton (Ethan Hawke) in a suit and fedora and customarily framed in cigarette smoke, both films look to the modal formula of neo-noir to usurp the rot at the heart of resource privatisation. Bromley (Sam Neill), the predatory CEO of the blood pharmacology group, Bromley Marks (bite marks, surely), echoes Polanski’s antagonist Noah Cross (John Huston) in his corrupt access to wealth and influence (and nominal clue to water and sinful corruption); both ruthless patriarchs also directly partake in the corruption of their own bloodlines (their daughters) in order to silence their private sins and to buy the future—the one thing left to secure capitalism’s immortality. Unlike Polanski’s devastating conclusion, in which evil slips away in quiet triumph, Daybreakers posits, for its post-2008 financial



crisis audience, that alternatives are possible once we confront the horrors of our hubris and reclaim our global responsibility for anthropogenic climate change. The stark warning of the energy wars of the 2000s that informs Daybreakers finds a horrific echo (shortly after its release) in the April 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, an explosion of a deep well in the Gulf of Mexico due to corporate negligence and structural failures; haemorrhaging uncontrollably for months, the deep sea unsecured well became the site of the largest oil spill in history. In response, President Obama called for the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor. The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. (Obama 2010)

Peak blood and peak oil inform this symbiotic circulation in our neoliberal ‘necroculture’ whereby private corporations drain away resources for short-term profit, leaving hazardous and life-limiting results in its wake (see Thorpe 2016: 1–52). With the undead population on the rise and reaching an irreversible precipice, the film asks, what are we outwitting death for if there is nowhere to exist or nothing to subsist upon? Hopeful in its outlook that we may turn back the clock and find alternative futures to imagine, vampirism here is a twentieth-century obsession (consuming natural resources without concern, while channelling cinematic references to past national nightmares in films noir) in need of a new direction for twenty-first-century survival. Oil is also a feature in the desolate landscapes in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), an Iranian-American neo-western that actively calls out patriarchal abuse through its female vampire avenger. As a feminist vampire narrative entirely in Farsi, The Girl (Sheila Vand) wears a chador which provides anonymity in the shadowy streets of Bad City and reverses post 9/11 hostility projected onto the garment as a mode of suppression, only to give it a sublime Gothic purpose; the vampire’s choice of garment temporarily averts the male gaze, and imparts a graceful floating quality, recalling the swell of Lugosi’s signature Dracula cape as she skateboards through the city. American popular culture lingers in the margins—a drug-induced glimpse of a Ronald Reagan mask, a skateboard, a mention of Lionel Richie, and a poster in which Margaret


Atwood mimics a famous mid-1980s Madonna poster—all reinforce the semiotic reach of these objects and images, which are blurred and warped to articulate the confluence of writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian and American cultural heritage. Oil rigs, dead bodies, and pollution persistently feature in the backdrop to the desolate streets of Bad City in order to foreground the evident exploitation of the earth’s resources and of women under the violence of patriarchy. The Girl bites off a violent drug dealer’s index finger when he forces it into her mouth, believing her to be a prostitute; in a charged reversal of predator and prey, she destroys this suggestive symbolic phallus that has, through its deadly touch, spread the addiction of heroin, sexual exploitation and misery, and centralised wealth into the illicit hands of the corrupt few in the city. As Amirpour suggests, the filmic style of The Girl onscreen disrupts established circulations of power and corruption in order to foreground a feminist interpretation that finds redemption in the blurring of heritage and style. The explosion of the vampire population in popular culture has fundamentally contributed to a revisited and deep-seated desire that it may, in fact, be truly liberating to embrace an undead existence. Based on the 2006 short film of the same name, and bearing the tell-tale tagline of ‘some interviews with some vampires’, What We Do in the Shadows (2014) gives a low-budget documentary feel to its subject matter, providing candid insights into vampirism in the contemporary domestic space. By looking in at American vampire culture from a distant yet Western perspective, these New Zealand-set vampires look back on the popular culture of cinematic vampires to playfully bricolage their traits and allure to mock their twentieth-century dominance; we discover the unease with which they experience immortality and assimilation in the digital age where vampirism is set up as a false broad ideal. This mockumentary generic style includes deliberate filmic devices to confer a sense of unpolished authenticity such as shaky handheld cinematography, deliberate refocusing and zooming in and out of the action, numerous direct to camera interviews (‘talking heads’), and inter-spliced with montages of historical drawings and sketches, oil paintings, and photographs of our vampire interviewees throughout their varied and colourful histories. In the twenty-first century in particular, the power of vampirism quickly disintegrates if the flesh and blood of both victims and vampires appears to be falsely generated by technology—if we are to believe and desire these Gothic fantasies, they cannot venture



too far into a digitally crafted or limitless realm and must remain within reach and affective. At all times, the film provides intimate access to vampiric existence and its many drawbacks, demonstrating that it is often at odds with expectations imbued by Western (and, save for its Dracula variations, chiefly American) popular culture and popular cinema. For example, new vampire initiate Nick’s (Cori Gonzalez-Maceur) repeated failure to comprehend and wield his new powers often ends with a revelation about his disappointment with undeath. Following a night out clubbing with his new vampire housemates—during which time he joyously shares his undead status with everyone he meets, yelling out ‘I’m a vampire! […] I’m Twilight!’ to random members of the public—he tastes human food, which suddenly induces a violent bout of vomiting blood. He subsequently confides with the documentary crew: ‘I’m over being a vampire. I can’t sunbathe, can’t watch daytime TV, can’t eat chips, my favourite food; it is shit’, calling attention to vampirism’s incompatibility with simple human pleasures and domestic bliss. The goal of the mockumentary is to laugh at the cultural saturation of vampires rather than treat the material with any innate sense of cheapness. It calls attention to and outwardly laughs at our consumerist expectations and familiarity with these stories or myths that inform our affection for the undead, but in so doing foregrounds its inconveniences which are at odds with the refined nature we expect vampirism to confer upon transformation. The relationship between Nick and the vampire flatmates evidences the performative allure of fictitious undeath, while simultaneously referencing older tales spliced together with an established cinematic legacy. Each vampire in this shared house represents a particular period of popular vampire archetypes, with special emphasis on the shifting nature of cinematic Draculas; Petyr (Ben Fransham) is explicitly styled as Graf Orlok from Nosferatu; Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is a mash up of Bela Lugosi, Lestat and David from The Lost Boys; Viago (Taiki Waititi) is a forlorn dandy pining for his ageing lady love á la Twilight’s Edward; and Vladislav ‘the poker’ (Jemaine Clement), draws exclusively from Gary Oldman’s Dracula in Coppola’s film including his suggested antecedence to Vlad the Impaler. Nick, as the youngest and most human of the group, cannot help but feel an outsider in his attempt to assimilate with the undead gang as their accidentally turned latest member; unfortunately for Nick, he cannot claim any cinematic lineage or Gothic antecedence of his own. Indeed, even his name sounds like ‘neck’ (when


filtered through a New Zealand accent) to remind us that he was only ever supposed to be a forgotten victim to be consumed rather than gain access to the undead experience. Frustrated with this new fan-styled interloper in their midst, including their human familiar Jackie who longs for vampirism and is deceitfully promised immortality in exchange for domestic servitude, the vampires dismiss these wannabes and instead venerate Stu (Stuart Rutherford), a human who seems wholly tolerant of their undead status and accepts them as his friends. Even at its conclusion, Stu bridges the gap between the vampire and werewolf factions by encouraging the positivity of pluralism to overcome the divisive histories between both Gothic species and promote understanding and engagement. For all of its joy at unmasking the nature of vampirism, What We Do in the Shadows exposes the (Western) romance with undeath as rooted in nostalgia for the monsters of the past, a safe retreat rooted in desires to compensate for our fears of inadequacy. This motley crew reminds us that these fears are ultimately unfounded, as its cast of human familiars, vampires, demons, and werewolves all find their place together at its conclusion, providing a plural harmony in which all are represented as Gothic citations marked with unbearably human emotions.

Trumping Undeath Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency in 2016, following a bitter presidential campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton, evidences that the curve of history is unpredictable. Critics have pointed to Trump’s presidency as an exemplar of Postmodernity’s horrors, the overt rise of populism providing a groundswell of support in a term of office that has been noted for his nativist and sexist outbursts, racial slurs, penchant for ‘alternative facts’, and relentless dismissal of traditional news media as ‘fake news’. This is not the first Postmodern presidency but rather the natural destination of Postmodernity’s ubiquity, overtly expressed by a president who prides himself on the destruction of established political norms as a Washington outsider and populist reformer. We have not surpassed the Postmodern condition, which has enabled the representation of marginalised others and contested voices, but rather we have witnessed the president, rather than the vampire, become the mouthpiece of contestatory subjective accounts that declare all other versions false. Claiming this territory as a ‘subjective outsider’ from traditional politicians for himself, the president apes the subjective voices vampires have



typically deployed in Postmodernity as their mode of defiance in popular culture, and have thus been temporarily muted, in shock and awe, under Trump’s presidency. The vampire’s favoured form of subjective protest has been redeployed against them, and all other contestatory voices, in order to create a gaslighting effect that frustrates and wholly disorientates public discourse and perception. Historians are equally aghast, according to Nick Bryant, as they struggle ‘to detect the kind of virtues that offset [Trump’s] predecessors’ vices: the infectious optimism of Reagan; the inspirational rhetoric of JFK; the legislative smarts of LBJ; or the governing pragmatism of Nixon’ (2019: n.p.). Trump, rather, is a Postmodern bricolage of Nixon’s lies and paranoia, Ford’s ascension to office as an unforeseen successor, Reagan’s flagrant courting of the Religious Right for votes, Clinton’s sexual affairs, George W. Bush’s ineptitude, and Obama’s relentless pursuit of whistleblowers. Yet, this subjective strategy deployed by Trump also enables the president to stand apart, overlooking the narrative terrain and policing its language with a panopticon-style gaze bestowed by his seal of office, dismissing criticism as so-called ‘fake news’ in this era of ‘post-truth’ while simultaneously attempting to stand apart from the consequential maelstrom. Are we now fully immersed in Postmodernism’s darker deeds, or rather, has its ubiquity enabled a marginal voice to rise up to dismiss and destroy all other voices who demand to be, and should be, heard? Appropriated by the conservative right, Postmodernism enables voices and provokes instabilities in areas previously occupied by the liberal left; now weaponised against those who previously championed its invitation to include alternative perspectives, Postmodern language and expression are equally ‘subject to power’s distortions’ (Thomlinson 2018: n.p.). Michiko Kakutani observes that the Postmodern condition, ‘has also been exploited by those who want to make the case for offensive or debunked theories, or who want to equate things that cannot be equated’ (2018: n.p.); this is the hallmark of the Trump presidency to date. Trump’s frequent political oscillations—on border control, his ‘as-needed’ thinly veiled commitment to alt-right credos, and threatening the dissolution of international agreements (on climate change, trade, and peace)—do not reveal any privately held moral positions or aims (beyond his own reputational immortality); rather, these frequent political volte-face reactions unmask the appropriation and deployment of Postmodern strategies in order to test the limits of its reach with the electorate, and aid in generating content in digital culture. As Aaron Hanlon notes,

252  S. NÍ FHLAINN It is clear that the real enemy of truth is not Postmodernism but propaganda, the active distortion of truth for political purposes. Trumpism practices this form of distortion on a daily basis. The Postmodernist theorists we vilify did not cause this; they’ve actually given us a framework to understand precisely how falsehood can masquerade as truth. (Hanlon 2018: n.p.)

Postmodern vampire voices have risen up for decades, pointing to such political horrors, and now find themselves temporarily spent in the aftermath of their ubiquity in Gothic culture; now weary, at this impasse, they have quietened in a temporary lull. The Trump presidency itself is similarly liminal: the president remains digitally ever-present through social media and caught in a feedback loop of self-congratulation and empty flattery, but finds himself unwelcome and uninvited to the traditional rituals that mark the modern American presidency; largely ‘absent from national life… that American’s have long since taken for granted, Donald J. Trump is the man who isn’t there’ (Purdum 2018: n.p.). Vampiric exhaustion will soon give way to new beginnings, new disclosures, and Gothic revitalization, and all in good time; Postmodern vampires rarely stay silent for long.

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Film and TV Being Human. Created by Toby Whithouse, BBC3 (UK), 2008–2013. Being Human. Created by Toby Whithouse, Muse Enterprises (Canada), 2011–2014. Byzantium. Dir. Neil Jordan, StudioCanal, 2013. Chinatown. Dir. Roman Polanski, Paramount, 1974. Dark Shadows. Dir. Tim Burton, Warner Bros., 2012. Daybreakers. Dirs. The Spierig Brothers, Lionsgate, 2009. Dracula. Created by Cole Haddon, NBC, 2013–2014. Dracula Untold. Dir. Gary Shore, Universal, 2014. Fright Night. Dir. Tom Holland, Columbia Pictures, 1985. Fright Night. Dir. Craig Gillespie, DreamWorks, 2011. Frostbite (aka. Frostbiten). Dir. Anders Banke, Solid Entertainment, 2006. Hemlock Grove. Created by Brian McGreevy, Gaumont International, 2013–2015. Interview with the Vampire. Dir. Neil Jordan, Geffen Films, 1994. Let Me In. Dir. Matt Reeves, Hammer, 2010. Let the Right One in. Dir. Tomas Alfredson, EFTI, 2008. Only Lovers Left Alive. Dir. Jim Jarmusch, Recorded Picture Company/Pandora Film, 2013. The Originals. Created by Julie Plec, The CW. 2013–2018. Penny Dreadful. Created by John Logan, Neal Street Productions, 2014–2016. Priest. Dir. Scott Stewart, Screen Gems, 2011. Stake Land. Dir. Jim Mickle, Belladonna Productions, 2010. The Strain. Created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, FX Productions, 2014–2017. True Blood. Created by Alan Ball. HBO, 2008–2014. Twilight. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Summit Entertainment, 2008. Twilight Saga, The: Breaking Dawn Part I. Dir. Bill Condon, Summit Entertainment, 2011.

256  S. NÍ FHLAINN Twilight Saga, The: Breaking Dawn Part II. Dir. Bill Condon, Summit Entertainment, 2012. Twilight Saga, The: Eclipse. Dir. David Slade, Summit Entertainment, 2010. Twilight Saga, The: New Moon. Dir. Chris Weitz, Summit Entertainment, 2009. The Vampire Diaries. Created by Julie Plec & Kevin Williamson. The CW, 2009–2017. The Walking Dead. Created by Frank Darabont, AMC, 2010–. What We Do in the Shadows. Dirs. Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi, Unison Films, 2014. World War Z. Dir. Marc Forster, Paramount Pictures, 2013.


A Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 218 abstinence, 12, 143, 205–208, 231. See also Chastity Academy Awards, 121, 122, 129 Adams, John Quincy, 182, 183 Addams Family, The (1964-66, TV), 18 Addiction, The, 148, 150, 151, 153 Afghanistan, 182, 193, 215, 216 A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, 247 Agnew, Spiro, 30, 31 AIDS, 11, 80, 85–92, 94, 95, 97, 110, 137, 143, 207, 234 Akasha (Vampire Chronicles), 90–92, 131 Alaska, 12, 171, 195 Al-Qaeda, 173 American Beauty, 118 American Gothic (TV series), 152 American Psycho, 106, 107 Angel (1999-2004, TV series), 13, 158–162, 170 ‘Spin the Bottle’, 161

Wesley Wyndam Pryce, 156, 160, 161 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), 70 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), 70, 74 Anno Dracula, 99 Anti-Christ, 174, 178, 181 apocalypse, 163, 170, 173, 174, 178, 199–202 Arctic Circle Gothic, 12, 13, 195–196 Auerbach, Nina, 2, 8, 23, 39, 44, 49, 53, 79, 102, 110, 131 B Ball, Alan, 118, 231, 232, 234 Barker, Clive, 57, 224 Baudrillard, Jean, 104 Being Human, 221, 222 Berlin Wall, The, 115, 116, 173 Bigelow, Kathryn, 75–77, 79 bin Laden, Osama, 181–183 Blackwood Farm, 197 Blacula (film, 1972), 28–29, 176 Blade, 170, 179, 184, 185, 187–191, 194

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 S. Ní Fhlainn, Postmodern Vampires,


258  Index Blade II, 171, 190, 195, 196 Blade: Trinity, 171, 192, 193 Bloch, Robert, 133 blood animal, 48, 51 Hepatitis V, 233–235 as pharmakon, 233 synthetic, 97, 193, 232, 234, 246 transfusion, 41, 76–78 vampire blood (V), 232, 233 Blood Canticle, 197, 199, 243 Blood for Dracula, 31, 32, 34, 41, 48, 185 Bram Stoker’s Dracula (film, 1992), 193, 241. See also Coppola, Francis Ford Brite, Poppy Z., 140–144 Brown, Dan, 178 Browning, Tod, 9, 41, 129 Buffalo Bill (aka Jame Gumb), 125, 133, 136, 137 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy Summers, 155, 161 ‘Buffy vs. Dracula’, 163, 169 ‘Earshot’, 156 Giles, 155, 156, 160 ‘Normal, Again’, 156 Spike, 156–162 Willow, 155, 156 Xander, 155, 156 Bundy, Ted, 70, 124 Bush, George H., 115–118, 152, 162, 175 Bush, George W., 11, 12, 170–175, 184, 205–207, 209, 215, 216, 219, 225, 235, 236, 251 Byzantium, 238–239 C Carnivalesque, 84 Carrion Comfort, 100, 101

Carter, Jimmy, 57, 58, 60, 65, 137 Ceauşescu, Nicolae, 25, 42, 87, 95–96 Celtic Tiger, 160 Centres for Disease Control (CDC), 86, 95 chastity, 66, 173, 205–207, 209, 219, 228, 231 chastity movement, 206 Children of the Night, 94 Christian Right, 142, 171, 204 Christ, Jesus, 50, 91, 92, 147, 170, 174, 175, 177, 198 Claudia (Vampire Chronicles), 47–49, 75, 136, 224, 239 Clinton, Bill (William Jefferson), 11, 119–121, 137, 143, 150, 152, 154, 162, 171, 174, 175, 206 Clinton, Hillary, 250 Cold War, The, 20, 70, 79, 91, 115, 225 Collins, Barnabas. See Dark Shadows (1966-71) communism, 32, 33, 97, 116 Compton, Bill, 230, 233, 235 Coppola, Francis Ford, 29, 122, 127–131, 138, 193, 241, 249 Corman, Roger, 26 Count Dracula (BBC mini-series, 1978), 10, 38 Count Orlok, 59, 109, 191 Count Yorga, Vampire, 26–28 Craven, Wes, 70, 122, 123 creationism, 175, 205 Cronos, 144, 146, 147 Cruise, Tom, 134, 135, 138, 239 Cruz, Ted, 235 Cullen, Edward, 227, 231 sparkle, 230 Cullen family, 228 Cure, The, 142 Cushing, Peter, 6, 71


D Dark Shadows (1966-71), 5, 18, 19, 29, 30, 154, 242, 243 Dark Shadows (2012), 242 Daybreakers, 245–247 Dead Until Dark, 230, 233 de Lioncourt, Lestat, 9, 10, 13, 47–49, 90, 93, 102, 105, 106, 122, 131–136, 138–140, 158, 169, 171, 197–200, 239, 243, 244, 249 del Toro, Guillermo, 144–147, 220 de Pointe du Lac, Louis, 34, 44. See also Interview with the Vampire Democratic Party (US), 24, 31, 36, 67, 68, 86, 88–90, 117, 135, 150, 171, 187, 206, 242 diets, 33, 34, 47, 48, 103, 189, 190, 245 Disney, 206 DNA, 190, 192, 194, 195, 202 Donner, Richard, 84, 138, 178 Dracula (Badham, 1979), 10 Dracula (Balderston–Deane play, 1927), 40 Dracula (Browning, 1931), 9 Dracula (Curtis, 1974), 29, 31 Dracula (novel, 1897), 130 Dracula (TV series, 2013-14), 220 Dracula 2000, 176, 177, 180, 192 Dracula 3000, 13 Dracula and Son, 6 Dracula Business, The, 25 Dracula - Prince of Darkness (1966), 23 Dracula’s Daughter, 150 Dracula Tape, The, 7, 10, 23, 35 Dracula Untold, 241, 242


E Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 81–83 European Economic Community (EEC), 25 Evangelicals, 91, 101, 174, 175, 178, 225 Evans, Luke, 241 evolution, 2, 8, 12, 13, 54, 56, 128, 137, 138, 169, 175, 177, 179, 191, 195, 208, 209, 231 F Falwell, Jerry, 91, 92, 174, 175 Family Values, 11, 69, 83, 91, 110, 117, 206 Fangtasia, 2, 236 Fat White Vampire Blues, 188, 223 Faustian bargain, 132, 133, 242 Fearless Vampire Killers, The, 6, 17, 44 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 101, 119, 120, 126 feminism, 12, 42, 69, 83, 217 Fessenden, Larry, 150, 151 Final Girl, 155 Fin de Millennium, 139, 153, 179, 190 Flaying of Marsyas, The, 130 Ford, Gerald, 30, 31, 44, 45 Frankenstein (1931), 180 Friday, Nancy, 52 Friday the 13th (1980), 68 Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-90), 154 Fright Night (1985), 67, 69–75, 80, 98, 222, 223 Fright Night (2011), 222 Fright Night 2, 103 From Dusk Till Dawn, 146 Frostbite (aka Frostbiten), 195 Frost, David, 36, 37 Frost/Nixon, 37

260  Index G Gaelic, 160, 238 Galton, Francis, 187 Geffen, David, 134, 135 Gein, Ed, 124 ghouls. See zombies God (Christian), 36, 40, 92, 97, 127, 128, 130, 139, 147, 175–177, 181, 183, 187, 196, 198, 199, 203–205, 235 vampire god, 192 Gone With The Wind, 138 Good Friday Agreement (aka Belfast Agreement), 162 Gore, Al, 174, 175 Guns N’ Roses, 138 H Habit, 150, 153 Halloween (1978), 66 Hammer Horror, 18, 30, 71, 128 Harris, Charlaine, 12, 97, 230, 233 Harris, Thomas, 123, 126, 127 Harry Potter series, 227 Hart, James V., 127, 128, 158, 200, 241 Hays Code (1930), 5 HBO, 2, 12, 219, 231, 235 Hefner, Hugh, 27 Heidnik, Gary, 124 Helms Amendment Law (1987), 87 Hemlock Grove, 221 Herzog, Werner, 42–44, 59 Hippies, 26, 82 Historian, The, 240 Holmwood, Arthur, 29–31 Horror of Dracula, 6, 23, 38, 184 Hôtel Transylvania, 13, 50, 53 Hunger, The (film), 102 Hunger, The (novel), 87 Hussein, Saddam, 117, 181–183, 193

I I Am Legend (film, 2007), 200, 201, 203 I Am Legend (novel, 1954), 19, 220 Illuminati, 98, 101, 178 In Search of Dracula, 25, 128 Interview with the Vampire (film, 1994), 122, 134, 135, 137, 238, 239 Interview with the Vampire (novel, 1976), 2, 7, 23, 34, 44, 47, 51, 80, 139, 176, 196, 224, 244 Iraq, 182, 193, 194, 215, 216, 225 Ireland Book of Kells, 159 Claddagh ring, 159 Irish-American, 161, 162 Irma Vep, 150 Iscariot, Judas, 177, 178 I, Vampire, 2, 7, 51, 80, 134, 137, 176, 196 J Jackson, Michael, 11, 103, 119, 153, 176 Jameson, Fredric, 3, 4, 153 Jarmusch, Jim, 236, 237 Jordan, Neil, 2, 46, 134–136, 138, 199, 238, 239 K Kennedy, John F., 27, 101, 162 Robert Kennedy, 27 Ted Kennedy, 27 Kier, Udo, 31, 32, 34, 41, 185 King, Rodney, 118, 152, 187 King, Stephen, 56, 60, 71, 121, 122, 153, 154, 171, 176 Kinski, Klaus, 42, 43 Korn, 200


L Langella, Frank, 38, 40, 41, 44, 106 LA riots, 118, 152, 187 Last Man on Earth, The, 200 Lecter, Hannibal, 123–127 Lee, Christopher, 6, 23, 26, 38, 184 Left Behind series, 174, 175 Les Vampires, 150 Let Me In, 225, 226, 231, 233 Let the Right One In (film, 2008), 221, 223, 231 Let the Right One In (novel, 2007), 221 Lincoln, Abraham, 218 Lost Boys, The (1987), 11, 69, 70, 80, 83, 84, 98, 249 Lost Souls, 140–142 Love at First Bite (1979), 6, 41 Lovecraft, H.P., 133 Lugosi, Bela, 5, 9, 24, 31, 41, 42, 73, 106, 142, 247, 249 M Marilyn Manson, 142, 153 Martin, 23, 44, 45, 47, 141 Marvel Studios, 241 Marx, Karl, 102 Matheson, Richard, 19–21, 29, 200–204, 220 McCain, John, 171, 229 McKee Charnas, Suzy, 10, 23, 50, 54–56, 106 measles, 202 Medusa, 208, 209 Méliès, George, 130 Memnoch the Devil, 138, 139, 170, 196, 197 Merrick, 197 Mexico, 144–147, 247


Meyer, Stephenie, 12, 223, 227–232 Misery, 121, 122 Mogadishu, 150 Monster Squad, The (1987), 84, 85, 98 Morrison, Jim, 81 Morrissey, Paul, 31–34, 48, 185 Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), 67 Munsters, The, 18 Murnau, F.W., 9, 42, 43, 59, 100, 109, 138, 169 Music Television (MTV), 10, 80, 82, 83, 102–106, 110, 137, 142, 160 My Best Friend is a Vampire, 94 N Nadja, 13, 150 Near Dark (1987), 11, 69, 75, 77–80 New Historicism, 116, 119, 162 Newman, Kim, 99, 100 New Orleans, 13, 47, 134, 141, 176, 188–190, 221 New York, 13, 41, 42, 55, 107–109, 149, 151, 202 New York University (NYU), 148, 149, 151 Night of The Living Dead, 20, 27 Night Stalker, The, 24 Night Watch, 194 Nine Inch Nails, 140–142 9/11, 170–172, 174, 175, 181, 215, 247 Nixon Interviews, The, 37 Nixon, Richard M., 7, 8, 21, 22, 30, 31, 33, 35–37, 44, 57, 58, 184, 217 Noriega, Manuel, 116 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 145

262  Index Nosferatu (1922), 9, 42, 59, 108, 109, 138, 169, 249 Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), 59 O Obama, Barack H., 12, 170, 215–219, 225, 229, 230, 235, 236, 247 Occupy Wall Street, 216 Oldman, Gary, 127, 130, 249 Old World (i.e. European), 25, 26, 31, 45, 47 Olympic Games, 41 Omega Man, The, 201 Once Bitten, 94, 103 Only Lovers Left Alive, 236 Originals, The, 220 Oscars. See Academy Awards P Palance, Jack, 29, 30 Palin, Sarah, 171, 230 Patriot Act, The (2001), 2, 183, 184 Penny Dreadful, 221 pica, 103 Polanski, Roman, 6, 7, 17, 18, 21, 30, 44, 246 Polidori, John, 100, 240 porphyria, 76, 77 pregnancy, 143, 207 Prince Lestat, 139, 197, 243, 244 Q Queen of the Damned (film, 2002), 171, 199 Queen of the Damned (novel, 1988), 200, 244 queer, 70, 72–74, 79–81, 83, 84, 136, 137, 141, 152, 198, 199, 232, 234, 238

R Rapture (Evangelical), 91, 175 Reagan, Ronald W., 10, 42, 65, 66, 69, 70, 79, 85, 86, 91, 97, 101, 115–118, 121, 170, 175, 225, 226, 229, 247 Real World: San Francisco, The, 137 Reeves, Matt, 225 Republican Party (US), 86, 91, 170, 171, 174, 175, 196, 205, 206, 209, 215, 218, 221, 229, 235, 236 Return of Count Yorga, The, 27, 28 Rice, Anne Mayfair Witches trilogy, 197 response to fans on, 199 Vampire Chronicles, The, 90, 131, 134, 139, 176, 197, 198, 243, 244 Riverdance, 160 Romero, George A., 20, 21, 27, 44–46, 49, 51, 100, 141, 203 Romkey, Michael, 98–100 Roosevelt, Franklin D., 42 Ross, Alex, 2, 184, 236 Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 1, 14 Rwanda, 149, 150 S Saberhagan, Fred, 4 Saint Germain, 10, 13, 50–54, 99, 139, 158, 231 ’Salem’s Lot (novel), 56, 58, 59 ’Salem’s Lot (TV mini-series), 10 Schumacher, Joel, 80–82 Scream, 122, 123, 156 self-suckling, 223 Sesame Street, 5, 24 sexology, 52 Shadow of the Vampire, 169


Sherlock Holmes, 30, 100 Shreck, Max, 169 Silence of the Lambs, The (film, 1991), 122–124, 127, 133, 137 Silence of the Lambs, The (novel, 1988), 126, 133 Silver Ring Thing, The, 205, 206 Simmons, Dan, 94–97, 100–102 Simpson, O.J., 11, 119, 154 Simpsons, The, 1 slashers, 66–69, 74, 75, 110, 122, 155, 156 Smith, Robert. See Cure, The Somtow, S.P., 10, 105, 106 Southern Vampire Mysteries, The, 12, 97, 230, 244 Soviet Union, 115, 225 Spielberg, Steven, 134 Starling, Clarice, 124–127 Starr report, 11, 119 Stoker, Bram, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 30, 35, 37, 39–42, 59–61, 77, 78, 99, 124, 127, 128, 130, 145, 150, 163, 169, 171, 177, 180, 181, 192, 222, 241 strigoi, 96 subcultures, 192 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, 138 Superman, 138 T Talamasca, 132, 133 Tale of The Body Thief, The, 131, 133, 140 Tate-LaBianca murders, 28 Tate, Sharon, 17, 18 Tea Party, The, 217, 229 Teeth, 6, 12, 205, 207, 209 Ţepeş, Vlad, 25, 96, 100 Thirst (1979), 189 30 Days of Night (film), 171


30 Days of Night (graphic novel), 196 Tomb of Dracula, The (Marvel, 197279), 30, 193 torture porn cycle, 172 Transylvania, 6, 17, 19, 25, 26, 41, 43, 50, 128 Treaty of Rome (1957), 25 True Blood, 2, 12, 184, 219, 222, 230–235, 238 Vampire Rights Amendment, 236 Trump, Donald J., 8, 218, 250–252 Twilight Saga, 12, 209, 219, 227, 229–231 Twin Peaks, 152–154 2008 recession, 216 U Ultraviolet (1998), 159 Underworld films, 194, 195 Unicorn Tapestry, The, 55 United Nations (UN), 150, 162, 174 Universal Studios, 241 ‘Dark Universe’, 241 V vagina dentata, 74, 191, 205, 208 Vampire Armand, The (1998), 197 vampire-cyborg, 179–181 Vampire Diaries, The, 220, 221 Vampire Junction (1985), 10, 105 Vampire Lestat, The (1985), 9, 10, 90, 105, 138, 200 Vampires Anonymous, 94 Vampire’s Kiss, 103, 107 Vampire Tapestry, The, 50, 106 Van Helsing (2004), 180, 181, 242 Van Helsing (character), 6, 31, 36, 40, 99, 128, 176, 180, 181 video (VHS), 65, 67, 68, 82, 83, 85, 103–105, 118, 172, 200, 242

264  Index Vietnam War, The, 7, 22, 33, 54, 58, 115 von Bismarck, Otto, 96 W Waco siege, 154 Walking Dead, The, 219 Warhol, Andy, 34 War on Terror, 159, 181, 182, 193, 195, 215, 216, 242, 245 Watergate scandal, 31, 37, 57 werewolf, 73, 221, 227, 250 Wertham, Fredric, 82 Weyland, Edward, 10, 50, 54–56, 106 What We Do in the Shadows, 222, 223, 248, 250 Whedon, Joss, 50, 155, 161, 162, 200 whistleblowers, 38, 39, 217

Whitehouse, Mary, 68 Wikileaks, 217 Woodstock festival, 27 World War Z (novel, 2006), 219 X X-Files, The, 152, 154 Y Y2K, 170 Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn, 10, 23, 50–54, 99, 139, 158 yuppies, 100 Z zombies, 20, 67, 170, 200, 220, 237