Anyone that’s seen the trailer for The Transfiguration will know that it appears to be a lot more Let The Right One In than Twilight. Coming across as dark, bloody and completely inscrutable, it follows all the usual tropes of a standard vampire flick. But is it time to put a stop to what has become a commonplace metaphor for the teenage transformation to adulthood?
The vampire film has been a staple of the industry since the release of the silent film Nosferatu in 1922. Audiences have always been attracted to the mystery of vampires – they’re (usually) young, sexy, and most importantly, immortal. Who wouldn’t want to be a vampire? But the obsession goes deeper than that, and it’s an obsession that the film industry has tried to tap into constantly over the decades. Whether any vampire film has truly hit the mark is too subjective a question to answer. But different films have explored many different aspects of vampirism: whether it’s the isolation seen in Interview with the Vampire (1994), or the complete invulnerability as portrayed in films like Fright Night (1985) and 30 Days of Night (2007). Hell, we’ve even seen vampires falling in love in all their sparkliness. But whatever form they appear in, audiences remain utterly fascinated by the endless possibilities that being a vampire could offer.
This fascination has meant that, over the decades, audiences have never really felt completely overwhelmed by the genre to the extent of, say, superhero movies. It helps that the different subgenres of vampire movie (romantic, horror, even comedy) are a million miles apart in terms of message and tone. If we become fatigued by cheesy flicks such as Twilight (2008) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), our love of vampires can be rejuvenated by watching offerings such as 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows, which was a fresh, funny look at the inherent ridiculousness of the concept of the vampire.
There have been a few films really have been a detriment to the genre – the whole Underworld franchise, perhaps Blade too… And before you mention it, the problem with the Twilight movies was not the way they portrayed vampires. Yes, they sparkled in the sun and pretty much refuted everything we know about the physiology and mentality of vampires (let’s put it this way, very few 200 year-old vampires would bother attending high school, let alone fall in love with a teenager). No, the real issue with the Twilight franchise was the wooden performances, poor production value and infantile script.
Equally, there have been enough fantastic vampire films scattered throughout the decades to think that there’s still some hope. If we retire the genre, this could mean that we’ll never again see the likes of The Lost Boys (1987) – arguably one of the cheesiest films of all time, and yet one of the greatest vampire movies to date and an instant cult classic. There’s still plenty of scope for exploration of vampirism. Maybe it’s time to spend less time on the ‘kick-ass’ aspect of being undead, and start focusing on the human factor.
The best vampire movies have always been the character studies, as opposed to the horror or action movies. Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), for example, was an unusual in its sympathetic portrayal of the Count – yes, he was a deranged killer, obviously, but he had experienced tragedy, and this made for a fascinating study of vampirism and a sense of loss: not just of loved ones, but of mortality. Loneliness is a recurring theme in vampire movies. With the rise of social media, and platforms by which everyday people can interact to discuss their emotions and struggles, it becomes increasingly apparent that all human beings feel isolated at some point in their existence. And with this increase in social consciousness, it seems an apt time to continue to exploit the symbolism of vampirism to embody these daily struggles.
But then there’s another issue we need to address: why on earth do Hollywood keep remaking some of the classic vampire films? Let the Right One In had been out for just two years before its English language remake, Let Me In, was released in 2010. OK, maybe this was largely to do with reaching a wider audience who are incapable of reading subtitles, but why remake a beautiful and understated film when the genre is already saturated? A year later, though not in quite the same vein, the 1985 horror comedy Fright Night was remade starring Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell in 2011. While that remake wasn’t exactly a blemish on the Hollywood landscape, it certainly wasn’t better than the original – so why bother? The most likely answer – money. As budgets have ballooned in the last few decades, ushering in vampire blockbusters like Blade (1998-2004) and Underworld (2003-2016), we’ve lost the understated human element, and this is what we need to return to.
Vampires are everything that we want to be – isolated but not lonely, confident, immortal, transient and self-serving. It’s a sad thought, but people are attracted to the idea of having no ties and therefore no worries to speak of – it’s just unfortunate that the price is the compulsion to drink human blood. It’s safe to say that vampirism in film is more than just a horror trope – it’s a metaphor and a useful tool by which to explore the human psyche. It’s likely that we’ll never be fully done with the genre – but, please any directors considering making another vampire flick, we could do with fewer teenage love stories. Let’s just enjoy the bloodshed for a while.