Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vampire Movie Ingredients

Okay, this might sound silly. I daresay it probably is, all things considered. But just for a bit of fun, behold the elements that (in my entirely personal opinion) would go into making a really top-notch vampire movie. Be warned--imagination will overflow its banks now...

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Clearly you need a script, and often-times those are best derived from excellent source material. Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla, Stoker's Dracula, Rice's Interview With The Vampire, Myers Twilight (not great, but plenty of fun and not-to-sneezed-at), Del Toro's The Strain. And since this is a personal fantasy, let us assume that the fantastically talented Sarah Waters has written a vampire novel which will now be adapted into a film. For those of you who don't know, Ms. Waters composed three (dare I say it) mini-masterpieces--Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith (this last is a personal favorite). Recently, Ms. Waters shifted the locale of her fiction from Victorian times to the Post-War period, and that is all very fine. But let us imagine she's written a vampire tale set in Victorian England, shall we? Yes, lets!

Next up, let us assign a director/screenwriter of considerable skill. Truth to tell, there are plenty of these to go around, but my choice would be Steven Shainberg, the gentleman who adapted and directed one of my favorite films--2002's Secretary.

As far as cast goes, we're somewhat limited here by not having actual plot or cast of characters. So let us instead just select a half-dozen high-quality thespians who have not in fact appeared in any Vampire film up until now. More, since our author is English, let us limit them (pretty much) to Brits:

Rachel Hurd Wood, for one, who was Wendy in Peter Pan as well as the female lead in Perfume: Story of a Murderer and will be in the upcoming Dorian Gray. She's been stuck more-or-less in ingenue roles for quite some time, but methinks she'd jump at the chance to play a vampire. Although she can also be a victim, or some other part.

Peter O'Toole for another--one of the greatest actors of his generation and of the next couple that followed! Still going strong despite his age, or because of it. He has made some of the silliest stuff imaginable (like Caligula) better by simply being there, and lent considerable gravitas and quality to already-high-end productions. I had the enormous good fortune of seeing him play Henry Higgins in Pygmalion on Broadway. He's fantastic in pretty much every single thing he's ever done.

Emma Watson is of course most famous for the Harry Potter movies but has done other things. In the latest film especially she's shown some real acting chops, and expressed willingness to take some real chances for the right director, the right role and the right script. The temptation is to make her this uber-bright tomboy or bookworm, but that would be a shame. While her intelligence does seem to shine through (hiding that sort of thing takes a specific knack, imho), there's no reason to type-cast her as Hermione Granger for the rest of her career. So, vampire? Or victim? Or someone else?
Viggo Mortensen was "discovered" when appearing in Lord of the Rings, but has been around for quite some time. He's an awesome actor and could play a variety of different roles with skill and style. Vampire, victim, innocent bystander, vampire-hunter, etc. It hardly matters. Of course it would all depend upon the actual script, but one can hardly doubt he'd be an asset. Give him a role and he's bound to do a lot with it. Remember, he'd never held a sword or even read Tolkien before being cast as Aragorn.

Another actress I admire very much is Tara Fitzgerald, who may be best known for her role in Sirens but frankly has done so very much more. A courageous performer who specializes in what she calls "strong women" I think she'd be a fantastic addition to any quality period piece, much less one about vampires. Again, she could play one of the undead herself or a victim or any one of a dozen other types. Since we're assuming Sarah Waters to be the author, I feel secure to suggesting whatever role she might play would be complex and a bit mind-expanding.

As for other qualities I'm looking for in this ideal vampire movie, let us add a few set pieces that tend to add a certain something. One is the creepy old house. Isolated in some way or other, probably by geography and certainly in terms of the psychology of its inhabitants. A place of unsettling history and dark secrets in the shadows -- everything poor Catherine thought Northanger Abbey to be but wasn't (or was, but not in the way she imagined). Certainly with its own name (Convent House? Thornkirk? John's Tower?) and probably more than one forgotten corner and/or secret passage.

Call me a purist if you like, but I also find coffins a pleasing set piece. While folklore never once suggests that vampires burn up when exposed to sunlight (that was movie-making and theatre, initially German and English respectively) most European legend does insist a vampire has some kind of special relationship with their grave. Carmilla had to sleep their each night. Dracula carried boxes of earth from his own tomb. Besides, there remains something aesthetically right about a vampire who sleeps in one of those specially designed pieces of furniture -- furniture for the dead. Yeah, it is gothic and a bit hokey but it also works. So I want the vampire (or vampires) to sleep in a coffin.

More I want the vampire in question to have fangs. One of the things I simply dislike very much about Twilight (and call me silly if you like) is the lack of fangs. Entirely personal, but there you are. While meter-long, insectoid stingers are plenty scary, they simply don't have the allure of what I look most in vampire movies (with apologies to Guillermo Del Toro).

Finally, what I really desire in vampire movies is a sense of eroticism tinged with horror. The best vampire movies to me show the vampire as seducer as well as predator. A nosferatu's victim should be addicted to the painful joy of the Kiss, attracted to the danger of an undead lover as well as fearful of where this must ultimately lead. Not in the sense of becoming a zombie, but that to experience the love/lust/hunger of a vampire personally is be changed--for better and for worse. "Dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight" pretty much covers it. And that is what I most enjoy.

Anyway, that is what I'd really love to see.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Zahir, we have - through various formats - discussed various ideas around this and I must say that I think I would rather enjoy a vampire movie designed by your good self.

As it is I have only - due to you mail - realised that you have this blog now but will be linking across to you forthwith.

Everlost said...

Same here Zahir, i've linked you from my vamp news blog and given you a plug.


Zahir Blue said...