Staking Vampire Movies in 2010
I recently diagnosed myself with Vampire Movie Exhaustion (VME), a mild form of imagined depression, which, if it isn’t already, could very well be on its way to becoming a legitimate medical condition. I’ve become despondent, slipping listlessly into a new year, a new lineup of vampire films promising a fresh take on a genre mainstay that will probably, for the most part, deliver nothing more than tired, regurgitated formulas. I’ve had a hard time dragging myself to the theater to see the latest vampire movie installments. I still haven’t seen “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (I know–OMG, right?). I’ve had two Netflix movies of the vampire variety sitting on top of my DVD player for over a month now, but I can’t muster the strength to sit down on the couch and watch them. I did make it to “Daybreakers“, but (sorry, Ethan)–despite its mildly intriguing futuristic concept, brief coughs of cleverness (vampire politicians combating the oil blood shortage, vampyric wildlife causing forest fires), and solid f/x makeup–I gave up on it about thirty minutes in, right around the same time the movie gave up on itself.
Maybe it’s all in my head, but lately I’ve been feeling like the vampire genre has been sitting too long in its own bath water. Combing through the 60+ vampire movies that are, according to IMDB, threatening a 2010 release, is a task in itself. Sure, I am very excited about the March release of the comic book series “American Vampire,” and I suppose the new season of “True Blood” will also be fun, but when it comes to the vampires of the big screen, what I’m feeling right now is nothing short of ambivalence. It seems like the grossly enormous success of the “Twilight” franchise has convinced studios far and wide to pump out as many blood sucking sucky movies in a mad dash to cash in. But as L.A. Times movie blogger Steven Zeitchik points out, when it comes down to it, “Twilight’s” box office triumph can really only be seen as an isolated phenomenon:
Since the supposed vampire revival began several years ago, no non-Twilight film (and there have been plenty) has come close to breaking out. “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” was an unabashed failure. “30 Days of Night” had one decent weekend and faded faster than a bloodsucker at sunrise. A more auteur-driven attempt, “Thirst,” couldn’t even muster $500,000 at the domestic box office this summer.
Truth is, most vampire movies lately have all been huge underperformers. Which is not to say that they have all been spectacular disappointments. To be fair, Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst“–with its disturbingly weird imagery (sipping blood through IV drips=majorly creepy), its squirm-inducing blood slurping sound effects, and its imaginative and perversely sexual take on vampire mythology–was both deliciously campy and stylistically complex. But none of these qualities draw a crowd. Teenage girls just don’t flock to the theater these days to see a homely vampire priest drinking blood in order to suppress a deadly virus that covers his body with oozing boils. Sure, “Thirst” is very much a love story, but with all its sado-masochistic, lusty toe-sucking, armpit-licking sex, it’s definitely not that of the Edward and Bella variety.
Of course there are many factors that bring a movie monetary success, but as much as I’d like to, I can’t ignore the fact that to a large extent audiences have a hand in determining which movies flop. Which is exactly why I have a hard time believing it’s vampires that sell tickets to the “Twilight” movies and not Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson. When it comes down to it, true vampire horror films like “Thirst” just haven’t had the power lately to reach a wider audience. Which depresses me to no end because this is the kind of movie I’d like to see more of this year. I’m sick and tired of feeling dissatisfied by so much of what I see in theaters (and this goes beyond the vampire genre). 2009 really f-ing sucked for a whole lot of people, and if anything, the last thing anyone needs in the New Year is more dissatisfying vampire movies.
Dear Hollywood, here’s my 12 dollars. Now make me really feel something. Terrify me. Seduce me. Disgust me. Confront me. Break my heart. I don’t care. I’m just ready for something new. Give me a vampire movie this year that will not only breathe new life into the genre and sell tickets, but transcend the genre altogether.
(Grand expectations, I know. But I’ll keep you posted.)
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