How Movie Vampires Became Normal Guys

Some people left the screening after 45 minutes. Perhaps shocked by the hemoglobin shown on the screen, or simply annoyed by, let’s be clear, the too slow and silent pace of the film. One thing is certain in any case, The Transfigurationscreened at Cannes as part of the Un Certain Regard selection, not necessarily worth the detour. By telling the story of a New York teenager so fascinated by vampires that he will do everything to become one, director Michael O’Shea, who is making his first film there, had a good story, but s stray too far and fall into gratuitous and heavy violence.

Nevertheless, this film which multiplies the references to other vampire films retains some very interesting passages. And Michael O’Shea, who sets a real framework for his story and believes he belongs to the “new neo-realist movement” from the indie world, poses a new question: what does a realistic vampire look like? Can a vampire really exist in our world? Can it just be normal?

For almost 100 years, the vampire has changed a lot

Literature, films, and then series, almost all depict vampires with different characteristics. First described in the XVIIIe century like ghosts whose goal is to terrify, vampires will adopt a specific style and characteristics thanks to the book Dracula, published in 1897 by Bram Stoker. Initially presented as a repulsively ugly old man, Dracula will become a popular myth when you think of great villains, and he will be given a cape, a seductive look and sharp teeth, the perfect disguise for Halloween. The first films, made from 1922 (Nosferatu the Vampire) and for many decades, will take up this mythology. Christopher Lee will play Count Dracula ten times between 1958 and 1976, sometimes varying the image of the character, which has become cliché. The vampire becomes a parody of himself (The Vampire Ball by Polanski in 1967 precisely plays on these clichés) and its characteristics enter the collective unconscious: he fears the sun, cloves of garlic, holy water and stakes planted in the heart. But it’s still a creature that somehow differentiates itself from the ordinary human.

It will be necessary to wait until the 1990s to see a return of this figure from a sufficiently serious angle. Francis Ford Coppola first offers an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, then vampire films will begin to become part of reality and the contemporary. In Interview with a Vampire, released in 1994 and adapted from a novel by Anne Rice, a journalist from San Francisco will then collect the confessions of a vampire several hundred years old. Admittedly, the story takes place mainly in the 18th century.e century, but the anchoring is real. In 1998, the pop turn is completely initiated with the adaptation of the Marvel comics Blade. Wesley Snipes plays a being, half-man half-vampire, who will decide to hunt the creatures of the night to avenge the death of his mother. Even if the action scenes are unrealistic, the fact of giving 50% humanity to this character shows once again how the vampire is humanized little by little.

Wearing a cape or protruding sharp teeth is no longer necessary to be a vampire, it can fit very well into group life. In the series buffy the vampire slayertwo vampires (Angel, then Spike) will join Buffy and the Scooby Gang in their fight against the creatures of darkness.

Later, they will become even more integrated into everyday life. The series True Blood and Vampire Diaries are perfect examples. In the first, the drink “Tru Blood”, a synthetic blood, allows vampires to come out of hiding and claim a normal life with humans (even if the sun remains deadly). In the second, even if the wooden stake is still effective, all you need is a ring to sunbathe quietly. And Stefan, one of the vampires, loves garlic.. These characters will end up casting the vampire as an object of attraction and sexual gratification.

When indie cinema comes to save us from Twilight

But this move will also bring us Twilight. Adapted from the books by Stephenie Meyer, the five films in the saga released between 2008 and 2012 make the vampire a romantic, sensitive being who shines like a diamond in the sun. The author of the books being Mormon, the values ​​conveyed by vampires take on the opposite meaning of what was attached to them in the past, namely sensuality, desire, sex… The vampire must first fall in love, ask for the hand of his beloved, marry and then maybe he can consider a sexual relationship. The saga knows millions of fans, but will also make millions of enemies, who do not want these rather cutesy stories. We thought the genre was lost, but independent cinema came to the rescue.

Through the voices of its characters in The TransfigurationMichael O’Shea, big fan of horror films, keeps reminding that Twilight “is not really very realistic”. He thus proposes a completely normal hero, who is not a vampire per se, who goes to school, who is mocked by city bosses, but who also decides to kill strangers to drink their blood. . The fantastic is secondary, what interests us here is to see what can humanize the vampire.

Few years ago, Walrus, another independent film directed by Swedish Tomas Alfredson, also offered a child to embody the creature. Eli, 12, is a little girl who has just arrived in the suburbs of Stockholm, will fall in love with a boy who lives near his home. The film will be critically acclaimed and an American remake has even been made. The violence of the fantastic is there, but the brutality of the real too, and this alliance of the two worlds works. By offering this kind of film, independent cinema could well make us forget the few errors of the genre, and even if The Transfiguration is not really successful, we must continue to develop this fascinating figure that is the vampire next door.

How Movie Vampires Became Normal Guys