VAMPIRISM 101

The regard for vampire stories and films is not ending anytime soon. I just picked up the film Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant a few weeks ago while perusing the DVD display at CyberPark Bekasi. The film is based on Darren Shan’s The Saga of Darren Shan series, which beats the Potter series by five books. True to my rule, I read the first three books of the series – Cirque du Freak, Vampire’s Assistant and Tunnels of Blood – then watched the film, which is an amalgamation of the three books. The film version of the print is more appealing particularly with the twist of Darren becoming the eternal foe of his former best friend Steve – the reason he became a vampire – who is now also vampire but with the bad camp.

The books were a bit slow in pacing; I suppose the author who claims it is his life story was establishing the context and elaborating on the consequences of becoming one of the undead. Sure, you get the superpowers like flitting (running like the wind), sharp titanium-strong fingernails, great reflexes and Superman-like strength, but in exchange for letting go of his friends and family before he made dinner out of them.

The interesting twist in the book is Shan’s reworking of how one sires a vampire. If the Cullens of the Twilight series did it in one bite, the sire of Darren Shan simply nicked all his fingers and did a finger-to-finger blood transfusion. You’re a vampire in a couple of days as Mr. Crepsley explained to Darren.  But pulchritudinous vampire appeal is missing in this series compared to Twilight and the defunct TV series Moonlight that featured drop-dead gorgeous vampire-private investigator Mick St. John.

Not just looks, but the vampires in Shan’s series lack the impeccable sartorial sense of the Cullens or the students of the House of Night series by P.C and Kristin Cast. Shan, in the book, dresses up like a pirate and Mr. Crepsley looks like a doddering old man. On film, Darren looks a like regular American teenager while Crepsley looks like the circus ringmaster.

In terms of staying alive, Darren and Crepsley merely take little sips from their unsuspecting victims. However, unlike the Cullens who can subsist on animal blood, Shan and Crepsley will die if they don’t imbibe human blood. Thankfully, the two don’t change into hideous monsters with leathery skins and wings like in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.

Butcher’s series was made into a TV show that ran for a single season of 12 episodes four years ago with the same name. It chronicles the encounters of Chicago-based wizard private investigator Harry Dresden with revolting vampires and werewolves (not Twilight’s gorgeous wolves), and mischievous faeries (the kind who likes bread, milk and honey) who create mayhem in the human world. His vampire is the Dracula-esque creature of the night introduced in Storm Front, the inaugural novel of the series (the werewolf is in Fool Moon). Known as Madame Bianca, owner of exclusive club Velvet Room, she defines femme fatale truly. Underneath her alluring beauty, smooth complexion, black dress with an eye-popping décolletage, black gloves and US$300-shoes, is the real vampire:

“…a bat-like face, horrid and ugly, the head too big for its body. Gaping, hungry jaws. Its shoulders were hunched and powerful. Membranous wings, stretched between joins of its almost skeletal arms…Its eyes were wide, black, and staring, and a kind of leathery, slimy hide covered its flesh.” [pg 111]

Like all vampires that ever existed, Bianca shares a mutual aversion to the sunlight with Crepsley (Darren is still half human).

The mythology of vampire is a treasure trove for writers, a cornucopia of materials that can be reworked over and over again like Greek mythology. It’ll be in the limelight for a quite some time especially with the third installment of Twilight set to be released in June. Don’t ask about when its popularity will wane; ask how the story is going to be re-told for the nth time.

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