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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Bloodsucking Cinema

Bloodsucking Cinema
2007 (2008) - Starz/Anchor Bay

OK, let's talk about vampires for the rest of this week. The immortal bloodsuckers appear to be enjoying a resurgence in popularity these days, with the likes of the HBO series True Blood and the novels of Stephenie Meyer. I'm not sure whether they're actually making a comeback or if this is all being created by the Hollywood Hype Machine, however. I don't know anyone who's a passionate fan of True Blood and I wasn't aware Meyer's novels even existed until I saw a trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of Twilight a few months back and wondered aloud, "What the hell is this?" Whether they're in style or not, there will always be vampire stories. The vampire legend is far too potent to lay dormant for long. Sooner or later, it seems just about everybody in the horror field gets around to dabbling with vampires. Consequently, a really good documentary could be made exploring the subgenre. Bloodsucking Cinema isn't it.


Subtitled The Origin and Evolution of the Vampire Movie, Bloodsucking Cinema is an hour-long examination of the form originally produced for the Starz cable channel. A few moments at the outset are spent exploring the origins of the myth with vague, unsubstantiated assertions from interview subjects like John Landis and Cheech Marin. After paying lip service to the 1922 Nosferatu, Universal's 1931 Dracula (both the Lugosi and the Spanish-language versions), and the Hammer cycle with Christopher Lee, the bulk of the program is spent in a scattershot discussion of a motley assortment of more recent vampire flicks. Some of this is of passing interest but there isn't much discussion of how they fit into the genre or what they contributed to the furthering of the vampire's place in popular culture. Instead, interviews get bogged down in odd specifics about the making of each film. The fact that Cheech's contact lenses bothered him in From Dusk Till Dawn would be appropriate in a bonus feature on a DVD of that movie. In a broad overview of the vampire movie, however, who cares?

All of the movies discussed here are treated equally, so the viewer is left with the impression there is no distinction in quality between Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula and Uwe Boll's BloodRayne. The film versions of Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire and Queen Of The Damned are lumped together as if both are equally important. Equally baffling is what's omitted. There is no mention of Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark, one of the best vampire movies of the past 20 years, but John Carpenter's similar but inferior Vampires is discussed at length. I can only assume this is because Carpenter agreed to be interviewed and Bigelow did not. We hear nothing about Shadow Of The Vampire, even though Nosferatu is referred to repeatedly. And even though I wasn't much of a fan, I don't see how you can talk about "the evolution of the vampire movie" and not mention Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That series alone did more for vampires than any other book or movie since Christopher Lee hung up his cape. Bloodsucking Cinema offers a passing glimpse of the poster of the original movie and that's it.

There are no extras on the DVD and that's just as well. The program itself feels like a bonus documentary that wasn't very carefully thought out. In addition to those mentioned above, interview subjects include the late Stan Winston, Stephen Sommers (discussing his atrocious monster mash Van Helsing), Harry Knowles, Leonard Maltin, and Blade creator Marv Wolfman. In other words, many of the same people who typically show up in documentaries like this. There's no one here you're surprised to see and nobody has anything particularly insightful to add, which is really a shame. For an idea of the kind of documentary this could have been, I recommend checking out David J. Skal's terrific book The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. It isn't exclusively about vampires but Skal is about a thousand times more insightful in a few passages than this documentary is in its entire running time.

Program Rating: C-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/F


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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