Friday, October 26, 2007

Bloodsucking Cinema : A Vampire Primer of Sorts
The vampire is perhaps the most enduring creature of the horror genre. Immortal, soulless, sexually ambiguous, unfettered by any social or moral codes, the vampire represents the dark edges of the collective consciousness. Bloodsucking Cinema, premiering on cable network Starz tonight, traces the origins and evolution of the vampire as a cinematic icon.

From the genre’s origins with the silent classic Nosferatu to contemporary-videogames-as-film like Bloodrayne, this special races through the sub-genres of the vampire movie. It doesn’t go into a great deal of depth, but it does have its entertaining moments. Cheech Marin provides a lot of those in his recounting of the physical horrors of the contact lenses he had to wear during From Dusk til Dawn (“like sticking staples in my eyeballs”).

Bloodsucking Cinema is full of those kind of anecdotes, with appearances by actors and directors of contemporary vampire movies offering little tidbits about the making of their particular films.Whether its Joel Schumacher droning on about how The Lost Boys reinvented the vampire movie, or Jon Landis gleefully explaining why his Innocent Blood was a uniquely sexual twist on the myth, the special has no shortage of auteurs promoting their past glories, real or imagined.

Where the special is at its best is in following the circuitous routes the vampire movie has taken through the decades. The German Expressionism of Nosferatu was the cornerstone of the genre, but it was Todd Browning’s 1931 Dracula that lay the foundation for all vampire movies to come. Oddly, that film also gave birth to the Mexican vampire offshoot of the genre, the influence of which is more pronounced in more recent films. Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk til Dawn and John Carpenter’s Vampires would most likely have never existed without the influence of the vampiro movies.

Bloodsucking Cinema touches on all the variations of the vampire movie—western, noir, comedy, superhero and so on, but never serves up any meat to its thesis. Still, as a primer to the vampire’s dark charms and enduring influence on the horror genre. It’s more promo-mentary than documentary, which is really what it was designed to be.
It’s the lead-in to Starz’ “Fear Fest,” a Halloween weekend marathon of horror titles.