Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil

By Peter Day | Go to book overview

Embracing the Metropolis:
Urban Vampires in American Cinema of the
1980s and 90s

Stacey Abbott

I long to go through the crowded streets of
your mighty London, to be in the midst of the
whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life,
its change, its death, and all that makes it what
it is.1

With this statement, Dracula not only expresses his desire to go to London but to share in the experience of the modern city, suggesting that in this novel, Stoker sought not simply to relocate the gothic tale to a new location but rather to reconfigure it for the modern world. Dracula yearns for more than blood but the “whirl and rush of humanity.” Since Stoker's novel, vampires, particularly on film, have been increasingly attracted to cities in which they are free to hunt amongst the crowds. Tod Browning's adaptation of Dracula adheres to the novel's London location; in Blacula the African vampire awakens in Los Angeles; and in Love at First Bite Count Dracula relocates to modern New York. Stoker's vampire, however, realises that despite his studies of the language, customs and laws of this new country he is still recognisably an outsider or, as Brian W. Aldiss puts it, an infection entering “the modern vein.”2 Similarly, vampires in the cinema have largely remained foreign and ancient monsters invading a modern environment.

That is until the late sixties and seventies when an unprecedented peak in public interest in vampires across a wide variety of media lead to an increased self-consciousness and experimentation with generic conventions that challenged and helped redefine traditional vampire mythology. It was in this period that Anne Rice wrote the first of her Vampire Chronicles, Interview with the Vampire, in which she reinvented the vampire story, this time from the vampire's point of view.3 Stephen King wrote Salem's Lot, a contemporary reworking of Dracula and the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows improved its ratings by introducing the reluctant vampire, Barnabus Collins, into their storyline.4 In the cinema, Stan Dragotti's Love at First Bite used parody to undermine the genre by presenting Dracula as anachronistic and ineffectual. His eveningwear no longer suggests aristocracy but has him mistaken for a headwaiter. His attempts to hunt in the form of a bat are humiliating as he is attacked by a starving black family in Harlem who think he is a black chicken, and he must sup from the comatose body of a drunk resulting in his own

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