Feeding the Vampire Phenomenon

USA TODAY, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Feeding the Vampire Phenomenon


With the release of the latest "Twilight" movie and the popularity of at least two current TV series dedicated to vampires, it would seem that interest in the horror genre is peaking. However, a new edition of The Living and the Undead: Slaying Vampires and Exterminating Zombies contends that each generation has reshaped the stories of vampires and other undead creatures to fit its own time.

Author Gregory A. Waller says that the changing meaning and scope of the violent confrontation between the living and the undead often have been at the heart of an ongoing saga. "To some degree, you can connect each version of this story to a particular historical moment," he explains. "What interested me when I wrote the book was the variations and transformation of this story across media from the 19th century through the 1980s."

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Waller examines a wide range of novels, stories, plays, films, and TV movies, including Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897); several film adaptations of Stoker's novel; F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent film "Nosferatu"; Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend (1954); Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1975); Werner Herzog's 1979 film "Nosferatu the Vampyre"; and George Romero's movies "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) and "Dawn of the Dead" (1979).

The Living and the Undead features a new preface in which Waller positions his analysis in relation to the explosion of vampire and zombie films, fiction, and criticism over the past 25 years. Representations of vampires during the Great Depression often dramatized a threat on the modern world from an older civilization. Other versions, such as depicted in I Am Legend, clearly are about genocide and only could have been written after World War II. …

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