All these vampires on the box could suck the genre dry
A new rash of dramas about the undead might have even less staying power than Dracula at dawn
Sunday 04 October 2009
When the US vampire drama True Blood hits terrestrial TV on Wednesday it will be the latest in a rash of books and films injecting new blood into the genre.
But while aficionados are enjoying the genre's popularity, the first signs of a backlash are beginning: it is only a matter of time before we have had our fill.
After picking up fans and critical acclaim on the digital channel FX, the sexy US tale of waitress Sookie Stackhouse and her vampire love interest, from the creator of Six Feet Under, Alan Ball, is coming to Channel 4.
And it is not alone. Fuelled by the phenomenal success of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight quartet books – the second film adaptation of which hits cinemas in November – blood suckers are in vogue. The film Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant opens later this month; ITV2 will broadcast US drama The Vampire Diaries early next year, and Topshop has seen its clothes influenced by Hammer House of Horror fly off the shelves. Meanwhile Zone Horror, a digital channel dedicated to the dark side, enjoyed the strongest primetime ratings of its five-year history in July.
But Dr Helen Wheatley, senior lecturer in film and television studies at the University of Warwick and author of Gothic Television, said interest in vampires "comes and goes". She explained the first "glut" of TV programmes appeared in the 1970s, following the BBC's choice of vampire story Late Night Horror in 1968 as its first drama in colour "precisely because of the profusion of blood and gore". She added: "For me, it's not a new thing and it won't last forever and it'll come again."
Five thousand blood-thirsty fans will gorge on gothic flicks at the international Vampire Film Festival in New Orleans later this month. Exeter-based film-maker Joshua Gaunt, who is showing Here Lies Lucy: A Vampire Yarn, said it "was just the vampire genre's turn" to get the Hollywood treatment. "I think it's a good thing because it's getting people to take the genre seriously."
Tina Rath, who wrote her doctorate on the vampire in popular fiction, said the genre was "filling the gap that Harry Potter has left" among young adults. "Obviously, Stephenie Meyer has an enormous appeal on a certain level," she said. "Whether it will last is another matter." But she warned: "Dracula always rises from the grave."
A possible successor to popular US gothic soap opera 'Dark Shadows' (1966-71) which, says Dr Wheatley, was "a bit like 'The Young and the Restless' with fangs".
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