John Walsh: 'The vampire tale used to be a mix of bats, blood, cleavage and snobbery'

Tales of the City

Share
Related Topics

You used to feel you knew about vampires. You put in the hours reading Byron, Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu, you watched Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and George Hamilton (in Love at First Bite) deploying their mittel-European, Draculan accents ("Goot eeef-ning") and radiating elegant menace. And you picked up semi-scientific facts: vampires sleep during the day, are afraid of sunlight, water, garlic and crucifixes, feed on human blood and live for hundreds of years until they have a stake driven through their hearts by vengeful Transylvanian provincials, carrying flaming torches and poorly-spelt placards.

Vampires never did much in the way of chat or charm, but they trapped women in the palms of their manicured hands simply by looking at them, and left them either dead or gibbering with lust. Serving wenches with chests that strained against drawstring blouses went weak at the knees when confronted by these sneery aristocrats, and wound up dead behind the counter at The Inn. Posh teenage girls (for which read "virgins") in skimpy peignoirs were mesmerised by the implicit threat of sexual jiggery-pokery, and became transformed into wanton sluts. When the posh girl's father swore vengeance on the perpetrator, it was the signal for the night pursuit and the flaming torches. That was the vampire tale, a pleasing amalgam of snobbery, cleavage, moonlight, seduction, blood, bats, punctured necks, untrustworthy Romanian gentry and clergymen waving crucifixes. What's not to like?

I saw New Moon at the weekend, one of the new brand of vampire stories from the books by Stephenie Meyer, and oh, the crushing disappointment. Was this glum pair of students, played by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, really the Fate-thwarted double-act that had caused teenage girls to faint in millions? They sparked so little electricity, he could have been commiserating about her homework. When she nestled in his arms, as passionately as a horse scratching itself against a tree, he drooped like a mime artist who'd just had his gig at Hammersmith Apollo cancelled.

More annoyingly, Edward-the-vampire refused to obey vampire rules. He walked around in daylight. He didn't appear bothered by water. He wore white foundation and crimson lipstick – it had to be lipstick, because it couldn't be blood. He and his family had weaned themselves off human blood, you see, all except one young scamp who has to be restrained when he sees a cut finger. Blood-lust used to be the driving-force of a vampire plot. Now it's a family embarrassment to be covered up, like a transvestite great-grandfather.

And the plot? It wheezed along for two hours, unable to get anywhere because of its own limitations. Edward cannot shag Bella, for fear of making her join the undead. Bella takes up with Jacob, a secret werewolf, who cannot shag Bella for fear of tearing her throat out. So Bella spends the film undebauched, untransformed and staggeringly uninteresting. She's defined only by what she can't (or won't) do. Eventually, you start to wonder, ungallantly, how much fun Bella would be in the sack, with her permanent sulk and her air of injured propriety.

And the talk! Vampires, as a rule, never used to discuss the ins and outs of The Life Vampiric; they wanted to get on with removing the draw-string blouse and the moonlit peignoir. When you're 150 years old, you've had enough bloody chitchat. Nor did werewolves, in the olden days, tend to converse at length about their feelings of guilt and alienation. In New Moon, Jacob does nothing but talk about his Awful Secret, running the risk that Bella may think it's Scientology or haemorrhoids. At one point he cries, "Now let ME talk!" and you think: Jake, seriously, enough talking, do something to the flipping virgin before she starts setting fire to things and impaling people with knives (remember Carrie?)

I can see the Twilight saga is a cosy, homiletic way to warn pubescent girls against having sex, in case their deflowerer is secretly A Monster. But it's shocking to see a noble tradition being monkeyed about with, in order to persuade nervous teen girls that modern boys – even modern monsters – are full of conscience, responsibility and remorse. They're not. Not very deep down, they're still, I'm afraid, like the original Dracula, aching to turn sweet, virginal Lucy Westenra into a trashed and draggle-eyed sex slave.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding business based in ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales - Business Broker - Scotland

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As an award winning and leading...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales - Business Broker - North East Region

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As an award winning and leading...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The Top Ten: Words In Christmas Carols That Ought To Be Revived

John Rentoul
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas