Archive for Vampire

The Only Good Part of “True Blood” is the Title Sequence

Posted in Horror, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

As a function the aggressive viral marketing campaign that surrounds it, I can declare with reasonable confidence that most denizens of the civilized world are not only privy to the recent premiere of HBO’s newest drama True Blood, but have some familiarity with its premise, which involves a substantial population of vampires revealing itself to society at large and struggling for acceptance therein. As I do not presently have a subscription to the network on which this program airs, I was unable to view its first episode upon its initial airing September 7th, and thus was at a loss to answer the veritable maelstrom of inquires as to my opinion on regarding the show with which I was met the following day. I scarcely exaggerate in saying that anyone even vaguely aware that I exist approached me at some point in the past week and put forth a challenge to the effect of “Hey Gothicus Maximus, what’d ya think of True Blood?”, all, perhaps unconsciously, resolving to forgo the logically precedent question as to whether I’d even watched it. My 19th Century English Novel professor put forth a pronounced effort, after I had slept through his class, to engage me in conversation in order to solicit my thoughts. 

Were my reaction to such a circumstance equivalent to that of the average individual, I would likely pause for a period of no more than three seconds to lament that, at this time, when my professors have assigned to me more reading than I can complete while maintaining even the most piteous excuse for a social life, I am unable to devote any time to watching a vampire-themed soap opera, then forget the matter entirely, but, of course, I am, in all that I do, hideously far removed from the average individual. The petitions of my close friends, sworn foes, and vague acquaintances had engendered in me a twisted sensation that I had shirked some responsibility– people depended upon me to be ‘that vampire guy’, to have an excessively well-formed opinion on any media peripherally related to the un-dead on the day that media became available to the public, if not earlier, and in that capacity I disappointed them. Driven to amend my entirely chimerical failure, I eschewed my homework in order to undertake the considerable task of locating a recording of True Blood’s pilot in the annals of cyberspace, and, having done so, I am now able to articulate my thoughts: this show, if its general quality can be inferred based on its first episode, is pretty fucking bad.

In authoring drama, a playwright or screenwriter must choose between two means of delivering exposition regarding the present circumstances, personalities, pasts, and guarded secrets of his characters. The first, most commonly favored option is the use of compelling dialogue and dynamic action to introduce plot points and develop dramatis personae. The inexplicably less popular alternative, to which the minds behind True Blood have evidently committed themselves, is to make the protagonist telepathic.

True Blood is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, waitress in a sleazy bar and resident of a fictional Louisiana town, cursed to be constantly besieged by the thoughts of those around her. This is a particular burden because, as she lives below the Mason-Dixon line, everyone she encounters thinks in a thick southern drawl. The shameless caricatures of African Americans she counts among her friends even make a point to avoid proper grammar in their interior monologues, and to punctuate important cogitations with a ‘dayum’. Relief from the agony of ceaseless assault by relevant details regarding her supporting cast comes to Sookie in the form of a vampire named Bill, whose undead mind is inscrutable even to so titantically stupid a plot device as the waitress’ gift. Although the thoughts of every other man with whom she’s acquainted are limited to such musings as “God she’s so hot, god I want to touch her”, or “I need to protect her,” she decides to give the Nosferatu the benefit of the doubt, becoming attracted to him. I suppose her assumption that there’s more to Bill than there is to most men is a reasonable one, as we know that, in addition to sexual objects and the protection thereof, he also thinks about blood.

The vampire as a metaphor for mundane minorities is a mildly interesting proposition, and, surely, HBO realized this, but, somehow, from that realization the network drew the hideously malformed conclusion that a mildly interesting concept with some explicit sex scenes sprinkled over it was enough to constitute good television. I know not why, but for some reason beyond my grasp, I expected something of more merit from a program adapted from a series of romance novels whose protagonist’s name is Sookie Stackhouse. I expected more from my fellow television owners than to be contented with another entry in the virtually endless library of poorly realized romances that use supernatural motifs as a substitute for real depth. 

To afford some attention to a redeeming facet of the wholly disappointing experience that was the hour of time I dedicated to watching True Blood, I will note that the show has a theme song. This in itself pleases me, as I am vehemently opposed to the recent trend of hour dramas briefly flashing a title card in the viewer’s face before cutting to the first commercial break. I require a pastiche of stirring clips set to a rousing score if I’m to be rendered excited for the adventure that lies ahead, and True Blood satisfies this criteria marvelously, as its main titles are not only extant, but awesome. 

Tits! Snakes! Time-lapses of decaying wolf carcasses! I feel compelled to watch the show these precede. Hopefully that footage of roadkill will be reused for a more worthy series at some point within my lifetime. 

-Gothicus Maximus

I would gladly trade my copy of Halo 3 to own Imagic’s Dracula for Intellivision

Posted in Dracula, Video Games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

Those bold souls who actually read this blog on a consistent basis might recall that, as an addendum to the post I authored in anticipation of Castlevania Judgment, I conceptualized a video game in playing which one assumes the role of Count Dracula as he roams the streets of Victorian London and preys upon the denizens thereof. As a result of my ignorance in regard to video game history, I neglected to note that this concept is not utterly unprecedented. In 1983, the now-defunct peddler of electronic entertainment Imagic released Dracula for the Intellivision console, a game whose player controls the eponymous vampire as he goes about his nightly feeding. Behold:

Whoever directed the Photoshoot for this cover clearly didn’t waste resources on models, he seems to have just grabbed a middle schooler off the street on Halloween. 

Dracula’s gameplay demonstrates a simplicity characteristic of yesteryear’s video games. The count moves along a linear path, encountering as he does so joggers whom he must bite in order to satiate his bloodlust and policemen whom he must avoid by means of transforming into a bat, for they apparently possess the ability to end the preternaturally mighty warlord’s reign of terror with their nightsticks. After a period of near total freedom to wreak mayhem, the sun begins to rise, and Dracula must race the dawn, represented as a white wolf in a manner I daresay honors the expressionist tradition of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, to the safety of his coffin.

A few screen captures:

A palpable terror radiates from the Count’s prospective victim here. 

 

Is this the Dracula/White Fang crossover about which I’ve had wet dreams? Or perhaps a precognition of White-Wolf game studio, who years later would produce Vampire: The Masquerade?

 

Birds will apparently swoop from the sky and attempt to eat Dracula while he’s in bat form. So much for command of nature’s meaner beasts.

This game, along with an Intellivision console on which to play it, officially occupies a position on the OMG A BAT holiday wishlist. Even should my readers unanimously choose to be lousy friends and not devote considerable time and monetary resources to procuring video game machines that haven’t been carried by retailers since the late 80’s in order to entertain me for an hour and a half, I am resolved to eventually play Dracula, regardless of whatever expense might be required to do so, for I have no sense of financial responsibility. 

-Gothicus Maximus

Review of a film about which only I care: Dracula A.D. 1972

Posted in Dracula, Films, Horror, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

I didn’t intend to compose two consecutive entries in the “reviews of films about which only I care” series, but unfortunately I failed to anticipate that the X-Files: I Want To Believe would be so miserably unworthy of anyone’s concern as to demand inclusion in this piteous library. I remain utterly depressed by that foresaid fact, by the by. 

Moving on to the matter at hand, I’ve been watching a fair amount of That 70’s Show recently and have consequently come to feel that the 1970’s may not have been an odious decade in which to grow up, this feeling most probably accountable primarily to the fact that, for a reason that’s entirely beyond me, I find known Scientologist Laura Prepon compellingly attractive. I order to cure myself of this affliction- by which I mean failure to recognize the 70’s as loathsome, not the Laura Prepon thing- I turned to one of the more embarrassing chapters in Hammer Horror’s catalog of films starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula: Dracula A.D. 1972.

If I may I’d like to address that tagline for a moment. An eye for hot pants? Declaring that Dracula is scoping out for short shorts doesn’t make the monster sound sinister, just pervy in a way that makes the audience uncomfortable. I can only assume that by ‘everything’ the individuals responsible for marketing meant ‘blood’, as the conventional definition of the term makes woefully little sense in this context, connoting that in 1972 Dracula has a mild foot fetish or something.  

However, I digress. The premise of the movie is rather easy to infer from its title– one hundred years after his most recent defeat at the hands of Cushing’s Van Helsing, Dracula has returned to wreck general havok while avenging himself upon the descendants of his foe, particularly the bellbottom-clad teen Jessica Van Helsing. Despite this rather pedestrian storyline, Dracula A.D. 1972 may very well be notable as the only motion picture ever to implement the act of resurrecting an undead nobleman as a metaphor for drug abuse.

When Renfield surrogate Johnny Alucard (somewhat relatedly, Dracula direly needs to sharpen his cryptography skills) proposes that he and his friends conduct the dark ritual in question, the ensuing conversation transpires in a uncannily familiar fashion, “Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it” countered with “Well it’s dangerous isn’t it?” this idea in turn parried by “come on, it’s only a giggle”. In leading the black mass, Johnny turns on some trippy base-heavy music, which his peers proceed to ‘dig’ by gyrating slowly and demonstrating magnified sex drives as thick smoke, presumably produced by obsidian candles, swirls through the air. This analogue becomes wonderfully amusing when extrapolated to being unable to study because your roommates hotboxed the room with Dracula gas.

While Peter Cushing is superb as usual in the role of a 20th century heir to the Van Helsing name who is incidentally the spitting image of his ancestors, the capacity of the teenage gang on whom the film focuses to endear the audience leaves much to be desired. Without a great deal of exertion, I arrived upon a strictly superior concept for a Dracula movie set in the 1970’s: 

draculavst7s.png picture by xplus

 

I know Christopher Lee has said he has no intention of portraying Dracula ever again, a reservation for which I can scarcely blame him after Dracula A.D. 1972, I think once he hears this pitch he might reconsider. Perhaps to say this is a bit bold, but I believe this idea could potentially develop into the best film ever to feature Ashton Kutcher. 

– Gothicus Maximus

Castlevania Judgment: A Dream Realized for at least one Person

Posted in Dracula, Video Games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

The recent E3 conference has left many video game enthusiasts disappointed by the somewhat ineffectual efforts of each major game manufacturer to allay doubt that, in the upcoming year, those who have purchased a given video game console will reflect on that investment with satisfaction. Nintendo, in particular, has been made the subject of censure for its failure to even grasp, much less fulfill, the desires of the demographic often referred to as ‘hardcore gamers’, this underscored by their professed belief that an installment in the ‘Animal Crossing’ series will appease those on whom was built the success of ‘Gears of War’. Nevertheless, though many of those who, in their childhoods, passed countless hours playing Yoshi’s Island may feel betrayed as the former kingpin of virtual entertainment gradually shifts its focus to casual players, my faith in the men and women who brought us Super Mario World remains steadfast, for their obligation to me as producers of the Wii console I own has been completely resolved by a single act, this act being the announcement that CASTLEVANIA JUDGMENT will be released sometime this fall, exclusively for the foresaid system. 

As one may be able to surmise from the fact that I have included ‘Dracula’  among the broad categories to which topics discussed in this blog can typically be attributed, others of which are ‘movies’ and ‘literature’, Castlevania is the video game franchise of which I am most fond. Although I am of the opinion that, since the 1997 release of its 13th installment, Symphony of the Night, the series has become entrenched in a swiftly staling gameplay formula derivative of Metroid and an irritating art style derivative of anime, the opportunity to conquer the sanguinary Count in a spectacular fashion, often involving the use a whip aptly named ‘Vampire Killer’, draws me back, without fail, each time a new title is released. Of late, Castlevania’s legacy has perpetuated itself primarily through side-scrollers for Nintendo’s handheld systems, all of which have been profoundly similar in execution, and 3D adventure games for the Playstation 2 and XBOX, all of which have been both profoundly similar in execution and profoundly mediocre in quality, so ergo my enthusiasm for successive iterations of this pattern has understandably waned. Though the property has certainly spawned good games in the last eight years, these games have failed to truly excite me as I’ve known precisely what to expect. Judgment promises to bring this trend, be it for better or for worse, to an end, for two primary reasons- the release is a Wii exclusive, so a unique control scheme is all but guaranteed, and it’s a fully 3D fighting game, Castlevania’s first entry in the genre. Beyond this, the most inarguably awesome element of Judgment as we now know it is DRACULA’S PLAYABILITY. The chance to play as the man himself, rather than some mopey progeny or flamboyantly-clad reincarnation thereof, is one rarely offered by video games, a first for even Castlevania if I’m not mistaken, and this irresistibly cool opportunity all but ensures that I’ll purchase the game should it prove anything but irredeemably awful, which possibility is always extant. Connectivity with the next handheld episode in the saga, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, provides me with a greater impetus to acquire that game as well. In conclusion, I applaud you, Nintendo and Konami– while my peers may turn their backs on you, and while the majority of people may think I’m demented for being pleased by the directions you pursue, you still know how to make me happy. The below awesome fucking logo may be tentative, but it’s leagues cooler than those of any other Castlevania games, as it most closely resembles Alien Sex Fiend’s. 

    Castlevania Judgment Screenshot

On the subject of playing as Dracula, I have just been stricken by a superb idea: free roaming Dracula game, a la Grand Theft Auto. As Dracula, you roam through the streets of victorian London, preying on the city’s unwitting denizens and transforming them into your Un-Dead brethren. Needless to say, each of the Count’s myriad powers are at your disposal- command of the Earth’s meaner creatures, the power to take the form of a bat, a wolf, mist, or elemental dust in the moonlight,  matchless cunning in drugging the servants of noblewomen. By strategically distributing your earth-boxes throughout the game-world, you advance your aim of extending your influence to entail the whole of the metropolis, though canny mortals may intrigue against you in hopes of thwarting your diabolical designs.  Of course, missions would be available in order to provide the game some sort of framework, though I cannot at this time cogitate any idea as to what those missions might be as, on the whole, Dracula is too cool for tasks outside of blood and conquest. Holy shit, that I am merely recording my opinions concerning video games rather than receiving limitless funding with which to engineer my own is a travesty.

– Gothicus Maximus

Neuter-view with the Vampire: The Emasculation of Bloodsucking Un-Dead in Popular Culture

Posted in Dracula, Films, Horror, Literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

Before I move on to the subject of this post, I’d like to toast the brilliance of the portmanteau that begins this entry’s title. That shit’s brilliant, why aren’t I on TV? 

The impetus that now manifests as this diatribe first descended upon me as I rode the 6:11 PM train from Penn Station to my hometown on Long Island. Although my eccentric clothes often ensure that many railway passengers opt to stand rather than sit beside me- this one of the few material benefits of membership in my straggling subculture- on this occasion I found myself sharing my personal space with a young woman of roughly 14. Before you either offer me a high five or prepare to call the local police, I will affirm that no encroachment was made against space quite that personal, and indeed this girl has won her place in the annals of my weblog only because she produced and proceeded to begin reading a copy of Stephanie Meyer’s novel Twilight As I don’t read books that are not designed for adults, I am less familiar with Meyer’s supernatural romances than nearly every American teenage girl, but my cursory investigation of her work has confirmed it to be emblematic of a far more sweeping blight on our popular culture– the eponymous Emasculation of Bloodsucking Un-Dead.

What occurs to me is that the evolution of the vampire as he is conceived by the average man parallels, almost perfectly, the change women seek to impose on the men with whom they become romantically involved. The qualities which establish a man as badass, and therefore attractive to heterosexual women, such as habitual terseness, emotional maladaptation, ownership of a motorcycle, or thirst for the blood of the innocent, unfortunately do not overlap with those that facilitate a healthy relationship, so thus women will, as paradoxical as this may sound, seek to encourage in their chosen paramours what they imagine is ‘improvement’, doing all in their power to render their mates affectionate, sensitive, compassionate, and utterly ‘defanged’, if you will. Though their efforts are often thwarted when directed toward men who possess and assert independent wills, the natures of such fictional constructs as the Nosferatu are easily manipulated by creative intelligences. I realize this attempt to pin my vampire hang-up almost entirely on a single gender may set off some alarms for my more politically correct readers, but one must recognize that depictions of female vampire  haven’t changed much between the publication of Carmilla and “Vampirella” issue #1- they’re still buxom skanks with sharp teeth- whereas their male counterparts have fallen into a bit of a slump. That we men have no apparent desire to infuse our sex objects with gentle souls is probably more a testament to women than it is to us, but even still the vampire suffers.  

Let us consider, for example, the most iconic personality among the creatures of the night: Count Dracula. In the original 1897 novel, the vampire’s initial encounter with Mina Murray, his ‘main squeeze’ as it were, transpires thusly:

 

I felt the same vague terror which had come to me before and the same sense of some presence. I turned to wake Jonathan, but found that he slept so soundly that it seemed as if it was he who had taken the sleeping draught, and not I. I tried, but I could not wake him. This caused me a great fear, and I looked around terrified. Then indeed, my heart sank within me: beside the bed, as if he had stepped out of the mist—or rather as if the mist had turned into his figure, for it had entirely disappeared—stood a tall, thin man, all in black. I knew him at once from the description of the others. The waxen face; the high aquiline nose, on which the light fell in a thin white line; the parted red lips, with the sharp white teeth showing between; and the red eyes that I had seemed to see in the sunset on the windows of St. Mary’s Church at Whitby. I knew, too, the red scar on his forehead where Jonathan had struck him. For an instant my heart stood still, and I would have screamed out, only that I was paralysed. In the pause he spoke in a sort of keen, cutting whisper, pointing as he spoke to Jonathan:—

“Silence! If you make a sound I shall take him and dash his brains out before your very eyes.” I was appalled and was too bewildered to do or say anything. With a mocking smile, he placed one hand upon my shoulder and, holding me tight, bared my throat with the other, saying as he did so, “First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions. You may as well be quiet; it is not the first time, or the second, that your veins have appeased my thirst!” I was bewildered, and, strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him. I suppose it is a part of the horrible curse that such is, when his touch is on his victim. And oh, my God, my God, pity me! He placed his reeking lips upon my throat!

This is sexy, but precisely because it shouldn’t be. As Dracula’s legacy perpetuated itself, the desire of certain individuals to imbue the character with attributes that induce them to blush and sigh as well as those that induce them to masturbate privately became manifest. The incarnations of Dracula that resulted from this are generally abortions that summarily approve the old adage, ‘you can’t have your rape fantasy and eat it, too’. Here is the forementioned scene as imagined in Francis Ford Coppola’s film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, whose title certainly oozes with unintentional irony:

“My most precious love”? What? Although one can’t help but love that interwoven sequence featuring Anthony Hopkins’ admirable Van Helsing, which almost serves to disguise Mina’s sudden leap in rationale from “YOU KILLED MY FRIEND” to “I WANT TO LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE.” The vampire’s primary goal is no longer the conquest of London, but the seduction of one very special woman. Not quite Bram Stoker’s Dracula, at least as I recall it. 

Be cautioned not to mistake me for a closeted sociopath with a hard-on for ravening, soulless corpses, as I’m not totally opposed to the notion of a vampire with a moral compass. I’m merely advancing the idea that there’s a happy medium between Satan’s Emissary and Doctor McSanguinary.

– Gothicus Maximus