Michael Fleming reviews 'New Vampire Cinema' by Ken Gelder

Michael Fleming reviews 'New Vampire Cinema' by Ken Gelder

New Vampire Cinema

by Ken Gelder

British Film Institute/Palgrave Macmillan, $39 pb, 164 pp, 9781844574407

The myth of the vampire entered into European literature as a Byronic hero of the Romantic era. This attractive but evil character appears to have shifted from peasant folklore into the written culture at the same time that Lady Caroline Lamb described Byron as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. That would be a perfect description for the classical vampire. Although the demonic figure that lives on blood has an ancient pedigree, it is significant that the modern vampire, the one we are familiar with, is parasitic on Christian mythology. The paraphernalia to ward off vampires are such as to give comfort that ultimately the evil of the vampire is powerless against the Good of the Christ. That evil is of central importance to the myth. The vampire is an erotic dream of the desires forbidden by Christian taboos. In most cases the taboo can read as a fear of disease, especially sexually transmitted diseases. In the nineteenth century, this fear of such diseases as syphilis and ‘consumption’ (tuberculosis) was unspoken, but expressed as metaphor. The three classic texts from which most vampirology derives – Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) – are all essentially Christian, and erotic, in their symbolism. The descriptions of the symptoms of those infected by the vampire were very familiar to the readers of the day. So for nigh on two hundred years the vampire has roamed our nights striking fear but, at the same time, instilling desire.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in May 2013, no. 351
Michael Fleming

Michael Fleming

Michael Fleming has a PhD from Melbourne University in Cinema Studies. His areas of interest include British cinema (especially that of the 1960s) and genre in film (especially horror and the musical). He has tutored at Melbourne University in Hollywood Cinema and Italian Cinema since World War II. He has reviewed books on cinema for Senses of Cinema and Screening the Past. He wrote the liner notes for the Madman release of Anthony Asquith’s film of The Browning Version (1951).

By this contributor

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.