Friday, July 9, 2010

V is for Vampire, B is for Bela Lugosi's Dead

I credit Bela Lugosi and Universal's classic horror franchises with the popularization of the vampire. There had been prior vampire movies, but Lugosi brought something to the creature. I've heard some say it was sexuality but I'm not from the thirties and I'm straight, so… If you've seen the movie, a creepy charisma is clearly evident. I don't mean to detract from the source material. Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula is a classic. It's a little clunky to read, but again, that was a different era in books. If Universal's movie adaption had failed, I'm not so sure we'd have vampires on Sesame Street or on cereal boxes. I don't think my horror DVD collection would be so chock full of vampire variations.

When I was about seven years old, I insisted on dressing as a vampire for Halloween. I had a love/hate relationship with scary movies at that age. I loved to watch them on Saturday afternoons with my dad during the Saturday Thriller Double Feature, but I hated having watched them later that night. A vampire seemed like a cool costume. It was one of those classic plastic jobs with the picture of whichever character you were supposed to be on a colorful smock. The mask was that classic white-faced vampire with the hairstyle that came to a point on it's forehead, the one that never actually appeared in a movie but somehow became iconic. It was probably the cape that actually sold me. I wore the costume with pride that Halloween.

Like my love/hate feelings on horror movies at the time, I didn't much care for the costume residing in our house afterward. I didn't even like it when my parents hid it in the attic. I knew it was up there, and it scared me.

It didn't help that there was a guy in our neighborhood that built a fake coffin that he propped up in his front yard every year on Halloween night. He'd dress like a vampire and jump out every few minutes. As a kid, even when you know things are make-believe, your imagination often wins out in the wee hours of the night.

It was also around that time that I was in a supermarket checkout lane and I read a tabloid headline that claimed a real vampire had tried to abduct a young lady in Boston. The police had tried to arrest the monster, but he had eluded capture. Because I didn't understand that tabloids weren't actual newspapers, you can understand my terror.

What I'm getting at is, vampires used to be scary. I certainly never wanted to be a vampire as a kid. The supposed benefits to being undead were lost on my young mind. To me vampires were just soulless blood suckers.

Thanks to Anne Rice, vampires gained some humanity in the seventies and eighties. She played up the 'immortals with a conscience' angle. She made them alluring in a new way. Up until that point vampires had been metaphors for powerful men and night time, often bedroom oriented, activities, but Rice seemed to beg the question, don't you want to be that powerful man having the night time rendezvous? What if you could choose to only attack evil people, or better yet, animals? She had a great series of ongoing novels with evolving characters and plot lines. They really were well done.

This brings us to our current vampire craze. As a horror fan, I can hardly complain. I may not be thrilled with every aspect of it, but vampires are clearly popular right now.

My wife is in love with more than one series of vampire novels. I have to praise the Twilight series for that. I prefer the books that inspired the Tru Blood cable show.

I'm not so sure Twilight does much for the vampire as a monster, horror icon. Stephenie Meyer has taken most of the fright and bite out of her monsters and left them with all of the benefits, immortality, strength, speed, glitter skin.

Don't get me wrong. I get it. The series is really more about the somewhat plain teenaged girl winning the undying affections of more than one man. She's elevated to such high importance that huge, war-like battles are fought because of her. In a lot of ways it's a great and wonderful thing for those that enjoy it.

As a horror, vampire fan, Twilight leaves me cold so far. Vampires that walk around in the daylight are nothing new, but I don't get the glittering. Their bodies being hard as stone but burning like dry kindling is kind of confusing too. Racially specific werewolves? Teenaged girls causing monstrous (or is it monster full?) turf wars centered on small Alaskan towns where everyone wears grey and paints their houses varying shades of grey?

I'm not sure if Lugosi and Stoker would be proud or perplexed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independence Day Weekend Randomness - the freedom of speech no matter how pointlessly expressed by me

  • A friend of Heidi's invited us to her family's yearly Fourth of July bash on Saturday the 3rd. They live right on White Lake. Owen brought his swim suit and enjoyed the lake for about an hour. The plan was to let him dry off naturally in the hour or so we had before we planned on leaving. I took him out of the lake and was rooting around in our diaper bag to find his t-shirt. As I turned around I noticed that he had whipped his suit off and was standing there, in the middle of about fifty complete strangers, buck naked. I then had to more quickly root around to find something to cover him. Good times.
  • The following day, I let him wear another swim suit to our family gathering knowing there would be some opportunity for him to get wet. He walks into the center of the adult's shaded, relaxation/conversation area and casually blurts out, "I'm not even wearing any underwear right now!" Of course everyone thought it was hilarious, and it was much less embarrassing being around family, but still…
  • It's been hot this week. I thought I'd let you know, just in case you've been forcibly held captive in an air conditioned building.
  • I enjoy the Fourth as much as anybody, but it's celebrated for way too long in Burton. We usually start hearing fireworks around our neighborhood in late May and they usually last until August.
  • We had a lot of fun attending the various get togethers this past weekend. Jasen, I'll make sure to hide the squirt guns next time we come over.
  • I found it funny how many people posted "Happy Birthday America" on the 5th and not the 4th, likely because they received Monday off of work due to the actual holiday falling on a Sunday. Hopefully they were just extending the celebration and not truly mistaking the day.
  • I should probably include a good Gage story. He's not so much "ha-ha funny" as Owen often is. Last week we went to our neighborhood park. There was a group of three siblings playing together. The oldest girl was crossing the monkey bars and her croc shoes fell off. Her little brother, who appeared to be about two years old, quickly ran over and stole them. He left them about five feet out of her reach. I watched in horror as Gage ran over to the shoes and scooped them up. I totally thought he'd run away with them. Instead, he walked them right back to her. I was laughing, but it was with pride.
  • Gage is also doing better with his speech. He's been a little behind the curve, but he's catching up at an unbelievable rate. He qualified for speech classes this month. He only gets three half hour sessions, but he really impressed his instructor today.
  • I turned a year older this week. My age is finally catching up to my grey hair.
  • I had birthday breakfast with my folks and the boys, dinner with Heidi and the boys, and then ice cream cake with my in-laws and the boys.
  • Applebee's makes a great steak. It's no manicotti, but it's close.
  • Though the direction and production on the Twilight movies has improved, the overall female centric plot hasn't grown on me one bit. I get it. I do. The horror movie fan in me howls in lamentation over the missed possibilities and sparklies.
  • Toy Story 3 on the other hand, what a classic that series is becoming. I'm going to go ahead and say it - I think Buzz and Woody are replacing Mickey and Donald as Disney's top characters. No. I said it. I stand by it.
  • I saw the original Tron movie when I was a kid. Impressive then, but let's be honest, not exactly inspiring now. Strangely enough, they're making a sequel all these years later (?). It actually looks good, and the soundtrack on the trailer is exciting. I might have to look up a copy of the original, see if it holds up as poorly as I'm recalling.
  • It's amazing that local politicians with checkered pasts are now running for State Representative. I've really got to remember to go vote that day. Some of these guys have such unfortunate last names too. If you think you know who I'm referencing, who's to say? They're all such… I don't even know what to say anymore.
  • I wonder if I could put Applebee's steak inside of Italia Garden's manicotti…