Most vampire stories are love stories, and any good love story has an element of impossibility. Vampire love is either the most or the least impossible, depending on how you look at it. The solution to falling in love with a vamp seems obvious. Undead bites living, and the two are together forever. But it's never that easy.
One would think that vampires would avoid all the attendant trouble of falling for their food, and stick instead to their own kind, as they are often hissingly encouraged to do in by old flames. Yet nearly every story of bloodsucking passion includes the weak logic that vampires, left alone with each other for eternity, are largely sick of each other. The exception is the evil pod of vampires that stalks through every story with a sympathetic vamp - an odd number, maybe five or three, often featuring only one woman, with the dark implication of an even more perverse sexuality, as if part of the dark arts are endless "Heavy Duty dicks for One Lucky Chick".
One of the marks of a "good" vampire is inexorable attraction to - and fated love for - a specific human. Dracula had Mina, and now in the film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's incredibly successful Twilight series, Edward Cullen has Bella Swan. I've never read the Meyer books, but that's mostly because the first one was published long after my departure from the YA aisle at the bookstore. If I was eleven, I'd be all over this shit. The last few weeks have seen a hemorrhage of vampire media. I've seen both Twilight and Let The Right One In, a far superior Swedish film with a similar topic. I also finished the season of True Blood, a bit behind the rest of the American public.
In all of these stories, a vampire's mettle is tested by their desire for their human love, bloodlust and regular-lust conflated by proximity. True Blood's Bill Compton thinks he can control himself, and generally does, but neither Edward Cullen nor Eli, Let The Right One In's preteen vamp and the only girl of the trio, has such faith in the strength of their wills. Ultimately each of these narratives are about the concept of self-control, a neat trick especially for Twilight's convenient abstinence corollary. Of the three, Let The Right One In succeeds most fully, becoming the story of a friendship just a bit stranger than usual without resorting to the romance-novel histrionics of Twilight or self-satisfied TV tropes of True Blood.
What was the first vampire movie I ever saw? My father was a fan of Dark Shadows, so we followed the 1991 remake. I also have a hazy memory of a night spent watching one of the Christopher Lee Dracula films when I was around seven years old, sitting on my parents' bed with my mother asleep beside me. I fell into a weird combination of unwitting lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis, quaking for what seemed like hours under the belief that Lee was coming in the window.
My maternal grandmother died suddenly on Halloween, 1998. She lived alone in New York City, so my family did not receive this news until the following Monday. A week passed in which my parents disappeared to settle her affairs and returned as pale, drawn versions of themselves. The next weekend we held a memorial service for her in our local church. I was mourning my grandmother, but I was also bored with the endless arrangements, and I missed my mom. When, the day before the service, she suggested we go downtown together, I leapt at the chance. I was in eighth grade.
We ate lunch at Foodlife, a restaurant in the Water Tower Place mall with a concept that seemed new then - a series of different stations with little kitchens individually preparing cuisines from many lands. For the first time I had a dish that would become one of my favorites, cold thick white noodles smothered in sweet peanut sauce and topped with cucumbers and scallions. Afterwards, she asked if I'd like to see a movie. I did. We went upstairs to the movie theatre to find that the only thing showing was John Carpenter's Vampires. "Let's see it," my mom said, surprising me.
The movie was no masterpiece, but I loved it. At the time, I found Thomas Ian Griffith's Jan Valek terribly appealing, although his allure, just like that of Johnny Rzeznik, has decreased considerably since 1998. I kind of had a thing for James Woods, too, who with this film taught me the word "polesmoker." And there was something undeniably hot about Laura Palmer receiving cunnilingus-reminiscent vampire bites.
My mom had shown me another vampire movie a few years earlier, Tony Scott's The Hunger. As I've mentioned earlier in this space, my parents were never incredibly censorious about what I watched, a trait I have long appreciated.The Hunger was a little exotic for my ten-year-old blood, however. My mother dozed off as we watched, and then woke up to find me staring at the Catherine Deneuve-Susan Sarandon sex scene that made the movie famous. "Maybe this isn't a good idea," she said, switching it off.
Four years later she sat beside me in the darkened theatre, having put the great weight of her grief aside to take me out for a night on the town. On the screen in front of us, heads were torn from bodies and stakes driven into hearts. But the movie was still a vampire story, so it required a love story. At the end, as Daniel Baldwin leaned over and kissed the soon-to-be-vamp Sheryl Lee, my mom reached for my hand and squeezed it in the dark.