Well, Kottammit! I had no idea there were so many different vampire books, films and shows out there!
When I said I’d take a few days to shortlist vampire titles and make my picks, I don’t know what I’d expected, but it sure as hell wasn’t to be drowning in options. It only took me a couple of hours to realise I’d have to come at this from a completely different angle.
From reading a few comment sections on YouTube, I realised that vampire stories (and their fans) seem to be spread over a scale with two distinct extremes. On the one hand, we have the serious corner where the fans of Anne Rice and the “historically correct” peeps that read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla hold court. To the right, we have the fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, which seem to be to film and literature critics what Marmite is to fine dining. You love it or you hate it. There is no middle ground.
Given that I’ve already seen Dracula and Interview with the Vampire, it seems Twilight, from 2008, is an obvious choice for my shortlist. Yep, that’s it. My first slot is taken. (See, this was much better!) On the top of the watch-list, we now have The Twilight Saga films: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn I and Breaking Dawn II. Apparently, that’s some ten hours of movie history to look forward to right there.
Twilight is set in America and the plot revolves around Bella Swan, a teenager who moves to her dad’s place to give her mum some space to travel with her new man. On the first day in the new school, Bella meets Edward Cullen; a mysterious guy who just happens to be the love of her life. And a vampire. The story is based on the idea that vampires are living in this world, trying to keep a low profile and not make themselves known to humans. Revealing the existence of your kind is, as far as I can tell, the only law vampires have to abide by. Breaking it is punishable by death. Simples!
A (relatively) new tv-series, called A Discovery of Witches, has been cropping up in my online activities lately. This is an adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy and it seems to be compared to Twilight. Like, a lot. Time and time again, I see people make comments like “Twilight for adults” and “Twilight if Bella had a degree” about it. A quick google check suggests that this is a vampire story with a twist. It features vampires, demons and witches, secretly living in our world and trying to get by without revealing themselves to the humans. But, as an added twist, they are also forbidden from engaging in inter-species relations.
A Discovery of Witches is set in England (with parts of the plot unfolding in France and the US). Here, the plot revolves around Doctor Diana Bishop, an American history scholar who arrives in Oxford as the year’s Visiting Research Fellow. Diana is looking forward to spending a year digging into old alchemical manuscripts at the Bodleian library, but things don’t go exactly to plan. A couple of weeks into her stay, Diana meets Professor Matthew Clairmont; a mysterious guy who just happens to be the love of her life. And a vampire. (Cue the Twilight comparisons…)
Apart from the vampires in the real world thing, there’s also an element of time-travelling and a lot of historical stuff in this mix. The eight-episode series premiered on Sky One in 2018, but I’ve found it available for streaming on Prime Video and NowTV. Slot two on my list is filled and I have six more hours of vampire stories to look forward to.
On the note of vampires hiding in plain sight, and humans being none the wiser, I came across Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. Granted, the vamps are not the focus in this story, but it is set in New York and sticks to the same framework as Twilight and A Discovery of Witches. Where Twilight has one type of creature and ADoW has three, however, the Shadowhunter world is based on the premise that all the stories and legends are true. In this world, every single creature known to man seems to exist.
The story revolves around Clary Fray, who goes out to celebrate her 18th birthday with her best friend, Simon Lewis. During their night out, Clary bumps into Jace Wayland; a mysterious guy who just happens to be the love of her life. (Seriously, what the hell is wrong with all these people?!) And he’s a nephilim. Which, in case you didn’t know, is a human/angel hybrid. Jace turns out to be a Shadowhunter; a nephilim tasked with protecting humans from demons who have entered our world from other dimensions. Shadowhunters can glamour themselves, making them invisible to the human eye, but Clary can see him. Her best friend, Simon Lewis, can not.
So, in all of these three titles, we have female leads, love at first sight, mysterious love interests, vampires, creatures hiding in plain sight, and school/uni settings. (Am I beginning to see a pattern here? Or is it just a coincidence? Let me get back to you on that one.) Clary Fray, however, is no damsel in distress. From what I can see at first glance, this is a character who will come into her own and be something of a kick-ass fighter as the story progresses. I like that. The Shadowhunter series premiered in 2016, but all three seasons are available on Netflix. There are a total of 55 episodes, giving me around 38 hours of watch time to look forward to. (Dang, this better be worth it!)
Moving on to the fourth, and last, pick for this round of Let’s Watch adventures, I’ve decided to step away from vampires for a while. It wasn’t what I had planned to do, but I find the idea of the love interest being an angel (or nephilim) rather interesting. Apart from the Ice People Legend, a Swedish paranormal book series by Margit Sandemo, I read in the 80’s, I don’t think I’ve seen any stories with “real life” angels in them before. As it turns out, though, this is a relatively popular theme in the Young Adult fantasy genre. There’s like a sea of book titles to choose from here, but as I’ve decided to stick to stories I can watch for my first shortlist, I have picked the first film that came up in my search. Fallen.
This film, from 2016, is based on the first book in Lauren Kate’s Fallen series. Again, we’re faced with a story about a girl, Lucinda Price, who comes to a new school where she meets Daniel Grigori; a mysterious guy who just happens to be the love of her life. (WTF?!?) And an angel. So, again we have the female lead, the school, the mysterious guy, the love at first sight and creatures hiding in plain sight. The story is set in America, and here we have angels living among the oblivious humans. It’s unclear whether it’s illegal for them to mix, or even show themselves, but from what I’ve seen so far it is probably meant to be a secret. What may set it apart from the other stories though, is that this is no just supposed to be an illegal love story but an impossible one. Could be we in for a tragedy in the middle of all the mushy love stories?
There are no vampires at all in Fallen, which means that we now have titles with two (Fallen), three (Twilight), four (A Discovery of Witches) and six to infinite (Shadowhunters) types of creatures on the shortlist. Six films, two tv-series and roughly 56 hours of screen time. That should keep me busy, and help me forget about this blasted pandemic, for a while.
So, what do you think of my choices? Have you seen any of these? Read the books they’re based on? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, or in my inbox. Just remember to keep it civil, folks. It’s okay to have different opinions and we all like what we like. What I’m hoping to achieve here, however, is to dig a little and see what lies under the surface. I want to know how these stories work. How are they told? What are they saying? What are the different characters about and what makes them tick? And I also want to see what kind of assumptions about the original stories you may get from watching them.
Right, that’s all from me for today. If you want to know how I will work my way through, and around, each of these stories, I describe my normal workflow here.
Now, let’s watch some stories!
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