Would Somebody Make a Decent Vampire Movie, Please?

Civilizer

So here’s something I didn’t see coming at all – the zombie long tail.  After the good Romero movies petered out, ushering in a decades-long drought of cultural indifference, Danny Boyle made 28 Days Later in 2002.  The great lurch leap forward in that movie?  Sprinter zombies.  Definitely why I liked that movie so much – Romero’s movies are cool (assuming you can push all that annoying sociological subtext out of your head and just enjoy the claustrophobic terror and matter-of-fact gore), but I always had this problem: I’m not afraid of a movie monster that I can literally stroll away from.  When Michael Myers is on your ass, you will carjack a pregnant lady just so you can take her wheels and speed away.  People in the Halloween movies are jumping out of third story windows just to stay one step ahead.  Romero’s zombies, on the other hand, couldn’t run down a dehydrated tortoise.  I’m sitting there watching these movies, and the protagonists are worried about how they’ll get away, and I’m thinking, “Hey, here’s an idea – why not a light jog down the street?”  I always thought that one of those movies should have ended with helicopter shot of a big group of old people making a dramatic, 3 mile per hour getaway on their Rascals, a lumbering mass of zombies giving futile chase.  The 28 Days Later zombies are a decomposing horse of an entirely different color (putrescent green, if you’re scoring at home) – in the Danny Boyle zombie apocalypse, the only survivors are Jamaica’s 4 x 100 relay team.

As always happens in Hollywood, something made money, prompting producers to strike upon the genius idea to make more movies (wait…for…it) about that thing.  But to give credit where credit’s due, we got some pretty good stuff for the next couple years, with the wave seemingly cresting with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake.  That movie kicked ass, and if you don’t think so, then you’re one of those people who sees Katherine Heigl movies on the first weekend.  And we can’t forget Shaun of the Dead, though I prefer my horror pure and unadulterated rather than cut by a bunch of yuks, clever and satisfying yuks though they may be.

The Great Aughts Zombie Revival really should have started to short out after Shaun.  Usually parody is the first symptom of the exhaustion of public interest (I know…then 2008’s “Superhero Movie” should have heralded the end of the superhero genre, but clearly it hasn’t.  The rule doesn’t apply because nobody except paid focus groups saw that movie, effectively neutering any impact it had.  Also, it was not a “parody” so much as a “shitty movie”).  But the Revival didn’t short out…just when it looked like it was about to thanks to the disappointing Land of the Dead, 28 Weeks Later comes out and gets things kick-started again.  At this point, something truly surprising happened – instead of just taking for granted the fact that Americans will pretty much watch anything with zombies in it and churning out derivative film after derivative film, we actually get several more years of good zombie moviesSo not only does the Zombie Revival far outlive its cultural expiration date in terms of sheer production, it also does so in terms of the quality of its content.  [Now is the point in the post where you’re probably expecting me to make some sort of half-assed pun drawing a parallel between the seemingly unkillable zombie genre and the zombies themselves.  Well, I’m not going to.]

Don't pitch a fit about where I put "Dead Island." Nobody would have noticed that game if it wasn't for the trailer.

I’m certainly not complaining – my life was significantly enriched by the Bill Murray cameo in Zombieland.  But this is all a long-winded way of saying, what the hell man.  Zombies put it back together for a 10+ year run, so where’s my Vampire Decade?

Please don’t start in on me about all the money that a certain “vampire” franchise has made over the last several years as proof that we are living in a vampiric renaissance – let me just tell you, if you think you’re on “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob,” think again.  You’re on Team You Should Be Embarrassed to Go Out in Public.  What we’re getting now are not vampires.  These are vampires:

You'll notice none of these guys are wearing a henley

Gary Oldman there on the far right might have been guilty of some narratively dull flights of romantic longing, but that’s ok.  Know why that’s ok?  Because Dracula, like the guy with the piranha mouth on the far left and effin’ Valek next to him, is a predatory satanic ghoul, a creature who is entirely dead inside, whose soul has long since been displaced by a spiritual and existential void which can only be filled by a deluge of human blood, but is empty once again much too soon, this eternal emptiness shaping the vile undead monster into a thing driven by an all-consuming, single-minded craving for blood and for murder.

And they’re nowhere to be found.  Instead, we’ve got this nearly uninterrupted run of barista vampires.  To be fair, it’s harder to get vampires right.  You have to write dialogue for them, and I think that’s where the scriptwriters go astray.  They assume that because a figure in their script can talk, they have to turn it into a “character.”  It has to have contemplative, revealing thoughts.  It has to have feelings.  It must have an inner life.  And that…is so…stupid.  You try and humanize vampires in an attempt to make them more interesting, and you utterly, irretrievably blow it.  Vampires are inherently interesting because they’re vampires.  They sleep in coffins filled with the earth of their ancestral homeland, they arise in the night to suck the blood of the living for sustenance, they can turn into a bat, a wolf, a rat, they can exercise telepathic mind control.  A dominant feature of their lore, more than any other monster, is that they are willingly, enthusiastically allied with evil – their very existence is an affront to the Christian God, making their narrative antagonism in any story inherently interesting in a culture such as ours!  And yet everybody writing a show today goes “Eh, screw that.  What if they gazed wistfully out their window for hours at a time, bemoaning their lonely, dark existence while they listen to Arcade Fire?”

Diarists, maybe. Vampires, certainly not. Nice scarf.

If this is what I can expect from here on out, then the return of the vamp was over before it began.  Even when you take the genre out of the tween milieu and do something in a more mature setting, you get a contrived, boring, flat bunch of melodrama that a real vampire would never be a party to.  Remember The Gates?  I love Rhona Mitra, but seriously.  That show sucked (I don’t mean to use that as an easy pun.  That’s just the only appropriate word.  It sucked.)  You like a chillingly scenic eastern European castle, shrouded in mist and surrounded by howling wolves?  Tough shit, here’s a gated community full of witches, werewolves, and vampires!  Watch them juggle the vagaries of everyday life with the challenges of their secret occult lifestyles!  They’re kind of just like us! True Blood is the same story, just more boobs.  The vampire in “John Carpenter’s Vampires” is named “Valek.”  In True Blood, it’s “Bill Compton.”  Wow.  I don’t know why the zombie grabbed all the best writing talent, but it did, and the vampires got all the ones who are still stewing over the fact that their Dawson’s Creek spec scripts were rejected.  It’s a shame.  A damn shame.  The television and cinematic landscape is all the poorer for its lack of night stalking and neck biting.  Oh, and did you see Daybreakers? The vampires wore suits and ties and worked in a fancy office building. It was like watching a dimly-lit 90 minute Charles Schwab commercial. You never knew if the vampires were going to bite somebody, or starting talking up a Roth IRA.
All of this is just a long-winded way of saying, read “American Vampire.”

Hey Look, The President Found His Balls

   Civilizer
Ever had some neighbors that were really pissing you off?  Letting their dogs run all over the neighborhood, taking dumps all over your lawn?  Having people over all the time, telling them to park in front of your house?  And you try and talk to them every once in a while, try and say “Hey, don’t want to make a big thing out of this, but could you do everybody on the street a favor and clean up after your dogs?,” and they basically tell you to go fuck yourself?

You could respond in kind.  You could slash their visitors’ tires.  You could leave poisoned steaks laying around outside for their dogs to find.  But you decide to be an adult.  “Let’s not escalate this,” you say to yourself.  “I’m just going to keep asking them nicely, maybe offer to let them borrow my snowblower this winter if they’ll keep the dogs chained up, and they’ll see reason sooner or later.  Nobody wins if I start pushing back.”

And that’s where you’re wrong.  Your jackass neighbors win, and they’ve been winning the whole time.

While you’ve been picking up dogshit every day so your kids don’t fall in it, while you’ve been inching out of your driveway every weekend because those asshole friends of theirs pull their front bumpers right up to the edge because screw you, you pussy, what the hell are you going to do about it, their lives are an episode of Sesame Street brought to you by the letters V, I, C, T, O, R, and Y.  This is what being the bigger man gets you, my friend: a lifetime of picking up other people’s shit, while the other people bounce merrily through their day, fat and happy like the infield at Talladega.

It would appear that finally, after a summer of being a pansy the bigger man, the president has picked up his last load of dogshit.

Barack Obama Mans Up

"And my next 3 Supreme Court Nominess? All gay."

Barack Obama came into office promising, as all presidents do, to “reach across the aisle,” to search for “bipartisan consensus.”  The expectation was that this guy was so magnetic, so dignified, that the bitter divides that had characterized the United States Congress ever since Newt shut ‘er down would immediately dissolve into a highly productive legislative lovefest.  Key parties instead of tea parties.

This was an awesome plan that had a lot of promise; unfortunately, everyone involved failed to take into account the fact that a lot of people – people blessed by God and His son Jesus with an utter lack of both shame and self-consciousness, freeing them up to say some of the most awful stuff you’ve ever heard this side of a Klan rally – really hated this guy.  And it didn’t take long for that animus to trickle into the Congress, presenting the president with a choice: do I start cracking heads, Lyndon Baines Johnson style, or do I (*sigh – ed.) be the bigger man?  Of course, Barack Obama decided to be the bigger man.

I suspect he actually meant that bipartisan stuff – why he did, I have no earthly idea.  Perhaps he was arrogant enough to believe his own press, and thought that the frosty Republicans would melt when exposed to his polished, urbane charms.  Or maybe he thought it was the best way to govern.  Whatever it was, it reached the point of farce this summer over the debt ceiling fiasco, when, presented with a sweeping, ambitious bargain that achieved that perfect political balance of pissing off both sides, the GOP more or less Mayweather’d President Ortiz.  Following which, both sides just decided to mail it in and kick the can an election cycle down the road.

I’m not going to rehash that whole thing, mostly because it’s tough to admit that the country I love has gone so far down the rabbit hole.  Also, it kind of makes me hope that virus from Contagion was let loose in the Congressional cafeteria.  But after that disaster, I think the president finally figured it out: no matter what I do, these guys aren’t going to stop their dog from shitting all over my lawn.  I gave them climate change, I gave them financial reform, I gave them Guantanamo.  And what did I get in return?  A hostage situation with the U.S. economy.  Time to load the shotgun.  Time to do what Democrats do best – tax the hell out of rich people.

And so, President Barack Obama, the Compromiser, lays out a plan that gets his pensive mug on the splash page of Bloomberg.com next to the words “$1.5 trillion in taxes.”  Strong, man.  Strong.

I am not going to use this post to defend or discuss the merits of the plan.  I don’t like taxes, but a bureaucracy’s gotta eat, right?  No, I’m just here to congratulate the president for finally deciding screw it, time to start swinging the heavy lumber.  I’m under no illusions as to why he finally did this of course – it’s election time, and if he didn’t start acting like a Democratic president soon, the only bloc he could count on would be Portuguese water dogs (who can only vote in South Carolina, anyway).  But no matter – I was getting tired of this lame dance he was doing where he’d threaten to really start getting tough, and then fold like a card table.  It got to be like watching the movie “Air Force One,” when Harrison Ford would go “Get off my plane!,” only with Obama, five minutes later he’s saying “Well, ok, you can stay, but you’re paying for that wine!”

[Digression: The GOP, of course, immediately proved with its response that it’s never had a balls problem, accusing the president of “class warfare.”  John Boehner got out there and said “Pitting one group of Americans against another isn’t leadership.”  Now, if you’re John Boehner, it takes a real brass set to say something like that when you consider what they’re doing with gay marriage, evolution, and their Alaskan mascot’s attempt to claim the exclusive rights to define what the “real America” is.  Pitting groups of Americans against each other is what the GOP does now – they love wedge issues!  Love ’em!  It’s how you distract the middle class from the fact that their primary legislative objectives are protecting the wealthy investor class at the expense of the middle and lower class!  “Hey, socially conservative blue collar mom working two jobs…I may not lift a finger to get you better access to health care for your kids, but if you don’t vote for me, those gay guys that live in the apartment down the hall will be able to marry each other!  So make sure you take advantage of that 25 minute lunch break of yours and get down to the polling place double-time!”  And looking at changes to the tax code is “class warfare”?  All right then! End Digression.]

So President Obama, it’s nice to see you laying it out there.  Some of us want a Democrat for President.  Some of us want a Republican.  But nobody wants a pushover.