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VAMPIRE LOVERS is, for the most part, just what it appears
to be: another quickie attempt to cash in on the trendy bloodsuckers of
TWILIGHT, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and TRUE BLOOD. The book (available from the UK’s
Plexus Press) is stuffed with publicity stills of coiffed and pouting vamp
actors, alongside story recaps and interview quotes purloined from other
sources. So why is this book being given the time of day by FANGORIA? Read on.
VAMPIRE LOVERS is arranged chronologically in its mission to
sketch a loose history of what the cover calls “undead pin-ups”: sallow-skinned
rebel angels who send teen girls’ hearts aflutter before draining those same
hearts of their contents. The starting roster chosen here holds no surprises:
TWILIGHT’s ubiquitous Edward, followed by INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE’s Lestat
and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’s Angel/Spike duo. Author Gavin Baddeley, an
experienced music and Goth-culture writer (his many credits including
co-penning a book on Satanism with metal singer Dani Filth), deserves credit
for inserting some negative perspective—including quoting Stephen King’s famous
dis of TWILIGHT creator Stephenie Meyer—into his extensive TWILIGHT lead-in,
providing a rare dose of balance in dealing with a phenomenon that is usually
either breathlessly fawned over or attacked with angry invective.
As with any list that attempts to codify aspects of the very
subjective horror genre, contentious choices abound. VAMPIRE LOVERS’ inclusions
and omissions can be either infuriating or delightful. FRIGHT NIGHT’s suave and
menacing Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is missing, but six entire pages are
devoted to Richard Roxburgh’s risible portrayal of Count Dracula from 2004’s
disastrous VAN HELSING? Roxburgh’s presence in the book alongside towering
Dracula icons such as Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi cannot be rationally
explained, other than as some kind of cheeky sarcasm on the author’s part.
Baddeley eventually wins
redemption by championing Grace Jones’ underappreciated turn as the titular
VAMP from 1986, as well as Udo Kier’s campy Count from ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA.
As expected, the bulk of the book’s ink is focused on male incarnations of the
vampire, although token attention is paid to gentlemen readers with sections on
THE VAMPIRE LOVERS’ Ingrid Pitt and Salma Hayek’s sultry undulations in FROM
DUSK TILL DAWN.
Baddeley’s sneaky stirring in of spicy cult gems with the
flavors of the month is what makes discussing this book worthwhile. How many
other teenybopper tomes from the supermarket racks reference BLACULA or
DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS? Make no mistake: VAMPIRE LOVERS is not at all intended
for horror-educated Fangorians, or even those with slighter genre experience.
It will reveal no new information or insights, and most of the films discussed
within are already sitting on your DVD shelf. Instead, this book is for your
kid sisters, sporting their Team Edward T-shirts down at the mall. It’s for
your co-workers who giggle and gasp from behind clutched throw pillows at TRUE
BLOOD’s racy thrills and dripping hemoglobin.
Thanks to its diversity and long memory, VAMPIRE LOVERS has
the potential to act as a gateway drug to sturdier stuff; when the staid
teenybopper context of today’s vamps no longer satisfies, the book can be a
signpost to sharper fangs. Not all followers of Hollywood’s current wave of
exsanguinated idols will eventually succumb to the charms of DARK SHADOWS and
Hammer Glamour, but for those who may, VAMPIRE LOVERS is a solid primer. And
for we who already happily dwell in darker recesses, why not pass this book
along to some unsuspecting acquaintances and see if they bite back?
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