Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: 'The Rise of the Vampire'

The title of Erik Butler’s new study is really misleading. The Rise of the Vampire suggests an origin story. Instead we get an all-inclusive history that takes wing with the first time the word vampire was put to paper in 1725 and the creature’s roots in Serbian folklore to the most contemporary depictions of the beast in pop fictions such as “True Blood” and Twilight. In between, Butler explores bloodsuckers in poetry, art, pop music, regional cultures, opera, religion, and politics along with the usual movies, TV shows, and books. He approaches the term “vampire” with smart elasticity, allowing off-genre works such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Murnau’s silent melodrama Sunrise to fit into the discussion as naturally as Nosferatu or Carmilla without setting off alarms that he’s overreaching. Interestingly, the same can be said of his strange theories, such as the case he makes for Quincey Morris being a vampire in cahoots with Dracula.

As a result, Butler manages to present this way over-analyzed topic with novel perspective and insight. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read another book that got into how singing is a sure-fire way to make a vamp lose its threatening potency, and it’s validating to read that Butler apparently squirms in his seat as much as I do when Spike starts crooning his power-ballad bullshit in the “Once More with Feeling” episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Get The Rise of the Vampire at Amazon.com here:

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