RSS

Tag Archives: vampires

Book Review: Fledgling

I’m a little ashamed to admit that this is the first novel I’ve read by Octavia Butler. I had heard very good things about this writer and had been meaning to read her work for ages. Finally I have…

*Minor spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned*

Fledgling

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted–and still wants–to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

As I’ve said before, I’m a fan of vampires, so I thought I’d kick off my foray into Butler with her vampire novel. I’ll admit I expected a little Rice-ish flair and a lot more vampiric romanticism than this book delivered. Once I got over my expectations for the novel and started reading the book for what it was, I found it extremely enjoyable and thought-provoking.

The book uses an old trick allowing the main character, Shori, to introduce the reader to Butler’s vampire world. Shori has amnesia and can remember nothing about her life as ‘Ina’ – Butler’s word for vampire. Using this memory-lapse device, the book gets away with a fair amount of exposition and info-dumping because it is actually relevant to the character and not only inserted for the reader’s benefit. This, while fascinating, did make for some slow reading at times. This book is not plot driven but rather a character study as Shori discovers her past and who she is now minus her memories. The story examines the idea that we are the sum of our experiences and what might happen when we can no longer remember those experiences, who do we become and who are we to those who remember us from before?

As the cover shows, Shori isn’t white and the story examines issues of race and racism through the lens of the vampire mindset, which made for some interesting discussions among the ethnically diverse characters, human and Ina alike. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story was the structure of Ina society and the symbiotic relationship the vampires form with humans, and how various vampire families feel about their necessary relationship with humans. This was the main theme of the book, the juxtaposition of otherness with humanness and what it meant for those like Shori caught somewhere in between the two extremes.

What I absolutely adored about this book was the exploration of sexuality and polyamory both within Ina society, and between Ina and human. The relationships in this story are complicated and challenge certain sexual norms. For example, within Ina culture, matings are arranged by families where bands of brothers will mate with groups of sisters. Mates share each other within this familial union and children are raised as the children of all the sisters and brothers regardless of who actually fathered or birthed the child in question. I found this arrangement fascinating especially considering that Ina would continue sexual relationships with their symbionts (specific humans chosen as companions and for nourishment) at the same time. Of course, being Ina means viewing the world a little differently and responding differently to emotions which, while still identifiable as human, are quite different from human experience. While this book explores sexuality, the view of gender remains extremely binary, with Ina society split into male and female groups except when mating is involved. How such a society would handle or accept an intersex or trans individual never came up for discussion.

Despite being about vampires, this book is not the normal paranormal fare and quite quickly establishes itself as more of a political-come-legal drama with occasional blood-drinking. This latter aspect of the book was a little disturbing at times because Shori, despite being 53 years old, is considered a child by Ina standards and is described as looking no more than ten years old by human standards. And yet, this little girl seduces and has sex with various human adults. While considered normal by the Ina community, this did make me uncomfortable especially when the adult humans react sexually around her. I tried to forget Shori was physically ten and let myself imagine an older teenager instead. Again, this is an example of how Ina and human practices differ, but it was a little difficult to read.

Because of Shori’s amnesia and her Ina-ness, I found it quite difficult to relate to Shori and become truly emotionally invested in the character who was distanced from herself and thus from the reader too. What kept me turning pages wasn’t so much my love of or concern for the character but rather my fascination with the vampires on a more intellectual level. Their history, their politics, their social structures, their law – all very interesting even if it didn’t require much emotional engagement. Consequently, while I did enjoy this book I doubt I’ll ever reread it the way I have other vampire novels like Brite’s Lost Souls. This vampire novel didn’t offer much in the way of Gothic romanticism, but was an entertaining read none-the-less. It gets 4 ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Another vampire movie! I actually forgot all about this one and how desperately I’d been wanting to watch it until a friend’s Pin on Pinterest reminded me and what a stunning little indie film it is! I haven’t enjoyed a vampire film this much since… since… maybe ever in fact. only_lovers_left_alive_ver5 I don’t even know where to begin with this film. It was a slow-burning, intoxicating journey into the lives of two immortals, one who is clearly on the verge of yet another existential crisis. The plot is simple in an almost streaming-consciousness type style showing how two people so old, yet still so in love with each other, come to grips with the changing human world. There’s a scene in another vampire movie (Queen of the Damned) at the end where Lestat and Jessica are walking in slow motion while all the humans are rushing past them in fast forward. That was one of the best scenes of that movie, and it was this concept that felt so visceral in Only Lovers Left Alive. It’s rare that a vampire movie manages to capture just how immortality might feel across changing ages and what kind of toll that might take on a psyche that was once very human. This movie is an absolute festival of all things delightfully Gothic. Adam, played by the exquisite Tom Hiddleston, instantly reminded me of 1980s Wayne Hussey replete with untamed black hair and ever-present sunglasses. The all black attire, including leather pants and combat boots, completed the look that paid obvious homage to the Goth rock era. Adam is a reclusive musician, creating brilliant but tortured tracks on vintage guitars and synthesizers – a wet dream for any music tech fundis. The soundtrack for this film is dark and ethereal and pained and perfect, and it’s on youtube over here! Go listen, I’ll wait… (I’m actually writing this review to the soundtrack!) But, as if Adam wasn’t the epitome of awesome already, he also has several ‘heroes’ upon his wall, the portraits of heroes like Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, Einstein and Tesla. The geek factor here is so nuanced and understated you don’t even realize how nerdy this film gets, even when Adam goes on about quantum entanglement, a theory aptly referred to by Einstein as ‘spooky action at a distance.’ It is this principle of quantum mechanics that is deftly woven into the narrative in a very subtle way, and which left me smiling right up until the final credits rolled. One of the vampires, played superbly by John Hurt, is also Kit Marlowe and the characters poke fun at the Bard and quote Shakespeare in ways that only add to the nerdgasmic effects of this film. And of course, this movie stars the incredible Tilda Swinton as Adam’s wife, Eve. This is a couple that has clearly been through a lot together, that has lived for centuries sometimes enduring, mostly celebrating, all that the world lays before them. There is some ineffable quality about this couple that makes them come across cozy and comfortable while also been electric and passionate. Despite having been together for centuries, they are still very much in love and the chemistry between Tom and Tilda is palpable (interesting, considering the twenty year age gap between them in real life). My only minor criticism of this film is that I would’ve loved to see even more sensuality between these two. What we get, instead, are moments of quiet passion, and some exquisite cinematography hinting at what took place behind closed doors.

Tom Hiddleston as Adam the vampire

Despite the somber setting of this film (in the run-down and abandoned part of Detroit), even more somber color palette, and complete lack of melodrama, Adam and Eve sparkle as a couple because of their dry sense of humor. Further comic relief arrives in the form of Eve’s dysfunctional little sister, Ava. Anton Yelchin also makes an appearance as Adam’s manager-come-lackey and the ribbing of the music industry had me chuckling more than a few times. It’s all very nuanced and sly, and I loved it. While the majority of the film is set in Detroit, there are also scenes set in Tangier, Morocco, which add an exotic flavor contrasting superbly with the grit and grime of the US setting. Did I mention the cinematography was awesome? Well, it is – juxtaposing the nihilism of the characters with exceptionally beautiful scenery! Damn, this director is an artist. My feelings toward this film are no doubt incredibly personal, and other viewers may have an entirely different experience of this slow-moving character study, which eschews all histrionics in favor of introspection, but this movie hit all the right notes for me. Music as a theme – check! Awesome soundtrack – check! References to Goth culture – check! References to quantum mechanics – check! Snide, black humor – check! Tom Hiddleston in leather pants and nothing else – check! It was almost like this movie was made just for me, containing almost all of my favorite things. So, this film gets ALL the ink splats! All of them! I strongly recommend this film to fans of weird indie movies that rely on subtext as much as onscreen action. This film is sumptuously romantic yet raw and understated – really, it’s kind of perfect, and I can’t wait to watch it again, and again! 5 inksplats

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: ,

Film Review: Dracula Untold

I’m a total sucker for vampires (no pun intended) especially when they involve the King of Blood-drinkers, Lord Dracula. Despite my better judgement, I have often found myself watching movies I know are going to be terrible because they’re about my favourite monsters. As soon as I heard about this film, it was a foregone conclusion that I would eventually end up watching it because a) vampires b) The Bard from The Hobbit and c) Vlad Tsepes, better known as Dracula. So, I finally got to see this movie and here are my thoughts about it.

*Mild spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned*

dracula-untold-poster

The trailer gave me chills – most probably thanks to that incredibly cool song by Lorde – but also because it seemed to give Dracula a more heroic role instead of having him in skulking in the shadows. I was really excited to see Dracula some into his own and be unapologetic for being a badass. Having scene the film and rewatching the trailer, I’m disappointed because there are scenes and details shown in the trailer that just don’t appear in the film. Other than that, the trailer also shows some of the coolest parts of the movie – typical – thus rendering the actual film experience somewhat anti-climactic.

Now onto the film itself. Of course, it starts off with a voice over and cinematography that seems heavily influenced by Zack Snyder, ala 300 style, only somewhat less impressive. Considering this is the director’s first feature film (according to IMDB) he still did a fairly decent job and I found the film rather pleasing to the eye, if utterly predictable. The predictability of this film might be because I’m overly familiar with these tropes as a writer myself or might be because just about every super-hero and monster movie has employed a variation of these ideas in recent times. Aside from the voice over, my biggest peeve with this film is the glaring historical inaccuracies. I’m married to a Transylvanian, I have been to Romania, and have been to the real Castle Bran (the legendary Dracula castle that is more fortress than Disney.) With every iteration of the Dracula story that gives the monster-legend a historical context – like this film tries to – I always hold out vain hope that they’ll get it right. While this film does build upon a foundation of fact – yes, Romanian children were given to the Turks and used as child soldiers – the history is so watered down and over-simplified. Basically, it gets the Hollywood treatment, and so does our anti-hero Dracula. Can’t have a hero being too evil, now can we?

Dracula in this film is a man with an inner darkness – pretty much Vlad’s penchant for impaling his enemies – and turns to even darker means (does it get any darker than Tywin Lannister?? Charles Dance is in this!) in order to save his immediate family from the Turkish threat. We are repeatedly told about the darkness within Vlad without really being shown it – feeling nothing about how much blood you shed on a battlefield isn’t the same as being a sadistic bastard who revels in eviscerating children, and that’s what I wanted, a film so much darker and scarier than this. Most of the time I wanted to give the guy a hug and tell him everything would be all right, not run screaming in fear. Also, they gave Vlad some pretty awesome superpowers, which he then absolutely squanders and seems to spend more time sulking than kicking Turkish butt. Several times I wanted to reach into the screen and slap him upside the head for wasting time. The climax of this film could’ve been averted had Dracula not dilly-dallied for no apparent reason. Sigh. I guess they needed to manufacture the tension somehow so the anti-hero could reluctantly step-in and save the day by doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.

I saw the ending coming a mile away and predicted the outcome almost exactly for the historical part of the film. Then something unexpected and pretty amazing happens, and the last few minutes of the film are definitely the best, giving me hope for what might come next in this franchise, if a sequel ever gets the green light.

In short, if you’re looking for the Gothic romance of blood-drinking and velvet-clad vampires, you’re better off watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Interview with a Vampire. If you’re looking for a more historical take on the vampire legend then you’re definitely better off watching Dark Prince (a criminally underrated series about Vlad Tsepes – still taking liberties with the facts though), and if you want swashbuckling, monster-fighting adventure, you’re probably better off watching Van Helsing. Given the slew of vampire movies and an abundance of those dealing with Stoker’s villain, Dracula Untold simply doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the table. While it isn’t a terrible way to spend 92 minutes (there are some fun scenes, there’s also some artistic camera work, and did I mention the Luke Evans eye-candy?), I think the film would’ve been far more interesting had it started where it ends. 2.5/5 ink splats from me.

2.5 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Reviews, Video Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Film Review: Byzantium

My first introduction to all things vampiric was at the hands of Anne Rice with her fiendish brat-prince Lestat and ever so melancholy Louis. Rice’s books laid the foundation for my love of the blood-suckers, a love which continued to grow thanks to the dark, grotesque and romantic writings of Poppy Z Brite. Given the recent YA rendering of the bloody beasties into sparkling boyfriend material and the rather ridiculous True Blood (I know I’m in the minority with that opinion) I’m still very much a fan of vampire stories ala The Black Dagger Brotherhood and even the Vampire Diaries TV series (which is only marginally less ridiculous than True Blood, but somehow far more compelling to me – I think it’s all Ian Somerhalder’s fault). Anyway, point is, while I’m still a fan of vampires, it takes something really fresh and well-done to impress me, something like the Swedish Let the Right One In for example, which is why I haven’t rushed to watch Byzantium. However, being rather enamoured with Saoirse Ronan, I finally sat down to watch.

*Mild spoilers ahead*

Byzantium-2012-poster

Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

I don’t know who writes these IMDB descriptions, but could they get any more boring than this? How not to get viewers excited! Thank goodness the movie poster is stunning. With all that black on red, it just screams blood and horror and romantic vampire – yum! This movie started out by introducing us to a centuries-old, teenage-looking protagonist who writes down the story of her life and then literally tosses the pages to the wind. This almost cliche example of teenage angst made me a little squirmy. I know the girl is 16 but she’s been 16 for two hundred years, surely she’d be over teen angst and the inevitable coming-of-age existential crisis? I know the centuries-old teen is usually kept ‘teen-like’ in order to keep the character relatable for a YA audience, but it’s not very accurate. I can’t help comparing these characters to that of Claudia, Anne Rice’s child vampire who matures and ages, finally becoming frustrated that her physical appearance doesn’t match her psychological and emotional age. In Byzantium, however, the 200-year-old teenager becomes entranced by a very human teenage boy. I’m not even ten years out of my teens yet, and I’m already irritated/frustrated by teens and cannot imagine choosing to date one (aside from the potentially icky pedophilic connotations) as I simply don’t have that much in common with teens any more. I cannot imagine a 200-year-old vampire who has traveled extensively and lived through changing eras finding true love in a modern teenager, even if they are an ‘old soul’ – another tired trope often trotted out to justify the interest between immortal and hapless human.

Despite the cliches and the associated pitfalls, Byzantium had a lot going for it with the creepy vampire powers-that-be hovering menacingly in the background and the under-stated vamping that occurred. These vampires don’t tear out throats – they don’t even have fangs! – and the feeding they do is all rather sedate and civilized (wait, is that a good thing in what should be a horror movie?). The few moments of gore and horror in the film seem there merely for shock value without serving the overall aesthetic, which is rather disappointing.

Ronan shines in her role – as she usually does – and so does Caleb Landry Jones who plays her freckled love interest. Her mother, however, seems almost a caricature of the ‘bad mother’ stereotype, considering she’s a prostitute, who – despite two centuries of life experience – can’t think of another way to earn money. The rebellious teen-crappy mother dynamic seems totally contrived here. After two hundred years together, surely they’d be over that by now and would’ve established a more adult bond?

The way the plot unravels also wouldn’t be possible without Ronan’s character’s desperate need to establish her identity, to declare ‘I AM’ to the world and find herself – all very teen-like behaviours that are less convincing given that she’s two hundred freaking years old! The plot was definitely the weakest part of this film, a film that would’ve done better as an artsy character exploration with Lynch-ish overtones. At 2 hours long, the movie felt its length and was at times almost boring since there wasn’t a lot going on except for the angsting, and even when the menacing elder vamps did show up, their appearance was underwhelming and far too short lived to make an impact.

This movie could’ve been an intriguing character study keeping the paranormal stuff in the background, but at some point the film seemed to remember it was meant to be about vampires so cue the magical waterfalls of blood (literally) and ill-conceived, poorly explored paranormal arcanery. The explanation for the existence of vampires was paper thin and the lore the film tried to create was baffling and extremely sexist. I would’ve enjoyed this movie a lot more had we never found out how humans became vampires. Also, they’re vampires. They’re murdering, blood-sucking fiends – the attempt at moralizing them in this film didn’t add much except more confusion about the world-building. Last gripe? Voice overs. Can’t stand them, rarely need them, never ever want them in a film especially not when the voice over tells what’s been shown on screen anyway.

Dammit, Byzantium, I really wanted you to be brilliant. While the film was atmospheric and had some beautiful moments of great acting, overall I just didn’t buy the character dynamics or the world-building. This movie scores 2.5/5 ink-splats from me.


2.5 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Reviews

 

Tags: , ,

 
LAUREGALIE

BOOK REVIEWS

C.T. Phipps

Author of horror, sci-fi, and superheroes.

M.D. Thalmann

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist with an affinity for satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

Greyhart Press

Publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Thrillers

Joseph D'Lacey

My pen is my compass. I appear to have lost my pen.

This Is Horror

The Voice of Horror

reviewsm8

Book, comic and sometimes film reviews

The Talkative Writer

Musings by speculative fiction author Karen Miller

Cohesion Press

The Battle Has Just Begun

Indie Hero

Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller

Paws in the Porridge

'She is like a muse...who kicks people in the face.'

Matthew Sylvester

father, author, martial artist

meganelizabethmorales

MANNERS MAKETH MAN, LOST BOYS FAN & PERPETAUL CREATIVITY.

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.