We all love vampires, but what's the deal with all the 'good' ones in films like We are the Night (2nd down from top, below), Interview with a Vampire, The Lost Boys, and Near Dark, wherein people become vampires presumably to be badass but actually only to also become hypocritically pious by refusing to slaughter humans, and giving the vampires who kill and drink humans a rough time? Give them a goblet of blood, they'll drink it and never ask where it came from, but killing humans is, like, wrong, just like the 'good' Terminator can only shoot humans in the legs, and Batman risks the lives of god-knows-how-many innocent bystanders to not run over the Joker (The Dark Knight) and we pretend meat comes from the grocery store rather than the abattoir. We'll eat a burger, but don't ask us to press the cattle puncher button.
|We are the Night - oh you girls as so faux-naughty!|
|Interview with a Vampire|
That's why this new Underworld: Awakening (released next Friday-ish) looks good to me. After Melancholia and Rise of the Planet of the Apes it may be the first movie to wise up and root for the other side, to trust we're smart enough not to start biting people because we rooted for the 'bad' vamp, or that we'll hate humanity like we don't all ready hate ourselves worse than we ever could our killer.
Awakening's plot is that Kate Beckinsale and company are now hunted down by humanity instead of werewolves or vice versa. As humanity has become a dreary bore lately, what with the old white devil sea / Republican debates, I'm sure I'm not alone in rooting for our extinction: in his review of We are the Night on Spellbound Cinema, Daniel Orion Davis brings up Sartre's concept of 'bad faith:'
Inevitably, comes the turn, however. We are socialized to reject "vampirism" in all its metaphoric capacity. Taught, for very socially beneficial reasons, that might can not make right. And so we must deceive ourselves, practice "bad faith" and call the fantasy a nightmare. If it is wrong to dominate others, then it must be wrong to fantasize about dominating others. And so the figure of the brooding vampire, the repentant sinner, the...sigh..."vegetarian."I say a humanity that can cheer its own demise, that can trust itself to fantasize against its own best interest, is a saved humanity, for it is this exact perspective about ourselves that saves us! What exploited, tortured laboratory chimp among us will feel vindicated by Rise of the Planet of the Apes? None, but we made it anyway. That's good. What vampire action group will howl in outrage if the good vampires don't stick to their 'animal blood' diet? None, but filmmakers seem to think a whole contingent of nervous 'defamation of the undead' anti-lobbyists are outside on a picket line. A morally ambiguous approach would add all sorts of modern resonance and it is not here. The misanthropic approach of Rise and Awakening is ballsy bravery; Night is squeamish cowardice.
And why is killing a human more offensive than killing a chimp, or a deer? If you had a choice between one human test subject dying and ten thousand test chimps which would you pick? What if it was between three dolphins or a pedophile? A thousand kittens vs. a foul smelling old vagrant who never had an altruistic thought in his life?
You chose the kittens?
Dude, that smelly old vagrant... was me.
|Bill Paxton. Too bad the 'hero' is someone else: Near Dark|
The Underworld series on the other hand isn't great, but it's no worse than the average story in Heavy Metal magazine and it employs a lot of classy Brit thespians like Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy and Beckinsale, who is a good actress, foxy, and damned hot without being tacky or sleazy in her skintight leather outfit, more Emma Peele than Barb Wire. And they all play it dead straight. Sometimes something can be great just by being better than Bloodrayne, and that's always been double true if the greatness includes daring to return to moral ambivalence. So go get us, Kate!
Believe me we deserve it.