And you thought you loved vampires. Author Brad Middleton is such a fangatic he wrote an entire book about the hows and whys vampires appear on the small screen called, Un-Dead TV: The Ultimate Guide to Vampire Television. Soon another tome will be added to his bookshelf with The Great Fright North, a book that chronicles and lucrative and surprising connection between Canada and all things horror. At the Toronto ComiCon this weekend, Middleton was on hand to meet fellow familiars and Nerd Bastards caught up with him to talk about his obsession with the macabre.
Nerd Bastards: You’re kind of the authority of vampires on TV, so you’re the man to ask: what is the state of vampires and vampire lore on TV right now?
Brad Middleton: Well, with vampires every generation tends to create their own interpretation of the myth, and now in days vampires are young and sexy and being used to tell stories about high school pretty much, so it’s aimed at a younger audience than it used to be. Over the years, we’ve seen a cycle with vampires and the types of stories told with them. Initially there were just these two-dimensional monsters that would come in, bite people, terrorize people and be killed off in the third act. But know they’re being used to tell much larger stories, and much more interesting stories, and now series are being built around them because there’s so much interest. I think we’re going to see more anti-young & romantic vampires trend coming up, like we have The Strain and [Robert] Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn series, so there’s going to a lot more of the horrific stuff coming back, almost like a knee-jerk reaction to the romantic stuff.
BM: I don’t think so. Zombies have kind of taken over as the big monster everybody loves these days, but vampires have always been there, and I think will always been there. There’s of course cycles in popularity; in the 60s, when Dark Shadows came around that was the big thing, then it wound down in the 70s. Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire brought more interest back to vampires and that led to more stories on film and television. So, it’s very cyclical. Right now it’s creeping up again, but they’ve always been there, and they will probably take over again in the next couple of years.
NB: And then you have some comic books and online stuff where it’s vampires versus zombies, so people are combining the two…
BM: That’s right! They’re going head to head a lot. There was even a zombies versus vampires episode of Deadliest Warrior where it was like which undead creature is going go win, and thankfully vampires won.
NB: On your website, you curate many odd instances and appearances of vampires on TV shows, what’s the weirdest TV show to use a vampire as a character in your research?
BM: There’s been so many head scratching moments, stories you wouldn’t really expect vampires to appear in like, Fantasy Island, Murder She Wrote, and then there was a medical one, I can’t think of the name of it, where this vampire just showed up. The thing is with these stories there wasn’t even any supernatural element to it, so it was very weird having a vampire show up, but in those cases the vampire is always explained away as something else.
Then there were ones that were cheesy, like on Buck Rogers in the 70s, there was a space vampire, and that was one of the weirdest ones where it was disco and glam. There have always been shows jumping on the bandwagon, and that continues to this day.
NB: You have another book coming up called Great Fright North that explores Canada’s connection to the horror genre. I’ve always been interested in the link between Canada and horror cinema particularly, look at David Cronenberg, and even George Romero lives here now. What can you tell me about your research into that?
BM: I’m in the middle of researching and writing it right now, and I’m covering everything from film, theatre, television, comics and radio so it’s a broad scope of Canada’s contribution to horror. The film industry is pretty interesting. In the 70s, when Cronenberg and Ivan Reitman got there start, it’s almost like the development of Canada’s film industry came with those guys becoming horror icons. There was controversy with funding for horror movies, and in the 70s we were responsible for a lot of the big slasher movies, so there’s a really rich history to that, but there was even more obscure stuff in comic books and theatre. Dracula played her [in Toronto] first back in 1949, one of the first theatrical adaptations. There’s a really rich history of Canadians being scared.
NB: What keeps you interested in the horror genre and vampires in particular?
BM: First of all, I think it’s just how universal the vampire myth is, every culture going back to folklore has their own version of the vampire. But I think what I really appreciate and enjoy is seeing how the vampire is being used to tell different types of stories. Aside from a few instances in film, it’s really television that has allowed vampires to evolve and be used to tell different types of stories. I really like how it’s been used to talk about things that really couldn’t be talked about, like being the outsider, and it seems that vampires can be used as a vehicle to talk about anything. These days when you have a vampire on TV, it’s not going to be the same old story and I don’t think there’s any other creature – maybe because they look like us – that’s been used to tell such a wide variety of stories.
You can follow Brad’s work at My Bloody Obsession.