28 August 2009

North 40 #1

Spoilers Ahead

Although it's not strictly about vampires, I'm glad I finally got a chance to read and review North 40. For those of you unfamiliar, it's a Lovecraft-esque tale about ancient evil unleashed on a small Midwestern town. After a couple of bored teenagers unwittingly invoke said evil, the townspeople lose consciousness only to wake in a world of nightmares. Some have been turned into horrific creatures (a living dead girl obsessed with her boyfriend, a man with eyes covering his forehead), some have become mere fodder, and some (Sheriff Morgan--seemingly okay but possibly hearing voices; Wyatt--formerly bullied and now impervious to harm; and Amanda--armed with a scythe and being trained to fight the ultimate evil) have been given the means to fight the monsters that have invaded, and the even worse one that's on its way.

The story is well-written and well-paced. You get just enough to know what's going on, but not so much that you don't want more. You also get a good sense right away of who the characters are--but that could be because they don't stray too far from the stereotypical (the one real weakness with the introduction). At least they don't stay that way for long. I already found myself caring about them and what happens to them. Always a good sign.

The artwork is lovely--very expressive without being over the top (nice for those who like their horror with a minimum of gore). The colouring is soft and subdued, well-suited to the setting.

The vampire (or vampire-like) characters have already made their presence felt. The more classically vampiric character is a grey-skinned woman, with claws, fangs, wings, and bat features. Claiming to be burning with hunger, the story breaks with tradition here as she doesn't seem to be similarly burning from the sun. She also can apparently be killed with a regular bullet, but it isn't clear yet if she's actually dead. Hope to see her again (or another similar character).

The other vampiric character is a man with an unnaturally gaping mouth (think 30 Days of Night) full of pointed teeth, and a taste for flesh along with his blood. His fate was left unclear so we may be seeing him again as well (and hopefully learning more about him).

Overall, Issue #1 is a good start to what seems to be a promising series. Definitely looking forward to reading more.

North 40 #1
; art by Fiona Staples, written by Aaron Williams. From DC Comics/WildStorm.

25 August 2009

Festival of Fear and The Official Twilight Convention

August seems to be the month for conventions and festivals, particularly for creatures of the night (you'd think they'd prefer a less-sunny time of year).

The Official Twilight Convention kicks off its multi-city tour this month and continues until next September. Attendees can look forward to special guests, parties, Q&A sessions, photos and autograph signings, as well as ample opportunity to spend their college funds on Twilight merchandise.

The tour starts this weekend (August 28-30) in New Jersey, and from there heads to Chicago, Miami, Seattle, Nashville, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Arlington (VA), Charlotte (NC), Vancouver (BC), Minneapolis, Phoenix, Boston, Toronto, and Portland. As the official site points out, locations (and dates) are subject to change.

If Twilight's (really) not your thing, you might want to stop by Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear should you be in Toronto this weekend. It's three days of screenings, panel discussions, signings, Q&A sessions, and lots of nifty things to buy. Special guests of interest to vampire fans include: Udo Kier (Blood for Dracula, Blade), Barbara Steele (Dark Shadows), Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn, Lost Boys: The Tribe), Kelley Armstrong (author of the Otherworld series, Angel: Aftermath), and Dr. Elizabeth Miller ("Canada's Vampire Expert"). Just be prepared for long, long lines to get in.

Festival of Fear, August 28-30, 2009; The Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd, South Building.

24 August 2009

True Blood, S1 E3 "Mine"

Spoilers Ahead

According to my darling SO, my review of the last episode included too much synopsis and not enough analysis. I'm not sure I entirely agree, but since he can do an eerily accurate impression of vampire Bill, I think I'll have to give in on this one.

But I still feel the need to offer at least a brief synopsis, so here goes: Knowing he can't fight all three of the vampires threatening Sookie, Bill forces them to back off by claiming Sookie is his, thereby making her off-limits to the rest of them. After the other vamps (Malcolm, Diane and Liam) finally leave, Sookie is understandably freaked and upset. Bill obviously already cares deeply for her, and his frustration over her fear shows. He leaves to confront the other vampires, telling them to stay away from him and Sookie. When informed he has no authority over them he responds that there are higher authorities: "Eric" and her. Malcolm et al don't seem overly concerned; before he leaves, Bill warns them that their behaviour will have consequences. Sookie, meanwhile, isn't letting her fear get in the way of a good fantasy. There's no question she wants Bill even as her head tells her to stay away. Ironically, the reason she fears him is the same reason she likes being around him: she can't hear his thoughts.

While all this is going on, Tara and Sam--exhibiting some pretty decent chemistry of their own--decide to hook up ("one time only") to alleviate some of their loneliness. Staying out all night leads to a violent confrontation between Tara and her sloppy drunk mom, causing Tara to take off.

When Dawn returns home after her shift at Merlotte's, she finds the bed she left Jason tied to is now empty. Confused, she's suddenly grabbed from behind by a masked intruder claiming to be the vampire she previously hooked up with. Her reaction is a combination of terror and lust, which is arguably the chief appeal of vampires. In this case, the "vampire" turns out to be Jason, and her initial annoyance quickly turns to a round of energetic action. Unfortunately, it comes to an abrupt halt when Jason hallucinates that the vampire from Maudette's tape (Liam) has replaced Dawn. They end up arguing and Dawn chases Jason out of her house with a loaded gun. Pissed off and sick of vampires, Jason overreacts and goes to Lafayette (who deals on the side) looking for Viagra. Instead (and not quite believably) he decides to try V (vampire blood/V-juice) and is so desperate for it he'll even dance in his underwear for Lafayette's website (another side enterprise).

The next day Sam calls Sookie and asks her to stop by Dawn's place to wake her up because she's late for work. Sookie finds Dawn still in bed, but she won't be coming into work on account of coming down with a slight case of death. Sookie's confusion soon turns to disbelief soon erupts in an impressively succinct and expressive scream (props to Anna Paquin).

Okay, so maybe that wasn't the briefest synopsis ever, but there's a lot going on in every episode of this show (and isn't that, after all, why we love it?)

I've already complimented the acting, directing, music, and cinematography, so I guess it's time to mention the sets. The high standards exhibited throughout True Blood continue in this department. Someone has put a lot of thought into the sets; everything from Bill's gorgeous old house (love it) to Sam's trailer is detailed and memorable. No generic Pottery Barn lamps around here. If you just saw an interior shot with no other context it would still be obvious whose home you were looking at. Nicely done.

The mystery of whether Sam is actually Sookie's guardian dog takes a twist when the dog (or one that looks just like it) shows up as Sam is sitting on his steps. He greets the dog (calling it "my brother" in a friendly way) and plays with it. He also tells the dog he wishes Buffy or Blade would show up to get rid of Bill, which is a nice little nod to True Blood's predeccesors, as well as a cute moment. Tara also notices and comments to Lafayette that Sam growls and barks in his sleep.

There's another minor mystery when Sookie goes to Bill's house during the day, settling in on his front steps to work out some of her frustration, and we get a view of the nearby trees through her eyes. The colours are so intense they're practically glowing. Is that supposed to be a metaphor for her sexuality being unleashed? Is it continued side-effects of the V-juice she had? Or is it just the way Sookie normally views the world?

I also like the way magic is being brought into the mythos of the show. When Sookie confronts Bill about not being able to hear his thoughts he suggests it might be because he's dead. She refuses to accept that, snapping that he's up and moving around, and how does anything work inside him anyway. He claims that magic animates him, and explains:
You think that it's not magic that keeps you alive? Just 'cause you understand the mechanics of how something works doesn't make it any less of a miracle...which is just another word for magic. We're all kept alive by magic, Sookie. My magic's just a little different from yours, that's all.

Sookie might not be convinced but I am. It's as good an explanation as any for the existence of vampires and sets the show up for more magic. I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

Thinking about this episode made me realize another way in which True Blood approaches the vampire genre with fresh eyes. Usually the fearful and mistrustful humans need to be convinced by the hero vampire (if there is one) that he (and it usually is a he) really is a good guy. In True Blood, however, Sookie starts out trusting, and even being excited about vampires. She's attracted to Bill right away and insists he's a person just like anyone else. It is her open-mindedness, not her mistrust, that is challenged--by evidence of reprehensible vampire acts, by the evil vamps she encounters, and even by Bill, who doesn't seem to be afraid to let her see his dark side as well as his more human qualities. Just to go back to Buffy for a second, I think Angel would have staked himself before he willingly and deliberately let Buffy see him drink a glass of blood, let alone directly from a human. Bill seems to accept it as being a part of himself, and expects Sookie to understand that as well. This, frankly, is brilliant. The point of True Blood isn't to label vampires as all good or all evil, but to show that they--like humans--are equally capable of good or evil acts. Accepting them means accepting their dark sides as well as the light, and judging them--if one insists on doing so--should be based on what they, like humans, choose to do (or not do). Good point.

On a side note, after my gleeful praise of the amazing chemistry between Bill and Sookie, I found out (accidentally, I might add) that Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin have been dating long-term and are now engaged. Oops. I'm not one to actually care about celebrity activities, and I almost never want to know about the actors behind my favourite characters, so it's no real surprise to me that I was out of the loop on this. I don't know about anyone else, but this info detracts somewhat from my appreciation. Now the chemistry isn't due to great acting skills--Anna and Stephen are just expressing what they feel anyway. Still good chemistry, though.

Fang Files

Physical Characteristics: Hearts don't beat, no need to breathe, no electrical impulses. They are animated corpses.

Weaknesses: Stakes. Hep D, the only blood-borne illness to which vampires are susceptible (although it's relatively harmless to humans). Hep D weakens a vampire for about a month, leaving them vulnerable to being staked or otherwise killed. The older the vamp, the stronger; younger vampires are dismissed by their elders and pose no real threat or challenge to them.

Mythology and Vampire Culture: If a vampire claims a human as exclusively theirs, other vampires know to leave that human alone; otherwise, the human is considered fair game. Vampires who live in nests with other vamps become cruel and vicious, whereas vampires who are solitary are better able to retain their humanity.

Sound Bites

Bill: Sookie is mine.

Tara: Can I ask you a personal question?
Sam: Hold on. [Takes a drink] All right.
Tara: Are you lonely?
Sam: Yes, I am. I am very lonely.

Bill: [seeing the drained body of Malcolm, Diane and Liam's human] Now, you all make me sick.
Diane: You used to be fun. This all on account of that little breather?
Bill: If you insist on flaunting your ways in front of mortals, there will be consequences.

True Blood, Season 1, Episode 2 "Mine." Written by Alan Ball and Charlaine Harris. Directed by John Dahl. From HBO.

22 August 2009

Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs #2

Spoilers Ahead

The second installation of Reign of Frogs starts off back in the comic shop in Santa Carla in 1990. The Frog brothers, jubilant after their success in ridding Washington DC of truly bloodsucking politicians, arrive home only to be greeted by the prone figures of their parents and a less-than-welcoming David. Yes, David--Kiefer's character in the movie. It turns out those antlers through his chest missed his heart and now he'd like a little payback (not just for the impalement but for the loss of his "family" too). He'd also like to know where Michael and Star are, and he's brought along several of his creepy vamp buddies to back him up. But just when things are looking bleak for the Frogs, cue the triumphant (and timely) arrival of Sam and Nanook.

Okay, so David's return is big. A little too big, maybe? It's not exactly unheard of to have vampires return from the dead (or only seeming dead). And I can buy that the antlers missed his heart. I can also see why someone would want to bring David back--he's a great character. The problem I have with this storyline is that the comic is a bridge to the next movie, and the movie might include David but it definitely does not include Kiefer. Not only is it annoying when different actors take on the same role (within a continuing storyline, that is--it's not the same when a series gets rebooted. The Tribe is supposed to be a continuation of The Lost Boys), but as I pointed out in my review of The Lost Boys, I can't see anyone but Kiefer Sutherland playing David.

But David coming back isn't the only major new development introduced in RoF #2. It turns out Sam and Michael's Grandpa is a vampire, and was all along. Yeah, I'm not sure about this one. In the movie he was most assuredly running around in the daylight. Even if he's only a half-vampire, where was the lethargy displayed by Michael, Star and Laddie? Where was Nanook's recognition of and animosity for the undead? Making him a vamp (or half-vamp) now seems to be stretching it more than a bit. And granted, rumour has it that Grandpa was originally supposed to be a vampire in The Lost Boys and that his character was changed at the last minute. But I think it's a little late to go back to a discarded concept. On top of which, taking everything that made the character who he was (the untouchable food in the fridge, the obsession with taxidermy, the general wackiness...) and making them mere side-effects of vampirism takes a great quirky character and makes him...kind of lame. I guess we'll see how it all plays out.

I'm also a little disappointed with the artwork in this issue. What was a bit of stylizing in issue #1 makes the characters suddenly unrecognizable in issue #2. I wouldn't have known Sam at all if his name hadn't been mentioned. David's scarier looking, but again--does he need to be? He also looks a lot older, which not only makes no sense in the context of vampires, but is pointless in a story about teenage vampires. At least the pacing and length are good, although the framing is pretty standard and not overly exciting; it's always nice to get a fully rounded comic and not something that feels like half an episode.

What saves the issue is the humour and the writing that is a perfect echo of the original movie. When you read the dialogue, you can forget all those nagging doubts about the story and artwork. You can just remember how awesome The Lost Boys really is. Here's hoping they find the plot again in the next two issues...

Text Bites

Kid: I'm sorry about your folks, man.
Edgar: Don't be. Turns out they were just sleeping after all. But a lot of good comics were lost in that fire. Like a full run of Watchmen in mint condition. That's the real tragedy.

Edgar (to Sam): But the fact remains...your gramps is a suck monkey. (Offers Sam a stake.) Kill your grandpa. You'll feel better.

Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs #1; art by Joel Gomez. Written by Hans Rodionoff. From DC Comics/WildStorm.

21 August 2009

True Blood, S1 E2 "First Taste"

Spoilers Ahead

I'm finding myself already in the thrall of True Blood. Barely into season 1 and I'm in love. Now I'm trying to hold back from watching every episode one right after the other in a compulsive orgy of bloody good television. Because this is a show that needs to be savoured slowly, basked in and reflected upon. Besides, if I watch it all too quickly I'll just end up going crazy waiting for season 3.

Episode 2, "First Taste," picks up right where "Strange Love" left off, with the Rattrays whaling on Sookie and revelling in the hurt they're inflicting. When the dog that seems to watch over Sookie shows up, growling, Mack Rattray prepares to shoot it. Animal lovers (and Rattray haters) everywhere get the satisfaction of watching as Mack is thrown into a tree before he can pull the trigger, and then finished off by someone or something too blurry to recognize (but, of course, is Bill). Denise is granted a moment or two more of continued existence before being put out of her misery as well. Then Sookie passes out as we see someone kneel next to her.

Cut to the sex tape Jason unknowingly made with Maudette, as he, Sheriff Bud Dearborne, and Detective Andy Bellefleur watch. Jason is visibly shaken, knowing that the tape will soon show him strangling Maudette. I love that the director uses flashbacks/memories to show scenes that couldn't possibly be on the tape. It's a personal peeve of mine when shows include "hidden camera" footage that contains close-ups and multiple angles. Making sure the small things are realistically portrayed definitely helps keep the entire show believable--a necessity for a show about unbelievable things. Anyway, after Jason flees on the tape, Maudette suddenly starts laughing, gleeful at his stupidity for believing he'd killed her. Jason is ecstatic he didn't kill Maudette, but as Det. Bellefleur points out, someone did. Someone also removed every other tape in Maudette's apartment, leaving only the one of her and Jason. We're left with more questions than answers (good), including whether Jason actually did it (cleverly leaving behind the one tape that would make it appear as though he is innocent). Hmm...

Back to Bill and Sookie. Realizing she's dying, Bill bites into his own wrist to give Sookie blood to heal her. At first she resists, unwilling to drink vampire blood/V-juice. But once she starts drinking she clearly doesn't think it's so bad. Apparently neither does Bill, judging from the look on his face as she clutches his wrist to her mouth. There's a slightly weird moment as Bill licks away the blood from the wound in Sookie's forehead, but, hey--he's a vampire. Head wounds are like soda fountains to them. As things start getting a little intense, Sookie suddenly claims she should get home. Bill makes sure she gets there safely, the perfect gentleman (which, I must admit, is not at all unappealing). He already seems devoted to Sookie, agreeing to talk to her grandma's "Descendants of the Glorious Dead" group only if it'll make Sookie happy.

The next day Sookie notices she's experiencing some odd sensations (being able to taste the soil in which the herbs in a piece of sausage were grown, smelling a minuscule piece of old food hidden under a chair...) She also seems a lot less sweet than in the first episode. When she goes to look at the Rattrays' trailer (apparently overturned by a "tornado" with the Ratts being crushed to a pulp underneath) she's not shy about telling the sheriff and the coroner off when she thinks they've crossed a line. It could just be her natural sassiness coming out (Southern girls are sassy, right?) Or it could be the ample quantity of V-juice she sucked out of Bill's wrist. Her attitude isn't commented on, but Bill reminds her that V-juice will heighten her senses and her libido. I guess that's why she pounces on him later as they're out for a walk, initiating a kiss that seems as though it's long overdue--until you realize it's only the second episode. I think I mentioned last time how good the chemistry is between Bill and Sookie. The kiss is cut short when Bill's fangs pop out and he pulls away, hiding his face, before saying he should take her home. With remarkable self-control, Sookie agrees.

Jason, meanwhile, celebrates his release by the sheriff (actually, it's more an obliteration of the previous day than a celebration of freedom) by hooking up again with his former ex, Dawn. In an unwelcome instance of deja vu, he notices--while they're having sex--that Dawn has been bitten by a vampire. He's not too happy about it but she doesn't think it's a big deal. Of course, neither did Maudette. He's even less happy when Dawn leaves him tied to her bed as she heads to work for the night ("consider it foreplay").

Cliffhanger endings are apparently par for the course with True Blood (not going to be as much fun when I have to wait longer than a couple of days between episodes!) When Sookie arrives at Bill's house she's greeted at the door by three menacing vampires (including the nameless tattooed vamp from Maudette's other sex tape). As the episode ends, they've bared their fangs and circled Sookie, clearly in the mood for a snack.

There's a lot going on in this episode. We gain insight into Sookie and Bill's pasts, as well as Tara's current unhappy circumstances (including her unrequited feelings for Jason). We also learn a lot about vampires. Besides Bill's cover-up of the Rattrays' (deserved) deaths, Sookie is upset when she finds out an outspoken anti-vampire crusader, the Reverend Theodore Newlin, has died in a "freak" car accident, along with his wife and 18-month-old child. It's apparent that vampires might not be just like everybody else, after all. And they're definitely not all like Bill. There's also the mystery of Maudette's murder. (True Blood actually reminds me a lot of Twin Peaks. Both shows feature the bizarre happenings in what, on the surface, appears to be a quiet town. In this case the question is who killed Maudette Pickens.) We're still left wondering what exactly Sookie is (she apparently even tastes different than other people, not to mention that she can't be hypnotized/glamoured). And some pretty huge hints have been dropped that Sookie's protective mystery dog might, in fact, be Sam. The plot thickens...

Fang Files

Appearance/Physical Characteristics: Their fangs seem to unsheath now, rather than fold out.

Powers: Super speed, super strength. They get stronger with age. Their blood is healing to humans. Hypnotism (called "Glamouring"). Bill confirms some vampires can shapeshift/transform.

Weaknesses: Don't want doctors to know how healing their blood is.

Mythology: Vampires need to be invited in to a mortal's home in order to enter. If the invitation is revoked they're compelled to leave. Once a mortal has drunk their blood, a vampire will always be able to "feel" them and find them fast (at least, that's the case with Bill and Sookie).

Sound Bites

Headline on a tabloid: Angelina Adopts Vampire Baby

Bill: May I ask you a personal question?
Sookie: Bill, you were just licking blood out of my head. I don't think it gets much more personal than that.

Sookie: Can you turn into a bat?
Bill: No. There are those who can change form, but I'm not one of them.
Sookie: Can you levitate?
Bill: No.
Sookie: Turn invisible?
Bill: Sorry.
Sookie: Well, Bill, you don't seem like a very good vampire. What can you do?
Bill: I can bring you back to life.

Bill (in awe): I can smell the sunlight on your skin.

True Blood, Season 1, Episode 2 "First Taste." Written by Alan Ball and Charlaine Harris. Directed by Scott Winant. From HBO.

19 August 2009

True Blood, S1 E1 "Strange Love"

Spoilers Ahead

I'm embarrassed to admit I'm a latecomer to True Blood. I can't even say I've read the books. In my defence, we don't get HBO. And, well, whenever I heard about the story it just didn't seem that interesting to me. I'm kind of dumb that way. At least I don't need to be embarrassed anymore.

From the opening scene of the first episode ("Strange Love") I was hooked. Never underestimate a good opening scene. I only wish the shot of the dark, winding road could have lasted a little longer. But as soon as we switch to the frat kids inside the car, we know we're watching HBO (emphasized rather elegantly by the opening credits, which not only perfectly set the tone for the show, but give you a good glimpse of what HBO's all about as well. It's not often you see decomposing corpses and nudity--not simultaneously--in TV credits...)

So the basic premise of the show is that, thanks to Japanese innovation, a "nutritionally complete" blood substitute called Tru Blood has allowed the vampire community to, as our heroine puts it, come out of the coffin. Their sudden mingling with human society is met with reactions ranging from fear and suspicion to fascination to outright hostility. There are "fang bangers" who like to be bitten. Prostitutes who cater to the vamp market. And a certain reprobate element who are not above capturing vampires and draining their blood to sell to "V-juice" fans (and possibly addicts) who get a physical (and libidinal) boost from drinking vampire blood (as well as occasionally tearing off their own faces).

"Strange Love" introduces us to Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a Louisiana waitress with telepathic abilities; her boss, Sam, whose love for Sookie remains unrequited; short-tempered best friend Tara; man-whore brother, Jason; and, of course, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), the new vamp in town.

Although my initial reaction was that I preferred Sam, it didn't take long for me to see Bill's attraction. Sookie, of course, notices him instantly--possibly because he's the one person whose thoughts she can't hear (or be overwhelmed by), never mind that he's not exactly a person. Bill also attracts the attention of the Rattrays, a revulsion-inducing pair who turn out to be interested in Bill for more than his pale good looks. When no one else apparently cares that the "Ratts" are going to kill Bill (ha ha), Sookie takes it upon herself to chase them off (impressively wielding a chain and then a knife) and save him. Forced to leave their precious V-juice behind, they go--but not before letting Sookie know it isn't over.

As Sookie's infatuation with Bill grows, so does the chagrin of Sam and Tara. Her brother, Jason, is also unconvinced that spending time with a vampire is a good idea. And it doesn't take long for Sookie to realize that pretty much the entire town thinks she's stupid or crazy, or both--not that she cares. The only one who seems accepting of Bill, and Sookie's relationship with him, is her grandma, who wants Bill to come speak to her Civil War "Descendants of the Glorious Dead" group (he was there, after all).

Jason, meanwhile, may have had something to do with the strangling death of Maudette Pickens. Maudette liked to videotape her "activities" and showed Jason a tape of herself and a truly freaky tattooed vampire who paid her $1000 for a bite, among other things. Jason's reaction to the tape may have been a little too rough, and the sherriff picks him up at work the next day.

The episode leaves a lot of loose ends (in a good way) and ends with the Ratts getting revenge on Sookie (it seems they're also not above ganging up on a lone defenceless girl, or kicking someone when they're down). Although why she couldn't hear them coming (via their thoughts) is one plot hole I couldn't help noticing. Hope it's explained.

There were so many things to love about "Strange Love." Charlaine Harris, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse books, and Alan Ball, creater/producer of the show (and writer/director of this episide), have clearly put a lot of thought into the world they've created. They've taken an innovatove concept (vampires living out in the open) and have worked it so it is completely believable and realistic. There's depth and layers--no one-dimensional characters or interactions here. Very good indeed.

The show is also nicely shot. It's well-lit and beautifully framed. I remember a photographer friend of mine saying that you know a movie has a skilled DP when most of the still shots look like a really good photograph. No worries in that department here.

The music used was fantastic! I love the main title theme ("I Wanna Do Bad Things with You" by Jace Everett) and of course "Strange Love," although too bad they didn't go with The Cramps' version (they used Slim Harpo's instead). I loved the music so much I couldn't help but buy the album (damn you, itunes--you just make it too easy).

I also have to give bonus points to the writers for going with some gender role reversal. It's always nice to see the girl save the guy (or the guy on his knees). That's probably part of why Buffy is so appealing too. I actually noticed a lot of similarities between Buffy and True Blood. There's only so much you can do with a certain type of story and certain types of characters, though, so I'll skip the criticism. In any case, the similarities seem to be a good thing overall, and there's definitely enough differences to make these two completely different shows. Although what is with vampires named William (Bill Compton, Spike/William the Bloody, Angel/Liam)? It's a fine name but maybe we should start branching out a little.

I'm also thrilled there isn't one character or performance I found annoying or unbelievable, and the chemistry between Sookie and Bill is just right. I did find Sookie to be a little too "sunshine and light" for my taste--recurring lines like "bless your heart" and "my stars" are a little grating, and her insistence on not listening to "nasty talk" and on being treated like the lady that she is got to me at first, but bothered me less and less as the episode progressed. I'm just chalking it up to Southern "charm" (or possibly something else--as Bill points out Sookie might herself be a little more than human. Theories abound at the moment). Besides, characters like Tara and Lafayette more than make up for any PG-rated tendencies. The scene between Tara, Lafayette, and the good old boy bar patron (where Tara calls out his inherent racism and then Lafayette comes on to him) is just about perfect.

The vampires are great as well. They're varied, for one thing--just like people are in reality. Different looks, different talents, different personalities. From the ultra-smooth American Vampire League spokeswoman Nan Flanagan, to the creepy and frightening nameless vamp on the sex tape, to reserved and gentle Bill--we get a good overview in this episode of what vampires are--or can be--like. My one problem, and it is kind of a big one, is the fangs. A vamp's look can be made--or ruined--by their fangs and, unfortunately, these ones look fake. They're too perfect, too white, too much like snake fangs (made for delivering venom rather than feeding). The way they fold out is a little odd, as well. I don't know--maybe the show will work on them as it progresses (the way the dustings got better over time on Buffy), or maybe they just won't bother me as much. But for now they are a disappointment. Still, that's the only real flaw in an otherwise brilliant show.

Can't wait to watch the rest of the episodes. Here's hoping True Blood stays this good...

Fang Files

Appearance/Physical Characteristics: Human appearance, although the anonymous vamp can apparently make his eyes go completely red and looks at once point as though he's physically transforming in some way. Fangs fold out and resemble snake fangs. Vamps hiss and make animalistic noises. Body temperature is cooler than humans. Don't/can't eat anything other than blood and Tru Blood.

Powers: Super speed, fast healing, hypnotism. Maybe shapeshifting. Their blood ("V-juice") can provide a physical boost to humans.

Weaknesses: Silver, sunlight, can die from losing too much blood. People crave V-juice and are willing to pay vast sums (and kill vamps) to get it.

Mythology: Not much yet on the vamp mythology. Apparently drinking their blood does not turn a human into a vampire. They try to keep their abilities secret. Also, Sookie can't hear their thoughts.

Sound Bites

Vampire (to store clerk): You ever pretend to be one of us again, and I'll kill ya. Got it?
Clerk: Yeah.
Vampire (with a big smile): Have a nice day now!

Bill: Aren't you afraid to be out here alone with a hungry vampire?
Sookie: No.
Bill: Vampires often turn on those who trust them, you know. We don't have human values like you.
Sookie: A lot of humans turns on those who trust them, too.

Sam: It would only be a matter of time 'fore you went off on somebody. I don't want to drive my customers away.
Tara: I only go off on stupid people.
Sam: Most of my customers are stupid people.
Tara: Yeah, but...I could help you keep an eye on Sookie. You see the way she was looking at that vampire? That is just trouble looking for a place to happen.

True Blood, Season 1, Episode 1 "Strange Love." From HBO.

18 August 2009

Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs #1

Spoilers Ahead

I was excited to stumble across Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs, a four-issue comic that bridges the original movie (see my review) with the direct-to-DVD sequel, Lost Boys: Tribe (review coming as soon as I'm done with the comics). My feeling was the more Lost Boys the better, and issue 1 of RoF didn't disappoint.

Starting off in 2007, Edgar Frog has left Santa Carla for a life of shaping surf boards in a cross-encrusted warehouse in Luna Bay, California. A young boy (unnamed) shows up and tells him he wants to be his apprentice--not in making surf boards, but in hunting vampires. Edgar is less than receptive. He flashes back to 1990 in an attempt to dissuade the kid, starting his tale in Washington DC as he and his brother, Alan, take stakes to congress and the senate. Although entertaining (particularly as he tries to convince the kid that America's founding fathers were vampire hunters), the story really gets interesting when the Frog brothers return to the boardwalk at Santa Carla.

The writing is good, really capturing the voices of the Frog brothers and the original movie. The artwork is also good, clean and uncluttered--it moves the story forward as all good comic art should. And while the characters are all recognizable, the art does veer in the direction of stylized rather than ultra realistic. The characters don't look so much like themselves as themselves after spending a hell of a lot of time at the gym. Santa Carla is still, however, incontrovertibly itself and I know I got a little jolt of excitement seeing it again.

All in all, RoF #1 is a good reintroduction to the Lost Boys world, and it left me anxious to see more.

Text Bites

Edgar: Nosferatu, your time of reckoning has come!
Alan: Prepare to meet the fury of the Frog brothers!

Vampire: Your fate is sealed, insect.
Edgar: Seal this, death breath!

Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs #1; art by Joel Gomez. Written by Hans Rodionoff. From DC Comics/WildStorm.

14 August 2009

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

The fourth annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival features 17 horror, sci-fi, action and cult feature films, including three for the vampire lover. Starting tonight (the 14th) and running through the 21st, your bloodsucking options are:

Grace: A distraught mother wills her dead fetus back to life and then goes to disturbing lengths to get it the blood it craves and needs to live. Q&A session with filmmakers and audience after the screening. August 21, 7:00 pm, Bloor Cinema.

Strigoi: Horror comedy about Romanian peasants being stalked by the supposedly dead wealthy local landowner. Q&A session with filmmakers and audience after the screening. August 17, 9:29 pm, Bloor Cinema.

Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl: From Yoshihiro Nishimura, a no-holds-barred fight to the death between teenage girls in the name of true love. Bizarre, blood-spattered, and politically incorrect! August 17th, 7:00 pm, Bloor Cinema.

Clicky clicky, for more info and to find out about some of the other must-see movies at the festival.

Angel Issue #24

Spoilers Ahead

She's baaaaaaaaaaaccckkkk...

I really loved the character of Drusilla when she was still on Buffy. She was eerie and crazy and had a fun accent and the best wardrobe. She lost something, I think, when she went to Angel. Her edge seemed to dull a bit as she ditched the Victorian wardrobe and became a modern girl in the big city (TM). It was hard to imagine the new Drusilla making out with a slime-dripping chaos demon on a park bench. I'm sure it didn't help that she no longer had Spike to play off of (those two really were the perfect couple).

But still, I had been wondering what happened to Dru, where she's been while Buffy went to Scotland and Angel went to Hell (again). Turns out she's been hanging out in an insane asylum in LA.

Angel #24 is part one of a two-issue special about what Drusilla has been up to lately. Starting off before the fall of LA, we discover that Dru has been brought to the asylum under mysterious circumstances. Discovered in an alley by the police, bloody and wounded, it's unclear whether Dru was attacked or is into some serious self-mutilation (possibly involving a sword and a stake). Meanwhile it seems that some people at the asylum know what she is and are keeping her there for a reason, while the rest believe she's a violent nutjob with boundary issues (really, they're all right).

One of the best things about Angel #24 is that it seems Drusilla has her edge back (this might have something to do with actress Juliet Landau's contribution to the script). The artwork is also beautiful--Dru moves like a marauding ballerina as she makes short work of anyone standing between her and the exit. In addition, the colouring is very well done--lots of soft greys and blues and greens--with just the right amount of red to convey the proper tone of the story and the essence of Dru. There's also a small gallery of photos of Landau at the back, if you're into that sort of thing.

The problem I had with this issue is that it's short. It seems to just be getting started when the little "to be continued" notice pops up on the page. There's also a ton of questions left in its wake--too many to be answered in any sort of satisfying way within the span of merely two issues (especially if part two is as short as part one). I really think a character like Drusilla needs more than two issues to properly update (or conclude) her story. Unless she becomes a regular again, which is an intriguing possibility. I guess we'll have to wait to find out. In the meantime, my interest in Dru has been rekindled. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Text Bite

Doctor (after Drusilla jumps on his lap): Dru...this is, um...this is not appropriate.
Drusilla: Oh... (leans in to whisper) ...That's why it's so much fun.

Angel Issue #24; art by Franco Urru. Written by Juliet Landau and Brian Lynch. From IDW Publishing.

13 August 2009

Vampire-Con in Hollywood

If you're lucky enough to be within reach of Hollywood this weekend, get yourself to Vampire-Con, the debut of "the world's first convention devoted exclusively to Vam-Pop culture." There's going to be a film festival (The Lost Boys, The Hunger, The Velvet Vampire, Count Yorga- Vampire, and a sneak preview of Midnight Son), celebrity panel discussions (including True Blood, Twilight, and Inked in Blood: 40 Years of Vampirella), a costume parade, contests, and Vampirella's Ball. Creatures of the night are gleefully invited to attend. In association with, among others, the American Red Cross (no, really).

Click here for more info and to order tickets.

12 August 2009

Staked by J.F. Lewis

Spoilers Ahead

Scanning the book rack at my friendly neighbourhood drugstore, I stumbled across Staked by J.F. Lewis. I hadn't been planning on getting another book (my 'to review' list is already longer than the tweenybopper sign-up sheet for the Edward fan club), but how could I resist a book with a cover blurb that describes it as "A pedal-to-the-metal demolition derby of sex and violence"? Exactly.

Okay, so I don't know about demolition derby but Staked wastes no time getting down to violence. Starting with a decapitation and followed right behind by a nasty brawl with a werewolf, the reader gets thrown right into the world of Void City. Centred around Eric, a strip club owner and "Vlad" vampire (named for their ability, like Dracula, to repeatedly regenerate where most vamps would be killed), his memory blackouts are among a host of problems he has to deal with, including demanding girlfriends (and strippers), a crappy sense of time (sunrise is when?), lost love, magic gone awry, betrayals, vengeful fanatical werewolves, and an undead daughter with serious issues.

While Eric tries to put together all the pieces and figure out who's out to get him and why, his newly turned girlfriend Tabitha gets used to her undead existence, as well as spending a whole lot of time trying to figure out how to keep Eric from leaving her. While the chapters focusing on Eric are okay, fairly interesting and move the plot along, the chapters about Tabitha probably should have been left out altogether. They're overwhelmingly boring and pointless (other than as an excuse for way too much exposition), and also leave me wondering if the author got stuck in a time warp. Not only is the female vampire (Tabitha) an emotional mess (her vampirism is likened more than once to PMS), but despite being an incredibly powerful Vlad, her first thought when she leaves Eric is to go to another man who she believes will take care of her. Really? That's the strong personality that made her a Vlad and not a drone?

She also gets into a catfight, promises to let Eric have sex with other (living) women as long as he stays with her, and suddenly wants children even though she never wanted them before (but now she can't have them...cue the teary realization). And did I mention she takes the time to go shopping when Eric is in the middle of a crisis and could probably use some help? She needs to buy sexy new lingerie for his birthday, don'cha know! Forget about feminism, how about a little realism with the female characters?

As for the sex part of our demolition derby, I hate to say it but it was disappointing. Boring and occasionally creepy, it mostly felt like it was just thrown in for the sake of getting a "nudity and adult situations" rating. Unfortunately, Staked too often seems thrown together, like a badly stitched patchwork of unrelated scenes and plot points.

But maybe I should be more forgiving seeing as how this is Mr. Lewis's first novel. Despite its various flaws (such as all the repetition, which could be due to Eric's memory loss but I suspect is due more to poor editing), Staked has its merits as well. Lewis put some thought into the setting when he created Void City, where magic hides the supernatural from the "norms" (a vampire attack might be perceived as a mugging), and the police answer to a high-level vamp. His mythology is also detailed and believable, and would have been a great framework to play within if he didn't cancel it out by making both main characters the rarest of the rare vamps, able to overcome their vampire natures/attributes and avoid all those darn inconveniences (you know, the ones that make them what they are in the first place).

It is hard to be forgiving, however, when, on top of everything else, the characters are so incredibly dumb. I don't think I'm the only one who finds it beyond annoying when characters lack the cognitive skills to put 2 and 2 together. It kind of takes the fun out of reading when you figure out what's going on in the first ten pages and the characters then spend the next 390 pages doing everything but clueing in. It's even worse when they finally figure out "4" and still act like they have no idea what's going on.

Eric ultimately does work out who's been playing him. He even gets some revenge. Although his attitude about the whole thing is bizarre and somewhat illogical. And then there's a huge cliffhanger to contend with, to be continued in the next book, ReVamped (which, judging by the excerpt I read, is more of the same). Staked isn't horrible; it's entertaining and there are some neat ideas presented, but don't expect the next great vampire classic--and don't start reading Staked unless you're ready to make a longterm, multi-book commitment. Consider yourself warned.

Fang Files

Vampire Types: Drones/Serfs, Soldiers/Knights, Masters/Barons, Vlads/Kings (or Queens), Emperors (extremely rare). Each type has its own characteristics and a vampire becomes one or the other based on the strength of their personality, as well as the trauma of their transformation. Drones are the easiest to kill, Vlads are nearly impossible to permanently destroy (you need to find the one specific way that will do it).

Appearance/Physical Characteristics: Generally human, but not all traits are universal. Some suffer from "corpse sweat" (smells like a mixture of gasoline and urine). Eye colour fades over time. Fangs "pop" out at will. All bodily fluids have been replaced by blood. No body heat, so they're always cold unless they've just fed. No reflection. Don't/can't eat food. These vampires are basically animated corpses.

Powers: Super strength, super speed, shapeshifting (including to non-corporeal forms like mist or a virus), can sense other vampires and trace the ones they've created, quick healing

Weaknesses: Sunlight, holy objects (anything blessed, not just crosses or holy water), stakes (kill some vamps, incapacitate others), loss of self-control if they get too hungry, the more powerful the vamp the more "quirks" they suffer, victims sometimes come back as ghosts

Mythology: Takes an act of will, not just an exchange of blood to sire a vampire. The transformation process is painful and traumatic (and disgusting--the body empties itself out, as is described in unpleasant detail). Vampires are all different, with their own strengths and weaknesses; some can easily shapeshift, some can't; some heal easily from all wounds, some need to take extra steps (like getting their sire's blood) to heal from certain wounds. An extreme minority of vampires (including Tabitha) can makes themselves human again (with a reflection, beating heart, and all other attributes of the living). Eric is something completely unique: he can go "uber-vamp" with black skin, purple eyes, and wings. He can also command bats in this form and is apparently indestructible. There are also rites that can be performed to raise a vampire to the next level (e.g. from soldier to master). A human who is killed by a vampire can come back as a mindless, zombie-like blood-drinker unless they are decapitated.

Text Bites

(Good) Eric: Bones had broken when he landed. Some of them sounded important.

(Not so good) Eric: Yep, those jerks had it coming. They had it coming Dracula style.

Staked by J.F. Lewis. Published by Simon and Schuster. Also available as an e-book.

10 August 2009

Buffy Season 8, Issue #27

Spoilers Ahead

Issue #27 ("Retreat Part 2") left me with somewhat mixed feelings. It's another nice, long issue (always good), alternating between our intrepid Slayers and the Twilight crew.

Slayers and Co. mainly catch up with Oz (who, it turns out, is the only Scoobie who's actually doing well in life--although how long that will last...) Since the Slayers are made of magic and Twilight can trace magic, the entire group becomes grasshopper to Oz's sensei as he starts teaching them to control their inner (literal) demons.

This is the part I'm worried about. If the Slayers de-magic themselves, are we then left with a bunch of everyday, non-vampire-slaying girls? If they can tame the demon that makes them Slayers the way Oz tamed the wolf within himself, will even Buffy and Faith's power dissipate? Is that why by Fray's time there hasn't been a Slayer in centuries? My instinct that Season 8 is the last season ever could be right, after all.

In (potentially) happier plot developments, the ever-mysterious Twilight (his/her identity is really starting to bug me! Especially as his/her knowledge of Buffy is increasingly emphasized) continues trying to trace Buffy et al. One of Twilight's minions thinks he's found the Slayers, followed by this exchange (edited for length and emphasis):

Minion: It's a pretty big spike.
Riley: Spike?
Minion: A spike in magic usage...
Riley: Looks like random noise to me.
Twilight: What is it?
Minion: It's a spike.
Twilight: Spike?

Don't know if it's wishful thinking on my part, but that seems like an awful lot of "Spikes" suddenly mentioned (and if there's one thing I've learned about Joss, very little is random or coincidental in the Whedonverse). On top of that, in the "Slay the Critics" letter column someone writes in asking whether Spike, Drusilla, and Darla are returning, to which the response is "No spoilers." I'm pretty sure Darla's story is done, and Dru is back this month in Angel #24 so crossing over from IDW to Dark Horse seems pretty darn unlikely. That just leaves Spike. Everyone's been up front about there being no chance of Tara or Anya returning, so if there's no chance for Spike, why not just say so instead of giving enigmatic statements about spoilers? Not to mention that he's been absent from Angel for a few issues now. I could be way off, but Spike fans--there may yet be hope.

And on a side note, I'm not usually a baby person but the interaction between Kelden and Giles was fairly adorable, probably in large part because it was kept to the background.

As usual after reading an issue of Buffy Season 8, I'm left with a few answers and a ton of questions. Things were interesting before--now they're getting seriously compelling. And here begins the interminable wait until next month (and the next issue, "Retreat Part 3")...

Text Bites

Buffy: We need to learn how to suppress our magic.
Giles: Its become a liability.
Dawn: And it comes from demons.
Xander: It does!
Bayarmaa: I understand. No one likes you.
Dawn: Wait. Who's she?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Issue #27; art by Georges Jeanty and written by Jane Espenson. From Dark Horse Comics.

06 August 2009

Suck at TIFF

Just when you thought the Toronto International Film Festival was going to be all orphans and reincarnated communist revolutionaries, along comes a movie that's really going to suck. I mean that in the best way possible, of course.

Billed as a rock 'n' roll spoof, Suck is about a struggling rock band desperate for immortality and a record deal. Their wildest dreams start coming true when their bassist spends the night with the undead and returns with a makeover money can't buy. Soon the entire band is wallowing in fame (and infamy), living the dream. Until things start getting complicated, that is (including being stalked by legendary vampire hunter--and nyctophobic--Eddie Van Helsing).

And if that's not enough to convince you, check out the cast: Rob Stefaniuk, Jessica Paré, Dave Foley, Moby, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Alex Lifeson, Dimitri Coats, Carole Pope, Alice Cooper, Malcolm McDowell...

Yeah, I thought so.

Suck, written and directed by Rob Stefaniuk (Phil the Alien), premieres at TIFF Friday September 11, 2009. Varsity, 9:00 pm. Ticket info.

04 August 2009

The Lost Boys

Going back to another classic, The Lost Boys (1987) is the first vampire movie I ever saw--or at least, the first one I really remember--and definitely the first one I loved. I'm pretty sure it's also the source of my longstanding crush on Kiefer Sutherland (although the Jack Bauer years have more or less put an end to that). But enough about me.

Spoilers Ahead

The Lost Boys is a story about a mom and her sons moving back to her hometown ("The Murder Capital of the World," according to some disturbing grafitti) in order to start over after her divorce. Chaos soon ensues as the brothers discover there's more to Santa Carla than hippies, bikers, and rampant unemployment. Older brother Michael gets mixed up with the wrong (undead) crowd, and younger brother Sam enlists the help of a couple of wacky locals (the Frog brothers) who have dedicated themselves to eradicating the vampire menace. It all comes down to living long enough to kill the head vampire in order to save Michael and his fellow half-vampires, Star and Laddie.

This movie just seems to have come together perfectly. Whether by accident or luck or seriously good planning, I don't know (and I'm not sure it matters). The cast is great--the two Coreys (Haim as Sam and Feldman as Edgar Frog), Jamison Newlander (Alan Frog), Jason Patric (Michael), Dianne Wiest (Lucy/mom), Barnard Hughes (Grandpa), and, of course, Kiefer as David (I couldn't imagine anyone else in this role). Not to mention Alex Winter (Marko), Edward Herrmann (Max), and Chance Michael Corbitt (Laddie). Oh yeah, and Jami Gertz too (Star), although she was just so-so for me.

The chemistry between the characters, particularly between Sam and the Frog brothers was so very good. What happened to Corey Haim? He was great in this role and so damn expressive--his delivery was made of awesome (watch and you'll see what I mean). I guess turning into an egotistical ass will detract from your skills and charisma. Shame, that.

Grandpa is one of my favourite characters--and he gets the best line too (the one at the end). I'm also a big fan of Nanook (Sam's dog), and he's used to good effect, providing some of the best tension (I don't want to meet the person who doesn't get at least a little anxious at the thought of movie pets being harmed by the bad guys...)

The movie's also got some fine cinematography and sets, and a great soundtrack. The opening shot of the camera swooping over the ocean and into the carnival, where we catch our first glimpse of David is perfect, not least because of the music chosen (the chanting boys choir that's used throughout--love it). And major props have to be given to director Joel Schumacher and the writers (Janice Fischer, James Jeremias, and Jeffrey Boam) for breaking ground with The Lost Boys by making it the first movie to feature vampires as teenagers.

But what's the point of all that unless the vampires are worth watching?

Luckily, they're fantastic. First of all, I like that Schumacher et al didn't go over the top with the vamps. There's something to be said for subtlety (which, unfortunately, too many filmmakers have no clue about). You don't even see a full-out vampire (fangs, bumpy profiles, red-rimmed yellow eyes) until 1:01:30 into the movie. Nice. The vamps are also the perfect mix of human and monster (for me, anyway). Restrained David is just as good as brutal David (the beach scene, where he bites into the bald head of a victim and the blood shoots out--seriously, what's not to love?) The makeup is also really good, especially considering the year this was made. Again, something to be said for old-school skills and subtlety. And I don't know if the actors practiced talking with the fangs in, or if the fangs were particularly well made or what, but I was happy that there was no lisping among the vampires, which even the Buffy vamps are prone to.

I know everyone complains about the mullets, but for the most part I think they work. They were cool at the time (more or less) and now, well, you can't fault a vampire for being out of touch with contemporary fashion. But yes, the movie does look dated now. I guess it should just be viewed as a period piece.

The worst part of the entire movie is the "rocking" scene with shirtless, oiled-up sax guy (aka Timmy Capello). Ew. And gag. And to prove he's just as cheesy in real life, look up his MySpace page.

Cheesy musicians and bad hair aside, this is a great movie (and probably the high point of several careers). You'll probably never see it on any "Top 100 Movies Ever Made" lists, but it's definitely one of the best vampire films, ever. And that's all that really matters, isn't it?

Fang Files

Vamp appearance: Slightly bumpy features, prominent canines, red-rimmed yellow eyes

Powers: floating/hovering/flying, hypnotism, extreme smirking and hooliganism

Weaknesses: sunlight, fire, stakes, holy water, overconfidence

Mythology: Don't need to be invited in, but doing so renders you powerless against them. Half-vampires have drunk a vampire's blood but haven't killed anyone yet (once they kill they become full vampires). Killing the Master/Head vampire reverts all half-vampires back to human. They're heavy sleepers, but they can be woken and they're not completely helpless. They sleep upside down like bats, holding on with deformed, clawed feet. They have no reflection.

Sound Bites

Sam: Got a problem, guys?
Edgar Frog: Just scoping your civilian wardrobe.
Sam: Pretty cool, huh?
Alan Frog: For a fashion victim.

Sam: You're a creature of the night, Michael, just like out of a comic book. You're a vampire, Michael. My own brother, a goddamned shit-sucking vampire. You wait 'til mom finds out, buddy!

David: You'll never get old, and you'll never die. But you must feed!

David: I tried to make you immortal.
Michael: You tried to make me a killer!
David: (laughs) You are a killer.

The Blu-ray disc also comes with all kinds of bonus features, including: Inside the Vampires' Cave, Fresh Blood: A New Look at Vampires, Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannon, Haimster and Feldog: The Story of the 2 Coreys, the Vampires' Photo Gallery, A World of Vampires, and the music video for "Lost in the Shadows" by Lou Gramm.

A World of Vampires is a particularly cool bonus feature. It's an interactive map with a bit on vampire legends from around the world. I would have liked more detail, but what is there is interesting and, dare I say, educational. The accompanying artwork is also excellent. It's fascinating to see the similarities in vampire legends/mythology among diverse cultures, sometimes spanning the globe. There's also an interesting bit on the evolution of the Slavic vamp into our modern image of vampires. This is one of those features you want to see expanded and offered on disc in its own right.

Sound Bite

Eat garlic to foil the South American asema; garlic makes your blood bitter and therefore uninteresting to the vampire.