Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Gorey Celebration!

Okay, I have a special soft spot for Edward Gorey's birthday (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000) because February 22 also happens to be my son's birthday, although, I'm having trouble believing that my "baby" turns 17 today.

It's kind of a no-brainer that I'd love Edward Gorey's wonderfully macabre illustrations, especially his Dracula artwork, but I'm also quite charmed by the quirky eccentricities of the artist himself. Apparently he was a ballet, literature, and film devotee, but what I find particularly endearing about him was his love of cats (I guess he'd be called a "Crazy Cat Gentleman"), and dark genre television. I've read that he was a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman: The Animated Series, and The X-Files and I can't help getting a kick out of knowing that he watched the same sort of TV shows that I do.

As I'm a maker of dolls, another little fact that I find fabulous about Edward Gorey is that he made stuffed cloth creations too. By all accounts, he drafted his own patterns and then sewed and stuffed the dolls while watching (dark genre) TV in the evenings. Definitely worthy of a wee squeal of delight! ;)

The photos of Edward Gorey's fantastical creatures are via Goreyana blog, where you can read lots more about the handmade dolls and the man himself.

It would seem that lots of awesome boys were born on February 22 because it's also actor Dwight Frye's birthday (February 22, 1899 – November 7, 1943). Dwight Frye made appearances in a number of classic horror films, but it's his performance as Renfield in Dracula (1931), starring Bela Lugosi, that is the standout for me. The scene where Renfield creeps across the floor towards an unconscious woman is, in my opinion, the most chilling moment in the entire movie.

Happy Birthday, Edward, Dwight, and of course, my James! ❤

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Little Moonlight for the Vampire's Day Soiree

Welcome to the Vampire's Day Soiree and thank you to our fangtastic hostess, Holly B. Strange from Holly's Horrorland, for hosting this bloody delightful event.

My contribution to the evening's amusements is a little look at the ill-fated television series, Moonlight, which premiered in 2007. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, I was initially pretty reticent about a show with the decidedly familiar premise of a self-loathing vampire working as a private detective in Los Angeles, but its entertaining escapism completely won me over. Sadly, in spite of a devoted fan base, CBS cancelled the show after one season, but I, and no doubt many others, continue to enjoy re-watching it on DVD. The following may contain some spoilers, but if you haven't seen the show, I've tried to avoid giving too much away.

The Moonlight backstory involves a 30 year old Mick St. John falling for the charms of a femme fatale, Coraline, back in the fifties. Unbeknownst to Mick, Coraline is a vampire, and on their wedding night, she turns Mick against his will. Repulsed by the idea he is now a "monster", but still drawn to his wife, Mick continues an on-again-off-again, tempestuous relationship with her for many years, until Coraline kidnaps a four year old child, Beth Turner, in an attempt to create a little instant family with Mick. After a brutal fight, Mick rescues the little girl and leaves Coraline to die in a burning building... or so he thinks.

All grown up, Beth crosses paths with Mick again 23 years later when he, a PI, and she a reporter, end up both investigating a case involving vampire-style serial killings. Naturally, they've instantly got the hots for each other, but also naturally, there are plenty of complications, not the least of which is Beth's boyfriend in the district attorney's office, and the return of Mick's not-so-dead, undead wife.

So what exactly do I love about Moonlight ?

The Vampire Look
I completely dig the vampire makeup effects in Moonlight. They got exactly the right balance between creepy and cool. The look is sinister and corpse-like with the cloudy irises, pale skin, and a slight look of decay, but not completely grotesque. And the teeth! I could write an entire post just on my obsession with vampire fangs. The Moonlight fangs are perfect, needle-sharp canines, just the way I like 'em! ;)

Dark Glamour
Set in a modern, urban context, Moonlight still manages to carry on a grand tradition of depicting vampires as the aristocracy of the monster world. The show's main vampires - Mick, Josef and Coraline - are all examples of dark, upscale elegance and style. Joseph is a filthy rich business man living a luxurious existence, and even Mick, with the more modest occupation of private investigator, has a very high-end apartment/office at the top of a towering, gargoyled building in Los Angeles.

Moonlight created and maintained a strong vampire mythology that was in part unique and in part borrowed from more traditional conventions.

  • Wooden stakes paralyze, making the vampire appear dead, but removal of the stake means they are good to go again, whereas decapitation or fire kills them.
  • Silver is toxic to vamps, and excessive exposure can kill them. They were once unable to be photographed because of the silver emulsion in film, but digital photography changed that.
  • Sunlight will eventually kill them too, although they don't burst into flames at the touch of the sun's rays. 
  • There are no issues with garlic, crucifixes, and mirrors.
  • It is explained that vampire bodies are in an extremely slow and protracted process of decay, and to delay this further, they sleep in freezers.
  • One means of obtaining human blood is via morgue workers who siphon off and sell the blood of corpses.
  • The vampire community has rules designed to protect its secrecy. Any vampire deliberately attempting to 'out' others in the community is considered a threat and is dealt with swiftly and without mercy.
  • There is a thriving subculture of  humans referred to by the vamps as "freshies". They are willing to provide blood for either profit, perks, or simply for pleasure. Wealthy Josef surrounds himself with beautiful groupies who are more than happy to let him tap a vein when the mood strikes him in exchange for enjoying the fringe benefits of his lavish lifestyle.
The immortal nature of a vampire gives plenty of opportunity for historical flashbacks in vampire stories, and Moonlight took advantage of this. We saw glimpses of Mick in the 1950s and serving as a medic in World War 2. Also, much like Sleepy Hollow is doing now, Moonlight wove real historical events into its own mythology. In flashbacks to Coraline as a courtesan in early 18th century France, we learn that in the Moonlight universe, the French Revolution was in reality a mass vampire purge, hence the use of the guillotine for decapitation. The French aristocracy was apparently riddled with vampirism, taking the concept of a parasitic nobility to its ultimate conclusion.

Coraline and Josef
In a nutshell, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon) is the character you love to hate. She is a beautiful, smug bitch, thereby perfectly serving the purpose of making it blissfully easy to be on Team Beth.

Josef (played by the adorable Jason Dohring) is Mick's 400 year old best friend, and is an utter delight as the show's lovable rogue. Unlike Mick, Josef relishes his vampiric existence. He's shallow and self-centred, but equally, he'll do absolutely anything to help Mick. He uses hilariously arrogant gestures like snapping his fingers to signal his employees to leave a room, and he delivers some of the show's best lines.
Mick:  So, are  we gonna find your designers at the bottom of the tar pits?
Josef: Mick, please, I don't have the energy to kill everyone who pisses me off... I have to hire some people.

Josef: [to Mick] Hey, you have a soft spot for the mortal ones. A fascination with all the charming things they do while listening to the tick tick tick of their own looming demise. That's fine, that's good. Everyone needs a hobby.

Beth: This is great, I feel like I'm back at my High School Prom.
Josef: You know Prom wasn't really big back in the 1700s. High School either. The Plague... The Plague was big.
The Soundtrack
As with shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, Moonlight uses numerous songs in each episode to convey mood. I love a good TV/movie soundtrack!

Tongue in Cheek Humour
You can't really escape a certain amount of cheesiness and melodrama in a story that deals with a paranormal romance, but Moonlight provided plenty of cheeky quips to prevent the show ever taking itself too seriously.
Beth: I can't believe this double standard. I had to  spend two hours getting myself up to club admissionability, and you're just wearing the same thing you always wear.

Mick: Yes, well, perpetual coolness is the vampire's curse.
Mick and Beth
And last but not least, there are Mick and Beth, played by Australian actor, Alex O'Loughlin, and English actress, Sophia Myles, respectively. Adopting American accents for their roles, they had a natural charm and chemistry that was completely endearing.

I'd like to thank you so much for joining me for the Vampire's Day Soiree and if you would care to mingle with the other guests, just stroll on over to Holly's Horrorland.