Throughout the month of October the premium movie channel Starz has been airing their "Fear Fest." As one can guess from its name, it mainly consists of horror movies. As one must remember, Halloween is at the end of the month.
One of the other things that Fear Fest incorporates, though, is a brand new documentary entitled Bloodsucking Cinema that focuses on vampires throughout the course of cinematic history. The documentary airs as a part of Starz's Starz Inside series and is hosted by Richard Roeper.
Complete with talking heads speaking from critical, industry, and fan boy perspectives, the documentary, after a brief introduction, quickly heads back to F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu and the origins of the vampire movie. Rather than simply going through the evolution of the vampire movie from that time to this however, it jumps back and forth from modern era vampire films to the past and back again.
While this is an interesting way to tackle the topic -- most documentaries would simply trace the evolution on a simple timeline rather than jumping back and forth -- it becomes clear soon enough why Bloodsucking Cinema is structured in this fashion. The method of organization is necessary because the film's talking heads from the industry make up the vast majority of interviewees and they are all there, it seems, to plug their work. To put all these industry people at the back half of the documentary would make the last 30 or 40 minutes of the hour documentary one long commercial. Thus, they, and their films, must be interspersed throughout.
Even so, interesting relations are drawn from modern movies to ones from the past, such as From Dusk Till Dawn coming out of Mexican vampire movies. This sub-genre in turn came from the Spanish-language Dracula that filmed on the same set as Bela Lugosi's classic version when the Lugosi crew was at home for the night. It is in an interesting way to trace the lineage, and certainly seems valid, but it seems odd to have Cheech Marin do the heavy lifting. Cheech, while he has starred in a vampire flick, and is always great fun to watch, is not whom one thinks of when they contemplate vampire film experts.
Nor, for that matter, is Kristanna Loken, who appears to discuss her vampire movie, Bloodrayne (she is most often thought of as the Terminatrix from Terminator 3). Should a discussion of Loken's vampire picture be necessary, the director, Uwe Boll, may be a better choice to discuss the film. Happily, he is included in the documentary as well, but he makes Loken's presence unnecessary.
As no discussion of the vampire film would be complete without a look at the films that came out of Hammer Studios, Bloodsucking Cinema discusses them as well. As with all decades-old vampire films, less time is spent here than is deserved, but some choice moments are shown in detail, including Van Helsing's fighting off his own transformation by cauterizing a bite and pouring on holy water (Brides of Dracula).
Also present to talk about the genre are several special effects and makeup artists who go into some detail as to how they go about creating the look and feel of vampire films. They discuss where their influences come from and moments they admire, and are often more interesting than some of the directors who appear in the documentary.
In the end, while Bloodsucking Cinema does trace the history of the vampire film, it never quite goes into as much depth on the films of the past as it does the films of the present. Consequently, it often feels like little more than a promotion for recent vampire titles. Despite this shortcoming, and the fact that it means that the piece goes into little depth on older films, it does make some interesting connections and those starting to get interested in the genre would do well to begin their studies here.
Bloodsucking Cinema premieres on Starz Friday October 26 at 8pm (check your local listings anyway though, just in case).