Three Basic Tips For Writing Vampire-Themed Comedy

Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic (which will begin tomorrow evening). Since it will be a comedic vampire-themed comic, I thought that I’d talk about how to write this genre of comedy.

So, here are a few basic tips for writing vampire-themed comedy. This article will contain mild SPOILERS for my upcoming comic though.

1) Do your research: Generally speaking, the more things you see, play or read in the vampire genre, the better. If you’re familiar with the genre, then working out ways to parody and just generally have fun with it will become considerably easier. This will also help you to spot common themes in the genre and to see how different people interpret the genre, which can help you to find your own “take” on the genre.

I mean, one of the initial inspirations for my comic was the fact that I’d been going through a phase of replaying “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” almost obsessively a few weeks earlier. Although this game has a lot of mythology surrounding vampirism, it’s basically a game about a character who suddenly becomes a vampire and has to deal with the complex politics etc.. of vampire society (whilst also doing more typical computer game stuff too).

Although the game is a masterpiece, one thing that I felt that the game fell slightly short on was showing how the player character reacts emotionally to becoming a vampire. So, when making my Halloween comic, I thought that it would be funny to show characters reacting in wildly different ways when they discover that they’ve become vampires.

Plus, having at least a vague understanding of the genre allows you to include all sorts of small references and parodies too. For example, in one scene in my Halloween comic, a character refers to vampires as members of “the un-dead”. Although this phrasing might sound a bit strange, it’s actually a reference to one of Bram Stoker’s working titles for “Dracula”.

Likewise, look at other comedy horror genres too. For example, some great examples of how to make horror hilarious can be found in the zombie-comedy genre. So, don’t restrict yourself to just the vampire genre.

2) Practicality and rules: Simply put, one of the best ways to come up with vampire-themed comedy is just to think about the tropes and conventions of the genre in more practical ways. Needless to say, this can be a very useful source of slapstick comedy and/or farce.

In addition to this, try to play around with the “rules” of the genre too. After all, most things in the vampire genre either make a point of following or ignoring various “rules” (eg: related to garlic, sunlight, crosses, stakes, bats, blood etc..). So, a lot of comedy can be found by playing about with these rules – either proving or disproving them in amusing ways, or showing your characters discussing them.

Or, if you’re feeling bold, try to invent some new “rules” for the vampires in your story or comic to follow. Although this sort of thing tends to be done more often in the horror genre than in the comedy genre, it certainly has the potential for comedy.

3) Non-gothic vampires: Simply put, the vampire genre is often heavily associated with the goth subculture. Although this can be useful for goth-themed humour, it can also be amusing to try to link the vampire genre to other subcultures too or to show non-gothic vampires.

The heavy metal genre is a brilliant example of this. Although vampire-themed gothic rock songs are a lot more common, there’s certainly vampire-themed heavy metal out there. Some examples include songs like “We Drink Your Blood” by Powerwolf and “Love Bites” By Judas Priest.

Needless to say, heavy metal interpretations of the genre generally focus more on hedonism, gruesome horror, vampires as a type of monster etc..- in contrast to more atmospheric, philosophical and character-based gothic interpretations of the genre.

So, say, contrasting a gothic interpretation of the vampire genre with a more “heavy metal” interpretation of it can be a great source of comedy. In fact, contrasting a gothic interpretation of the genre with pretty much anything else can be a great source of comedy.

————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Today’s Art (7th October 2018)

Well, I was still in the mood for making gothic art when I made this digitally-edited drawing. The main inspirations for it were the fact that I’d been watching a documentary about the history of magic whilst drawing and that I’ve been replaying “Vampire: The Masquerade -Bloodlines” yet again.

As usual, this drawing is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Vampyre” By C. A. Brown

Review: “John Carpenter’s Vampires” (Film)

Back when I was a young teenager, I tried to watch as many horror movies as I could. Since I didn’t really look old enough to buy them on VHS/DVD and since I could hardly ever convince anyone to buy them on my behalf, I often just ended up recording them off of the TV with my VCR. Amongst many of the rebellious late-night horror movies that Channel 4 had to offer back then, there was a film called “John Carpenter’s Vampires”.

Needless to say, when I was in a bit of a nostalgic mood recently, I vaguely remembered this film. After a quick look online, I noticed that second-hand DVDs of it were going ridiculously cheaply on Amazon. And, since my VCR doesn’t work any more (and the tape with “Vampires” on it seems to be lost to the mists of time), I decided to get it on DVD.

So, let’s take another look at “John Carpenter’s Vampires”:

Seriously, this cover art is really cool 🙂

“John Carpenter’s Vampires” is an action/horror movie from 1998 (Wow! It’s 20 years old already!) starring James Woods, Daniel Baldwin and Sheryl Lee. As the title suggests, it is also directed by renowned horror director John Carpenter.

The film focuses on a group of rough, tough American vampire hunters, led by Jack Crow (Woods), who have been hired by the Catholic church to track down and kill the master vampire, Valek.

And, yes, they are that gloriously ’90s combination of “badass” and “silly”.

Initially, things seem to be going fairly well. After the hunters successfully battle a nest of vampires in New Mexico, they immediately rush to the nearest church to pray for… Ha! Only joking! In true ’90s action hero fashion, they travel to a nearby motel to have a wild party. However, as the party gets into full swing, an uninvited guest shows up….

You honestly weren’t going to have a decadent party without a vampire, were you?

After the ensuing bloodbath, only Jack Crow, his buddy Montoya (Baldwin) and a party guest called Katrina (Lee) manage to get out of the motel alive. Well, mostly.

Katrina has been bitten by Valek and is slowly turning into a vampire. Although Montoya wants to shoot her before she turns, Crow realises that she has a psychic link with Valek. A psychic link that will allow them to track down Valek and get their revenge…….

*sigh* If only the American government had invested in decent public transport for rural communities…

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it is probably more of a gritty action movie than a horror movie. However, this really isn’t a bad thing – since it seems to have a vaguely Robert Rodriguez-esque style, tone, setting and atmosphere. Although it was directed by John Carpenter, this film is at least vaguely reminiscent of some of Rodriguez’s greatest hits from the 90s (like “Desperado” and “From Dusk till Dawn).

In addition to this, this film is a vampire film from the 90s! This decade produced so many amazing things in the vampire genre, including films like “Bram Stoker’s Dracula“, “Blade“, “From Dusk till Dawn“, “Interview With The Vampire” and “Dracula: Dead And Loving It“, to novels like “Lost Souls” and TV series like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel“.

Back in the 90s, vampires weren’t sparkly romantics – they were usually either fearsome monsters or really handsome goth guys. In this film, the vampires mostly fall into the “fearsome monsters” category.

The only “Twilight” here is the time of the day when the vampires rise from their graves to feast upon the blood of the living.

Like with many vampire movies, this film has it’s own unique interpretation of the vampire genre too. Not only is the film’s main villain, Valek, given some backstory – but Crow and his team usually kill vampires by harpooning them with a crossbow bolt before dragging them out into the sunlight (where they burst into flames in the traditional fashion). Interestingly, the vampires in this film are also totally unaffected by things like garlic, crosses etc.. too .

Yes, these vampires are literally standing right next to a giant cross!

The film’s pacing is reasonably good too, alternating between blood-spattered action scenes and more suspenseful scenes. Likewise, the film’s lean 100 minute running time helps to ensure that the story moves along at a decent pace too.

The film’s writing is very much from the Quentin Tarantino-style school of writing too. But, although it lacks much of the wit that Tarantino’s films have, the dialogue here is suitably gritty and irreverent for a film of this type.

In terms of the characters, they’re reasonably good. Crow and Montoya are the kind of morally-ambiguous, rough characters who are only distinguishable from common criminals by the fact that they also fight vampires.

Katrina is something of an under-developed character though – and she spends a fair amount of the film having visions, trying to stop herself turning into a vampire and occasionally being treated roughly by Crow and Montoya.

Seriously, upon rewatching “Vampires” these days, I realised that I’d forgotten how misogynistic this old film can occasionally be. Although the vast majority of the film doesn’t really have this problem, there are at least a small number of scenes that will raise eyebrows. Still, given that Crow and Montoya are meant to be “unlikeable anti-heroes”, this might explain these elements of the film. Even so, a few moments of this film will be more “disturbingly dated” than anything else when seen these days.

Valek, on the other hand, is a really great villain. Not only does he have a suitably interesting backstory, but he’s able to be both menacingly sophisticated and fearsomely vicious.

Nooo! WHY won’t anyone join my Cradle Of Filth tribute band?!

The only real criticism I have of his character is that he really doesn’t turn up often enough. Still, given that he’s meant to be a mysteriously elusive villain, then his relatively few appearances probably add to the mystique.

Likewise, the Catholic priest who ends up joining Crow, Montoya and Katrina about a little under halfway through the film is a reasonably good character too. However, he does the usual silly Hollywood thing of suddenly turning from a slightly bookish archivist into a badass action hero within a relatively short amount of time.

Seriously, he goes from a nervous, nerdy guy who Crow dislikes so much that he actually violently bullies him at one point….

…. to being an expert member of the vampire-hunting team within the space of about a day or so!

The fight scenes in this film are fairly well-choreographed and the special effects are also suitably splatterific too. Since this film is from just before the time when CGI effects began to become common, all of the special effects here are good old practical effects – which helps to lend the horror-based scenes a bit more realism. Not only that, the film even manages to squeeze in a (somewhat unrealistic in context) badass explosion too:

And, yes, James Woods walks away from it in the classic action movie fashion too.

In terms of the lighting and set design, it’s reasonably good too. Although most of the film takes place in abandoned parts of rural New Mexico, these run-down buildings and deserts are sometimes enhanced by some really cool lighting, which occasionally seems to involve some kind of red filter being placed on the top of the camera lens.

Seriously, the lighting is really cool in some parts of this film.

Plus, there are some really cool contrasts between light and darkness.

Not to mention that this location reminded me a little bit of the old “Silent Hill” games too.

All in all, this is a really good action/horror movie. Not only is it another great example of why the 1990s were the golden decade of the vampire genre, but it’s also thrilling, suspenseful and dramatic too. Yes, the dialogue could have been slightly wittier in some parts, and the film is occasionally somewhat misogynistic, but – despite these faults – it’s a great example of how awesome the vampire genre used to be.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would maybe just about get a four.

Today’s Art (7th September 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the fifth (and penultimate) comic in my ‘back to basics’ “Damania Relaxation” webcomic mini series. If you missed the ‘old-school’ mini series (where every comic was self-contained), then you’re in luck!

If you want to catch up on other old-style mini series, or check out some of the more recent story-based ones, links to them all can be found here. You can also check out previous comics in this mini series here: One, Two, Three, Four

And, yes, this satire about the vampire genre is probably at least 6-8 years out of date. But, well, it seemed like a funny idea, so I decided to go with it.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Relaxation - Reactions" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Relaxation – Reactions” By C. A. Brown

“Stranger Than Truth” By C. A. Brown (Short Story #9 – Halloween 2016)

Stay tuned for the next short story tomorrow at 9:30pm GMT/UTC

Stay tuned for the next short story tomorrow at 9:30pm GMT/UTC

A lot of things look different to the movies in real life. Radioactive waste doesn’t glow green, fist fights are silent and vampires are neither sophisticated men in cloaks or misty-eyed romantics. No, the closest thing to a vampire you will see in real life is probably a serial killer. But, serial killers are easy to catch, vampires aren’t.

The trick, as Davies keeps telling me, is to look for a spike in suicides, drownings at sea or car accidents. After all, they’re three of the few situations where a body can be drained of blood without arousing too many suspicions. The grubbier vampires will also hang around mortuaries too. They never raid blood banks though. After all, they can only drink blood that comes directly from a body.

Crosses won’t protect you, wooden stakes may as well be toothpicks and they like sunbathing as much as anyone else. The only thing that can stop a vampire is a bullet to the head. Or, it would do if we were actually allowed to carry guns. But, our employers like to keep things quiet. After all, this isn’t America. You can’t just start blasting away in the middle of the street without it appearing in the national news. So, we get poison darts instead.

It had been a while since the last sighting. Despite speed cameras aplenty, the roads near an office in Berkshire had become more dangerous than that roundabout in Paris which insurers refuse to cover. Of course, knowing that there’s a vampire there isn’t the same as actually catching one. We couldn’t exactly drive in ourselves, without turning into food. Vampires are sneaky. This one especially.

He didn’t ram other cars with his own, he didn’t put down nail strips in the middle of the road and he certainly didn’t hitchhike. Investigators would pick up on things like that. No, he was the local farmer. He’d starve some of his livestock and then cajole them out into the road at the quieter times of night by throwing a carrot. The cars would swerve, hit a tree or two and then he’d drink.

We wouldn’t even have known if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d found an emaciated sheep beside the road, rabidly devouring a pigdeon. After that, it was up to Davies to do the analysis. He never worked in the same spot twice, but like crop rotation, he had a pattern. Once he figured it out, we snuck out with our dart guns and dealt with him.

Apart from stuff like this, the job is pretty sweet. You literally spend most of it just sitting around and doing nothing. There isn’t even an office, just our flats and the occasional meetings with the higher-ups in the room above the local hairdresser’s. It was policy not to ask who they worked for. Davies thought they were MI5 or NCA, but I suspected they were DEFRA. I mean, they didn’t exactly seem like the James Bond type, and most coppers retire in their fifties.

This time round, the higher-ups were getting agitated. There had been a three-week lull and, as much as we enjoyed the holiday, it just meant that the vampires were getting better at hiding the bodies. After all, it isn’t like they go on diets or anything. Popular theories were that they’d either gone on holiday or that they’d taken over another hospital. Stranger things have been known to happen.

We’d spent most of the meeting sitting around, drinking coffee and going over old reports. The computer guy thought that there had to be a larger pattern. Davies said that there couldn’t be a pattern, that we’d know already if there was one. The boss merely furrowed her brow and suggested looking at the hospitals again. I didn’t want to get between them.

Finally, the boss suggested calling it a night and getting dinner. Not even the computer guy could argue with a suggestion like that. We went down into the cellar and had a fantastic meal.

As Davies told me when we first met, the word “vampire” is actually an insult. A vampire is the kind of haematophage who gets greedy, who doesn’t follow the old laws. Who makes a scene. Who thinks that they’re better and smarter than the rest of us. Someone’s gotta deal with those people, after all…..

Review: “Ultraviolet” (TV Series)

2015 Artwork Ultraviolet TV show review sketch

Vampires! The 1990s! What else could I be talking about but “Ultraviolet” – the short lived Channel Four sci-fi/horror show (starring Idris Elba) that lasted for a mere six episodes before fading into oblivion.

Even though I’m something of a fan of the vampire genre, I surprisingly hadn’t even heard of “Ultraviolet” until a couple of months ago when I happened to find a fairly cheap second-hand copy of it on Amazon whilst browsing randomly.

But, is it as good as “Buffy”? Can it beat “Angel”? Is it even as good as the fantastic (and also short-lived) television spin-off of the “Blade” movies?

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that this review will contain some SPOILERS.

“Ultraviolet” is set in London in the late 1990s and it follows a secret government unit called CIB who is tasked with finding and killing vampires (or rather, those infected with a virus called “Code 5” that turns people into… well, vampires).

Although the vampires rarely pose a direct threat to humanity (eg: they don’t kill people when they drink their blood and that they are trying to create synthetic blood), CIB has reason to believe that they are conspiring to take over the world – and must be eradicated without mercy.

When a detective called Mike (played by Jack Davenport) is investigating both a mysterious murder case and the sudden disappearance of his best friend, CIB become interested in the case. And, by the end of the case, Mike reluctantly ends up joining them… although he isn’t quite sure whether he agrees with their methods or not.

One of the first things I will say about “Ultraviolet” is that you shouldn’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. Although the first couple of episodes are more like something from a detective or thriller series than a horror series, the show quickly gets much darker and creepier.

In fact, the fourth episode is probably one of the darkest and most disturbing things that I’ve seen in a TV show for quite a while.

Likewise, the third episode would have probably have never been made if the show had been produced in the US rather than the UK.

Despite it’s ultra-modern (for the time) sci-fi veneer, “Ultraviolet” is a surprisingly old-school horror series in many ways. Although “Ultraviolet” isn’t afraid to shock you with copious amounts of stage blood occasionally, most of the creepiness in this series comes from the writing, the atmosphere and the acting more than anything else. This isn’t a show that’s afraid to leave horrific things to your imagination or to leave moral questions murkily ambiguous.

Likewise, all of the main characters in this show are extremely realistic too and the acting is absolutely brilliant (if fairly understated). Seriously, if you’re expecting superhuman “Buffy”-like characters, then you’re going to be disappointed. In many ways, this series reminded me more of a slightly more badass version of “The Bill” than any of the American vampire TV shows or movies that I’ve seen.

Plus, one interesting thing about the show is that all of the members of CIB are emotionally affected by their job in a variety of different ways. Some of the characters have troubles in their personal lives, some of them are tempted to become vampires and some become slightly emotionally detached.

As for the vampires in the show, they aren’t really your typical Hollywood vampires. Yes, they burst into flames and explode when exposed to sunlight. Yes, they also have no reflections – but they also cannot appear in any form of recording, photograph or electronic communication either. This is a really innovative modern twist on the traditional vampire myth and it is used to great effect in the series (eg: vampires don’t appear on CCTV or ultrasound scans, they have to use voice synthesisers to make phone calls etc…).

Not only this, many of the vampires in the series are fairly well-developed characters too. Although being turned into a vampire tends to make people slightly more sociopathic than they were beforehand, some of the people who sought out the vampires in order to join them sometimes have very sympathetic reasons for doing so (eg: because they’ve got a terminal illness, because their loved ones were vampires etc..) and this sometimes raises questions about whether CIB are really the “good guys” that they claim to be.

Although “Ultraviolet” thankfully doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger (like most US shows do), it’s fairly clear that the makers of the show were expecting that it would continue for more than one series. Yes, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, the major sub-plot of the series isn’t exactly resolved completely by the end of the final episode….

All in all “Ultraviolet” is an intelligent, understated, thrilling and surprisingly “realistic” series that can actually be genuinely chilling on occasion. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a detective series that happens to feature vampires, it’s an old-school horror series first and foremost. And it’s absolutely brilliant.. and better than anything that Hollywood has to offer. I really wish that they’d made more than one series of it.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Today’s Art (30th September 2014)

Well, I started randomly sketching and, before I knew it, I suddenly found that I had a picture of a vampire cheerleader character in a retro 1990s American adventure game of some kind.

Since this picture will probably have already been on DeviantART for a while, I’ll provide the original lineart for it here as a blog exclusive.

As usual, these two pictures are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"90s Vampire Cheerleader" By C. A. Brown

“90s Vampire Cheerleader” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the original lineart:

"90s Vampire Cheerleader (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“90s Vampire Cheerleader (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown