This month's vampire book club movie club selections were Carmilla, and Disney's Hocus Pocus.
I was asked how these two stories fit together to form a combo? Honestly, beyond being female vampires, I didn't really have a link. I know there were more than a few movie versions of Carmilla out there, but some of them were just too difficult to get copies of, others were soft core porn, so I opted for a different route and just went with the idea of a female vampire.
Book: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu - plot : When a young girl has an accident outside of an estate, her mother begs the owner to let the young woman stay for the next three months with him and his daughter Laura. The young Laura, who has never really had any friends, and knows only the servants of her house, is more than eager to take up the request. Before long, a young woman in the village fails ill and dies. Upon her funeral, when Laura begins singing a Christian hymn, Carmilla becomes angry informing her that not everyone is of that religion, nor does everyone find that kind of music enjoyable. Laura then begins to have dreams, which start causing her to question her new friend's nightly habits. Soon, more women in the village begin to become ill and die. At the same time, Laura's father gets a letter from his friend, imploring they meet him at the nearest castle ruins belonging to the family of Laura's mother. When they do, he tells them about the same series of incidents that befell his own daughter only three months before, causing her own death. Upon seeing Carmilla, the older man chases her away with an axe, claiming her the same fiend who brought the plague to his village, claiming she's secretly a vampire. Priests are then brought in to deal with her, freeing the area of the vampire that has haunted them for over a hundred and fifty years.
So the big theme here, and what the story gets noted for is the hinted at not so subtle lesbian theme. There are paragraphs where the lead character of Laura, talks about how she's kissed and embraced by Carmilla, saying that she is both comforted and repulsed by the actions. You also have the idea of erotic dreams, that the women are all giving accounts of. Each saying that they felt as if they were swimming in cold water with the current running against them, right before the dreams become night terrors. Both topics at the time of the book's release in 1872 (but first published as a series in 1871 in a monthly magazine penny-dreadful style) that were considered very taboo.
What I have always liked about this story, is the fact it brings in folklore. Such as the vampire needing to return to it's burial spot for so many hours a day, and that the vampire can be out in the day, just not at noon. And that it must have so much direct moonlight (a major theme in Polidori's short The Vampyre) within the 24 hour time frame. Carmilla also becomes a cat, which according to folklore, is one of the forms a witch may take when astral projecting. (which became the basis for the witches familiar as they were feared to take the lives of sleeping children). Astral projection was/is believed to be the real way physical vampires were able to move around, explaining why they didn't decompose and why their coffins would be found drenched in blood. As the astral self reconnected to the physical self, the blood could not be absorbed.
It also pulls from folklore that when you commit suicide you become a vampire after death. (another reason witches were burned at the stake so their souls would not have a body to return to after death)
We see the use of the anagram; as Carmilla is an anagram of Mircalla; which is another form of grounding the spirit to the original body, as it's believed that names have great power over demons.(and in this case used in much the same way Dracula uses the soil of his homeland)
I've always assumed that the reason Carmilla only feeds off of women, is because they are easier to get close to in that frame of history. It wasn't uncommon for a teenaged or unmarried woman of any age, to be left with friends or family for any length of time. We never see her even attempt to seduce the men, and I have always put that down to the fact society wouldn't have allowed a young woman to be alone with any man other than her own father.
One thing I've always hated about the story, is there is no explanation for the mother and servants that seem to always accompany Carmilla. Are we to believe they are another extension of her powers? It would explain why she refuses to remove her mask at the ball.
I have also always felt the reason she does not right away kill Laura, is because she is a descendant of the countess's family. We learn midway through the story, that Carmilla's family is connected to the area, and that Laura's mother a member of the Karnstein's. (movie version even go so far as to have Carmilla possessing the human doppelganger)
Movie: Disney's Hocus Pocus: plot- After taking the lives of the children in the village in order to live forever, three women are hanged. Seconds before their deaths, the oldest sister Winifred casts a curse stating that when the magickal black candle is lit, they will return on a Samhain night; and get their revenge on the village. Three hundred years later, a group of teenagers unintentionally activate the curse. With the help of an immortal cat, the teens manage to outsmart the three witches before they can suck the lives out of the town's kids.
Okay, I know at first glance people are like "Hocus Pocus is about witches not vampires." But take a second, think about it. What is the main purpose of the spell that the three witches are casting in the beginning of the movie...to steal the lives of children in order to live forever. And this is done the same way that any energy vampire would. By literally sucking the lifeforce/soul out of someone. Add to it that they come back from the dead, and you've got classic vampires here people. Before hollywood focused on the blood drinking aspect of vampirism, most folklore did focus on the energy draining, which ironically, was blamed on witchcraft as much as it was ghosts.
One of the things that is half way a throwback to vampiric folklore, is the fact they are resurrected on the same spot they were killed on. This can be tied to the idea that in some folklore, the vampire needs to be able to return to it's burial grounds.
Folklore also states that if you were a witch or werewolf in life, you automatically become a vampire in death. Other ways include a violent death, be it suicide or being murdered. In the case of this movie, the three sisters are lynched by an angry mob.
Like many vampire stories that focus on a female vampire, the use of seduction is heavily coated. In this case, the younger sister of Sarah, who is considered the "pretty one" lures away Winifred's boyfriend, which leads Winifred to take his life out of jealousy. He later returns from the dead as a zombie still caught under her spell to a point.This again, can be harkened back to the classic vampire image, of a master (think Dracula) and fledgling (think Lucy) or servant (think Renfield) who are left with a battle of wills for the fledgling's freedom. In this case of zombie Billy, who literally has no voice as Winifred sewed his mouth shut.
Sarah also the one who "seduces" the kids to begin with by singing. (Again I'm left to compare this with Dracula, given Lucy feeds off of young children/babies as do the three vampire brides. As well sirens are considered a type of vampiric creature, given their nature to kill and sometimes consume their human lovers)
A connection can be drawn too between the scene where the three sisters are hanging out with "Satan" to Dracula and his three brides. The offerings being in a more innocent way, of the chocolate than the infamous crying baby that Dracula secures for them. (and to the wife's disapproval which can be paralleled to Harker's complete horror of seeing them with the baby)
The three sisters, in typical movie fashion, are destroyed by sunlight. Their return from the dead, is limited to only being out at night, and because they fail to secure the lifeforce they need before the sunrises, they are turned to stone and explode. Much like the typical film versions of vampire stories we've come to expect, where sunlight is feared because the vampire will implode.
I find it ironic, that they in turn curse their enemy into being a cat; who ends up "protecting their house" from anyone who would try to light the magickal candle. As already mentioned, cats were considered either witches themselves or the spiritual protectors of witches.The character of Binx, is thus trapped between life and death in immortality, like any vampire victim in classical vamp mythology, being it folklore or hollywood.
That I think is enough from me this time around. I'm sure I'm forgetting a ton of stuff. I realize, I do not have the typical photo of the combo, but my copy of the book is part of a collection of horror stories, and the cover is just plain I didn't see the point in that.
Okay, so don't forget next month's selection is Let the Right One In. The book and movie. And I've decided to stretch the rule on the dvd part, anyone who wants to part take in Let the Right One In, can watch either the original Swedish movie, or the English remake Let Me In. I will be covering both so... but I'll be back later in the week with the official post for that.