In the course of researching my novel, among the many vampire-genre movies I’ve ingested are the surrealistic, illusory, abstract vampire films by French film director Jean Rollin.
These films are quintessential “love it or hate it”, “you’ll get it or you won’t” works of the genre. No vampires machine-gunning werewolves or poolside dismemberments here, Rollin’s films dwell in their protagonists’ phantasmagorical state of existence.
In other words, Rollin’s vampire movies are pure Art House films.
Within this genre’s cerebral
coffins confines ;), directors such as Rollin are free to explore concepts about vampires that have not been flogged to death by Hollywood.
In his 1997 film Two Orphan Vampires, the adolescent female protagonists are blind. In and of itself, this is original. Too few creators of work explore the unique possibilities offered by a differently-abled vampire character. Taken to the extreme, this concept leads to Azathoth, the “blind idiot god” of the Cthulhu Mythos, or the comedic “Fool” archetype personified by Inspector Clouseau. My character J is a more realistic take on this “super-abled while differently-abled” trope.
Rollin’s orphan vampire girls are not completely blind, however. Thus, the possibility of breaking new ground with fully-blind vampire characters remains on the radar of creative types. 😀
Jean Rollin chose instead to have his vampire orphan girls blind only during daylight hours. 💡 They have full night vision. Due to budget constraints, the vampires’ night view is represented via blue lens filter (just as Razor Blade Smile did a year later).
Vampires with night vision only. A simply brilliant idea that provides a perfectly sensible explanation for the pervasive “vampires only come out at night” folklore. This also passes scientific scrutiny, because many real-life nocturnal animals have vision optimized for darkness.
The “slap-your-forehead” moment of realization: Of course vampires wouldn’t want to go out in daytime if they were blind from sunrise to sunset. Rollin’s vampire girls do brave the daytime, guiding their paths by the taps from their white canes. Blindness is their only apparent daytime handicap, they are even shown biting with fangs in daylight. The female werewolf they meet in the rail yard was kind enough to hang out with the two orphan vampire girls until nightfall so they could get the chance to see her (how convenient!). 😉
My vampires are better off than Rollin’s orphans. My vampires’ eyes have pupils and a tapetum lucidum that expand and retract along with their fangs. When their fangs extend, their black pupils expand to fill the eye’s entire iris and the inner tapetum lucidium unfolds. When the fangs retract, the tapetum folds up and the pupils return to normal size. Thus, if my vampires were to extend their fangs in bright sunlight conditions (without very dark sunglasses or some such), they would be blinded by glare until they retracted their fangs. Retracting eye features allow my vampires to have normal daytime vision, while honoring the world’s “night” folklore by (generally) limiting their fang extension to low-light conditions.
As much as people love to criticize Stephenie Meyer’s vampires for having red eyes, do note that your digital camera has a “red-eye” reduction feature. Meaning that all normal humans have “red eyes” in bright camera flash conditions, and it’s quite possible that the changes in the eyes of Meyer’s vampires simply enhance the red tint already existent in normal human eyes to the point where it can be seen in normal light, not just during a camera flash. The yellow-gold eyes of her “vegetarian” vampires would have to be explained some other way, but keep in mind the tapetum lucidiums on many animals have a yellow-gold color when they reflect bright light aimed in their direction at night.
Another nice touch of originality in Rollin’s movie is that the orphan girls were previously (or, semi-spoiler, consider themselves as having been) Aztec goddesses who reveled in the rivers of blood being shed on their behalf. Aztec priests cutting hearts out of live victims and feeding them to their vampire goddesses, now there’s a great story waiting to be told. Imagine “Apocalypto” with vampires. 😈
So there you have it, my fellow story tellers. The seeds of two great story ideas (fully blind vampires, Aztec vampire gods/goddesses), culled from a single exercise of Jean Rollin’s cerebral film craft. Just another example of the creative dividends paid by straying far from the beaten path.