Can Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter make the undead funny again?

Twilight can't be the last word on vampires.

Is anything ever finished any more? Do big-money producer types ever say to each other “You know what, I think the time travel/robot/alien* (*delete as applicable) thing is just about over now. Shall we go and find our next cash-cow to milk dry?”

All the evidence suggests that this isn’t the case. Just this week, the studio behind the Twilight films was forced to deny that a “reboot” was planned once the fifth and final film is released this autumn.

(If you read my colleague Alex Hern’s post about the seriously creepy “werewolf loves baby” storyline in the latest installment, you will understand why I now pause to allow for readers to shudder extensively.)

There’s nothing wrong with prequels, sequels and spin-offs per se. But the kind of conservatism that even considers pouring money into tired rehashes of already-lucrative series rather than fresh, original ideas, is worrying. Of course investors want guaranteed returns, but eventually cinemagoers stop forking out to see the same thing presented a very slightly different way. This is exactly why a “rebooted” Twilight franchise is such a terrible idea.

This is also why, when I first heard about it, I was cautiously optimistic about the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which opened in the UK this weekend. Scripted by the same guy who brought us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this is supposed to be a big screen mash-up that incorporates the current fascination with all things sexy and undead, but also has a bit of a plot and even something of a moral dimension (America’s 16th president wants to destroy slavery AND stake succubi).

The trailer is oh-so-promising:

Mark Kermode wasn’t overly impressed, but I still have high hopes for it.

Maybe this is the film that can put the humour back into our vampires. Long before there were undead sexy teens gazing longingly at each other, we had things like Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It and some of the finer moments of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As well as being terrifying, vampires are funny. We can’t let Twilight take that away from us.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

0800 7318496