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 web editor of the New Statesman.

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The Bloody Mary is dead: all hail the Bloody Caesar

This Canadian version of an old standard is a good substitute for dinner.

It is not anti-Catholic bias that makes me dislike the Bloody Mary, that lumpish combination of tomato juice and vodka named after a 16th-century English queen who, despite the immense reach of her royal powers, found burning Protestants alive the most effective display of majesty.

My prejudice is against its contents: the pulverised tomatoes that look like run-off from a Tudor torture chamber. A whole tomato is a source of joy and, occasionally, wonder (I remember learning that the Farsi for tomato is gojeh farangi, which translates literally as “foreign plum”) – and I am as fond of pizza as anyone. Most accessories to the Bloody Mary are fine with me: Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery, black pepper, even sherry or oysters. But generally I share the curmudgeon Bernard DeVoto’s mistrust of fruit juice in my spirits: “all pestilential, all gangrenous, all vile” was the great man’s verdict. His main objection was sweetness but I will include the admittedly savoury tomato in my ban. At the cocktail hour, I have been known to crave all kinds of odd concoctions but none has included pulp.

To many, the whole point of a Bloody Mary is that you don’t wait until the cocktail hour. This seems to entail a certain shying away from unpleasant realities. I know perfectly well the reaction I would get if I were to ask for a grilled tomato and a chilled Martini at brunch: my friends would start likening me to F Scott Fitzgerald and they wouldn’t be referring to my writing talent. Despite its remarkably similar contents, a Bloody Mary is a perfectly acceptable midday, middle-class beverage. If the original Mary were here to witness such hypocrisy, she would surely tut and reach for her firelighters.

Yet, like the good Catholic I certainly am not, I must confess, for I have seen the error of my ways. In July, on Vancouver Island, I tried a Bloody Caesar – Canada’s spirited response to England’s favourite breakfast tipple (“I’ll see your Tudor queen, you bunch of retrograde royalists, and raise you a Roman emperor”). The main difference is a weird yet oddly palatable concoction called Clamato: tomato juice thinned and refined by clam juice. Replace your standard slop with this stuff, which has all the tang of tomato yet flows like a veritable Niagara, and you will have a drink far stranger yet more delicious than the traditional version.

Apparently, the Caesar was invented by an Italian restaurateur in Calgary, Alberta, who wanted a liquid version of his favourite dish from the old country: spaghetti alle vongole in rosso (clam and tomato spaghetti). He got it – and, more importantly, the rest of us got something we can drink not at breakfast but instead of dinner. Find a really interesting garnish – pickled bull kelp or spicy pickled celery, say – and you can even claim to have eaten your greens.

I’m sure that dedicated fans of the Bloody Mary will consider this entire column heretical, which seems appropriate: that’s the side I was born on, being Jewish, and I like to hope I wouldn’t switch even under extreme forms of persuasion. But this cocktail is in any case a broad church: few cocktails come in so many different incarnations.

The original was invented, according to him, by Fernand Petiot, who was a French barman in New York during Prohibition (and so must have known a thing or two about hypocrisy). It includes lemon juice and a “layer” of Worcestershire sauce and the tomato juice is strained; it may also actually have been named after a barmaid.

All of which proves only that dogma has no place at the bar. Variety is the spice of life, which makes it ironic that the world’s spiciest cocktail bestows a frivolous immortality on a woman who believed all choice to be the work of the devil.

Next week John Burnside on nature

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 08 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin vs Isis