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October 24, 2009

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Vampires bite into audience share in new season's movies

VAMPIRES have been an eternal force in Hollywood horror since silent movies, yet they have risen to new heights as the "Twilight" franchise, TV's "True Blood" and other incarnations put the bite on viewers.

In studio films, independent and foreign-language films and small-screen series, there are more bloodsuckers today than you can shake a wooden stake at. With so many vampires afoot, will Hollywood's favorite night creatures lose their flavor with fans?

"Will there be a vampire glut? Will the vampire market crash? I don't know," said Chris Weitz, director of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" due to be released next month as part two in the movie series based on Stephenie Meyer's vampire-romance novels. "It's kind of the only growth industry in America, that I can tell."

So many of Dracula's brethren are being sired nowadays that Weitz and his director brother have competing vampire films out this fall.

Paul Weitz's "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" was due to open yesterday, with John C. Reilly as a centuries-old bloodsucker in a traveling freak show.

While vampires have a strong pulse in Hollywood, some expect the genre could bleed out from overexposure.

"Sometimes there are trends with audiences and with film studios, TV stations, and they go wild, and they run like lemmings in one direction until they go over the cliff," said Werner Herzog, who directed 1979's "Nosferatu the Vampyre."

"The genre of vampire films in its darkness and in its nightmarish aspect is a genre that will be forever, but sometimes you have an overload, an overkill, and when the heap gets too, too big, everybody starts to turn away," said Herzog.

However, "Cirque du Freak" star John C. Reilly begs to differ. "The truth is, you can't have too many vampire movies, just like you can't have too many zombie movies. Each movie is capable of being allegories for different things.

"Ours is this whole other universe for vampires that have nothing to do with Dracula or good-looking teenagers making out. It's this crazy underworld that exists, more like 'Harry Potter' than 'Twilight,' because the regular human world doesn't even know they're there."

Vampires benefit from modern fans' hunger for fantastic stories. Otherworldly tales once were aimed mostly at specialized horror, science-fiction or fantasy audiences.

But today movie fans love out-of-this-world stories ranging from "Harry Potter" and "The Lord of the Rings" to the latest adventures of Batman or the X-Men.

"What's particular about them now is it's coinciding with the optimum market for TV and film. It's that young market, it's kind of the 'Dawson's Creek' thing," said Michael Sheen, who co-stars as the vampire Aro in the "Twilight" sequel.


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