Book Review: “How to Kill A Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film and Fiction” by Liisa Ladouceur

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  • Author: Liisa Ladouceur
  • Publisher: ECW Press
  • Page Count: 177

Book Review: “How to Kill A Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film and Fiction” by Liisa Ladouceur

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Ever since Stephanie Meyer introduced a whole new generation of love-lorn tweens to the figure of the vampire with her novel TWILIGHT in 2005, there has been a lot of discussion of the role of the vampire in our history and culture. Many disparaged the Twilight series for over-romanticizing the figure of the vampire (see countless internet memes), but where there is darkness there is also light. With series like TRUE BLOOD and VAMPIRE DIARIES (among others) also entering popular culture, there has been a renewed interest in vampires. In journalist Liisa Ladouceur’s new book, HOW TO KILL A VAMPIRE: FANGS IN FOLKLORE, FILM AND ACTION, she examines how ancients texts, histories, and classic fiction has influenced our view of the vampire.

While this book is neither a full historical account of the history of vampires nor an encyclopedia of our fanged friends (if you’re interested in something along those lines you should definitely check out Ladouceur’s previous book THE ENCYCLOPEDIA GOTHICA) it is a contextualized history of the vampire through their death and their means of dying. It’s a fascinating subject and Ladouceur sets up the dichotomy of killing something that is already dead beautifully throughout the book. She uses the lens of the destruction of a vampire to open up the discussion of how historical events have been reinterpreted or re-purposed through fiction and then once again rejigged in film or television.

HOW TO KILL A VAMPIRE is broken down into a cultural history of the vampire, different sociological beliefs on how to prevent vampire attacks and ward them off, weapons (how to use them and why), and in the final full section is a history of the vampire slayers in all their different forms. Most interestingly, Ladouceur tackles the notion of vampire suicide in a brief final section. She makes the clear point that through the cultural evolution of the vampire, their problems have become more intricate, turning them into tragic figures who are humanized and leading them to take their own lives. She examines the different methods and the ways different writers and directors have handled these final moments and what their significance is.

While Ladouceur’s book may not bring a whole lot of new information to the vampire discussion, she’s not intending to. What she offers the reader is a fascinating analysis of the figure of the vampire. She asks lots of questions and answers them through different histories and cultures. Each section is carefully researched, but contains equal amounts wit, wisdom, and understanding. It’s enough to make Van Helsing shed a tear for them. It’s also important to note that she gives credence to all the mediums that the vampire appears in and treats them equally. While we might not all love TWILIGHT, it’s important to note that a lot of people do and it may have even turned a few of them into horror fans.

It’s a beautifully written book full of information, humor, and analysis. Ladouceur writes with ease and intent, bringing together all different iterations of the vampire into a cohesive and comprehensive look at a figure that we still can’t escape.

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