Biting Nails

As a child I couldn’t help myself, and I bit my father on the leg. I don’t know why. Even then, I couldn’t explain it. I was old for it. At 6, I drew blood, and my father immediately gave me one, two, three blows on the thigh. We were in front of a window with no drapes, just one sheer layer of hard, acrylic lace. Heat thickened in the throat. It was summer in Mississippi. We were living with my grandmother, and this was my grandmother’s house, where my sister and I slept in the unfinished upstairs. Someone else was in the room, although I’m not sure who; I only remember being watched.


The floury taste of my father’s leg came back to me several months ago, after I had decided to start watching vampire films at night. For years, I’ve battled insomnia and I needed a new routine. Rules and structure, and I’ll be subdued, I hoped. Vampire films are one of the more aesthetic subgenres of horror, and I wanted to be lulled with pageantry.

Most of us learn about the classic vampiric traits as kids, from watching cartoons and trick-or-treating: a cape, fangs, dark under-eye circles, an aversion to garlic and light. In contemporary vampire movies, these conventions are often made explicit by a listing-of-the-rules scene, which is one of my favorite recurring tropes: the vampire comes onto the screen in order to tell us what she is or isn’t, what the lore got right, and what is laughably wrong. Stuart Townsend as Lestat, a vampire-cum-rockstar, is giddy to deliver his vain version in Queen of the Damned, an adaption of the third novel in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles; here, vampire identity need not be a secret.

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