There’s a new class at the University of New Mexico you can really sink your teeth into.
Adjunct Lecturer Teresa Cutler-Broyles was inspired to pass on her love for the mythological creatures and their role in film, after years of experience analyzing the vampire and other monsters in media.
“I watched The Hunger with David Bowie and Dracula with Frank Langella when I was young, and it dawned on me that more was going on in these movies than simply some normal world being invaded by a monster,” she said. “While I didn’t at the time quite understand all the implications or the details of that, I did begin to see that vampire films were about far more than what they showed on screen.”
Many years and an MA degree in Cultural Studies later, Cutler-Broyles proposed the class to the Department of Film & Digital Arts where she has been teaching since 2008, who heartily agreed to add it to the repertoire.
“I began to research not only the films I would show – there are hundreds to choose from, from around the world – but the ideas and concepts I would introduce, and the authors I would ask students to read. From there it was just a matter of putting it all together.”
Anyone can just sit around and watch some of these movies, so in this class, Cutler-Broyles ensures there are discussions and readings focused on theoretical concepts and historical contexts. After all, Nosferatu is going to have different messaging than Twilight.
“We explore those concepts in relation to that particular film or vampires in general – often having to do with historical context at the time the film was made and what might be going on beneath the surface,” Cutler-Broyles said.
It’s a wide array of cinema that students tackle over the course of the semester, from four versions of Dracula, to Interview with a Vampire, Let the Right One In, Blade and Underworld. On top of the over a dozen acclaimed movies, students also put down the popcorn for television versions–What We Do In The Shadows, True Blood, The Munsters and more.
“One of the great things about the format of the class is our follow-up discussions. We are not only watching films but students are being presented with new ideas in relation to them each week. Out of our (online) class of 250 students, 30-50 of them join in our optional discussions each week with their insights, interacting with each other in quite insightful ways,” said Cutler-Broyles. “Having this many students doing an assignment that they aren’t required to do is fantastic, and a testament to their interest in these ideas and in sharing them with others.“
Some of the titles on the syllabus aren’t well-known, like Ganja & Hess, which is something Cutler-Broyles appreciates.
“Introducing students to films they might never otherwise see, and presenting them with new concepts – both film and cultural theory – that relate to them is my favorite part,” she said. “Reading my students’ brilliant discussions of both those films and ideas is amazing, and every semester I am impressed by all of my film students’ insights and perspectives.”
This class not only allows fresh perspectives on timeless films, but is able to keep the media just as immortal as the vampires which star in them.
“I hope they end up with a list of new movies to watch and show to their friends, new ideas to explore, and a new appreciation for film monsters of all kinds, along with an understanding that monsters in film are more than simply scary creatures, but have a lot to do with us culturally,” Cutler-Broyles said.
Even if you can’t make the cut for the class, Cutler-Broyles encourages anyone to explore vampires as a genre and beyond. They are not just garlic-fearing, sparkling, attractive beings; the movies themselves explore so much more.
“It’s a misconception vampires are just another film monster and don’t really mean much more than that. In truth, there’s a lot more going on and they represent a whole host of things that people are afraid of,” she said.
As a teacher also in Cult Film, The Zombie Movie, Post-Apocalyptic Film and Architecture in Film, Cutler-Broyles is a testament to the fact that movies, no matter the gore or the possible bore, contain something more.
"Ultimately, vampire (and most) films are a reflection of what we are afraid of, what we value, and how we try to integrate ourselves into our world. Films show us who we are – and shape us as well,” she said. “To study them is to study ourselves, our history and our everyday world. Also, it’s plain fun to watch vampire movies – they scare us, they draw us in, and ultimately they entrance us, as all good movies do.”