Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Little Vampire Women

It's easy to guess that LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN (2010), adapted by Lynn Messina from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, followed in the wake of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (2009) and similar reimaginings of public domain works. (A few others published around the same period include LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS, JANE SLAYRE, and WUTHERING BITES.) LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN strikes me as more successfully transformative than PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES because of the former's greater consistency of tone. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES veers between genuine horror and moments of sheer silliness, while LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN mostly maintains the original's mix of light domestic problems and more serious tribulations along a smooth continuum with little or no jarring dissonance.

Most of the familiar incidents from Alcott's novel appear in Messina's adaptation, but they're rewritten in vampire-centered terms. The girls are much like their prototypes, aside from sleeping in coffins and drinking blood. The book begins with the unforgettable line, "Christmas won't be Christmas without any corpses." Not human corpses, however. The March family embraces the "humanitarian" way of life (or undeath), never feeding on non-consenting human donors. Impoverished compared to their former condition, although (like their models in the original) still able to maintain their home and pay Hannah, their faithful housekeeper, they live on blood purchased from the butcher shop. Small animals such as rodents comprise rare treats, and the girls envy their acquaintances who can afford luxuries such as live cows. Four orphaned sisters, they were "sired" by Mr. March when he and Marmee longed for children. After more than thirty years as vampires, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy still look, think, and behave like teenagers. The fact that they never age seems inconsistent with the statement that young vampires are considered mature at age fifty and expected to strike out into the world. If those turned as children or young teens never grow up, how can they live on their own? Also, an offhand remark that vampires have walked the earth long before the human species seems impossible if all vampires are transformed humans. Neither of these points, however, affects the plot.

The overarching conflict focuses on vampire slayers, who hunt the undead regardless of whether they're vicious or (as most are) benign. Jo aspires to join the ranks of defenders who protect vampires against slayers. Instead of writing stories, she compiles a notebook of combat techniques and facts about slayers. It's this book, rather than a novel manuscript, that Amy burns in a fit of rage. Aunt March, whom Jo grudgingly serves as a paid companion, is a paranoid old (400 years) lady who views all mortals as potential slayers like the one who decapitated her husband. Beth, like her classic counterpart, loves kittens, although her pets suffer rapid turnover. Amy and Meg try to emulate more prosperous, fashionable vampires, but Amy becomes a gifted artist as she matures, and Meg, as in the original, falls in love with Laurie's tutor, John Brooke. Jo, practicing the skills she's learning from Gentleman Jackson, a distinguished trainer of vampire defenders, suspects Brooke of being a slayer who deliberately infected Beth and their father with a disease fatal to vampires. Human neighbor Laurie wants to become a vampire but meanwhile enjoys his years as a college student. Professor Bhaer, Jo's eventual husband, is a 600-year-old Transylvanian, whose wisdom guides her in her slayer-fighting career.

Fans of LITTLE WOMEN whose interests also encompass vampires will probably find this adaptation entertaining.

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

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