Horrible histories? Vampire television, period drama and spectacle

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Vampires are essentially immortal and thus, while contemporary vampire television series are generally set in the present, the epic scale of a vampire’s existence affords vast potential for period drama via flashback. This paper examines the different ways vampire TV has accessed the spectacle of period drama, presenting an alternative version of its usual televisual self, and playing with a different set of genre conventions. Period flashbacks are designed to provide novelty and spectacle, and also afford the pleasure of seeing a different version of a well-known character appearing in a new context. Yet, this article argues that contemporary vampire television series, exemplified by Angel, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and Being Human, tie this new perspective to recurring characters and ongoing thematic preoccupations, balancing novelty and the epic sweep of historical period with the familiarity and repetition characteristic of serial drama on television. Thus, vampire TV shows integrate elements and conventions of period drama but use them, sometimes subverting and disrupting them, to feed ongoing development of narrative, characters, themes and aesthetics common to many vampire representations. This article identifies and examines similarities between vampire television and period drama, and the ways in which the combination of two sets of televisual conventions both mesh harmoniously and produce interesting tensions in the former.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-328
JournalHorror Studies
Issue number2
Early online date1 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2017


  • Flashback
  • gender
  • period drama
  • spectacle
  • television
  • vampires


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