Toby Whithouse on Vampires
The Being Human creator talked to us for the latest SFX Special and told us what bloodsuckers influenced him when he created the hit BBC Three series
Toby Whithouse: “My youth was spent watching VHS video tapes hired from the local video shop in Southend where I grew up. Me and my mum would go to the video shop on a Saturday afternoon and get a film for all of us to watch as a family on a Saturday evening and then I would be allowed to get a horror film for Sunday morning. So I was watching stuff like The Evil Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, all the zombie films, all these appalling 18-rated vampire horror films I should never have been allowed to watch as a 12-year-old sitting in a sun-lit living room. That was my horror apprenticeship.”
“I remember seeing endless Hammer horror films growing up, but how vampires were dealt with there was a bit camp. It was very tied in with female sexuality, and at the time female sexuality terrified me even more than vampirism so I probably shied away from it and carried on reading Spider-Man. To be fair, female sexuality still terrifies me, as it does every other man. I can say that definitively, there was a meeting. There’s a memo. You terrify us. Women, I am here to tell you, you terrify us.”
“A massive influence on me as a kid was the TV version of Salem’s Lot starring David Soul. My mum was also quite a horror fan so we’d stay up late and watch The Twilight Zone.
“We watched Salem’s Lot in the early ‘80s and it scared the shit out of us, and was very much a formative thing. I did read the book about 15 years later, and that was very good too, but David Soul… The man was terrifying, and it wasn’t just the ’80s hair.”
“A show I absolutely loved was Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet was a brilliant piece of television and a massive influence on Being Human. It was a courageous, exciting piece of television, and I wish it had run and run and run even if it would probably have put paid to Being Human. I would love to have written on that show. It was terrific, one of the most underrated shows of the last 20 years. You could see its ‘family tree’ of influences, yet it was totally original, and should have run for a dozen seasons.”
“I’m a huge fan of True Blood. It’s brilliant, but very different to Being Human. Theirs is much more of an ensemble show. Theirs is in a way about an official subset of humanity and how this subset will coexist with the rest of humanity. Ours is more about an anonymous pocket of the supernatural who are fighting to preserve humanity.
“I think the irony of Being Human is that our heroes are fighting to defend humanity whereas if humanity were to know about their existence humanity would ostracise them and probably lynch them.”
“I’m not a fan of Twilight but then again I’m a 40-year-old heterosexual. If I liked Twilight the producers have gone very wrong somewhere, it’s just not intended for me. Thankfully. Twilight is a franchise, above everything else. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastically successful one and for that it should be admired. But it’s no more about the genre than Justin Bieber is a serious songwriter. The mark of a successful genre piece is if it inspires the reader or viewer to explore the territory further. I could be wrong but I can’t imagine any Twilight fans running out to buy a copy of Let The Right One In, or watch Thirst. They’re more likely to buy a Robert Pattison calendar. And I’m sure tonight, as the makers lie down on a bed of money, they’ll really give a damn what I think.”
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“It’s one of the great myths about me. I have never in my life watched an episode of Buffy or Angel. Not in terms of hating it, I just never got round to it. I’d love to see them. Everyone says they’re great. I’ve not seen Firefly either, I saw the film but never the series. Don’t look at me like that.”
Let The Right One In
“Let The Right One In is the benchmark by which all vampire books and films will be judged. What I loved about it was that it made the subject matter so unsexy. Rather than a troubled soul with cleavage or high cheekbones, the vampire was feral and craven. The approach was utterly realistic and that’s what made it so chilling. The supernatural was reduced to something desperate and domestic. It was an absolute masterpiece.”
This is an exclusive extract from our new special. Read lots more from Toby in the issue itself! And learn more about what you can find in the latest SFX Vampire Special.