Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vampires Bite – Dracula

Over at one of my favorite DVD review sites (DVD Verdict), there is a particular reviewer who enjoys horror films. He gets to review quite a few, but lately he’s been lamenting the sad vampire flicks he’s had to watch.

Over at Reelviews, one of my favorite movie reviewers did a whole blog about the pathetic state of vampire films and how the mighty Dracula has fallen.

I even ran into a coworker who was disgusted with vampire movies, manga and anime. He recommended a good anime series where vampires “actually acted like creatures from hell”.

It seems like there is some kind of problem with the current state of vampires in fiction. Some of it comes from over-exposure. As the reviewer at DVD Verdict is quick to point out, nearly one out of every five horror films he ends up reviewing is a vampire flick (of course 3 out of the five end up being zombie flicks, but that can be another blog). You see enough of these movies and after a while they all end up feeling the same.

Then there is the whole Anne Rice issue. She took vampires and turned them into tortured souls who yearn for something greater than what they are. She fused Romance novel sensibilities into a gothic horror and created a genre unto itself: and it’s successful. I know lots of people who enjoy Rice’s work and the work of others who have fallen in line with her creation (the Twilight books being the most recent reincarnation).

Hell, I admit that one of my favorite shows, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” had it’s share of romantic vampires, but there was a good balance of real monsters and vampires that would sooner tear your throat out before they even start spouting philosophy. So I think you can say that Buffy at least covered all it’s bases.

At its core, the vampire myth is a horror cornerstone. You have a creature that appears to be human and yet it must drain the life out of a living human to survive. This fuses the vampire into a strange beast/human hybrid, one that must kill to survive. Keep in mind, this is a basic description and you can apply it to monsters that aren’t strictly vampires (at least in the standard gothic book of monsters). You can have something like the Wendigo that drains the soul of a human, leaving on a shell behind. Or something like the salt drainer from the Original series of Star Trek.

The element that makes the vampire appealing is that fusion of beast and human. It’s easy to see how this mix can be turned into something romantic or erotic. You have a human that must kill to live, and yet it’s so human-like, it could be appealing. The lure of danger is strong.

Did the most famous of vampires, Dracula, have this uncanny draw for women? Unfortunately I don’t have the book handy. As far as I remember, it’s never specifically stated. Dracula is deadly, hungry and clever. He bides his time, manipulating others and sneaking around. Sure he ends up claiming poor Lucy, and turning her into a creature of the night, but as far as I recall, he never gets romantic with her. It’s more the horror of draining her slowly and then killing her off.

When Coppola made his version of the story in 1992, he strove to keep the story close the original book, and succeeded in parts. But in the end, even he injected more romance into the story, creating a Beauty and the Beast version of the tale. I actually enjoy the movie a great deal (wonderful visuals, an awesome score and arresting sound effects), I just wish the casting had been a bit better. I actually would love to see the film as a silent movie, with title cards or subtitles instead of the spoken dialogue and the rich score guiding the story.

Back to the issue at hand - do people want actual fictional vampires to be scary any more? Has the vampire gone from being a monster and been transformed into a bad boy/girl with severe anemia? Or is there another answer. Has the vampire just become a very versatile character – one that can be used in a variety of situations and appeal to a variety of audiences?

Either way, I find it difficult to even think of writing a story including a vampire character. Is there anything that hasn’t been done with the bloodsucker? And if not, does it even matter?

What do you think of vampires in current fiction? Have you seen a resent vampire story that didn’t feel like the same old story? Why do you think people are drawn to this creature?

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