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Let’s talk vampires, shall we? Arguably the greatest horror monsters of all time, vampires of late have been changed into something that true horror fans barely recognize. From being immortal whoremongers on “True Blood” to the idiocy known as “Twilight”, and back to “The Vampire Diaries” (I have no clue what that one is about), vampires have lost their symbolic literary bite. Allow me to explain.

When Bram Stoker released his classic vampire tale, “Dracula” in 1897, it was a watershed moment for the horror genre. Granted, it wasn’t as widely appreciated then as it is now, but even back in Victorian England literary critics knew “Dracula” was ahead of it’s time. It was terrifying in its day, a book loved and reviled due to the fear it conjured in it’s readers. It was empowering to women, yet menacing. Count Dracula was not a lovelorn prince mourning the loss of his beloved… he was a ravening beast, a force of evil that descended upon upper class society in their homes at will.

And for the majority of the 20th century, Dracula is portrayed as a monster. A killer. The darkest embodiment of our collective fears. That is, until 1979 when a new “Dracula” movie was released, featuring Frank Langela as the count. Granted, this film differs VASTLY from Stoker’s novel… characters have new roles/relationships, Dracula is viewed as a sympathetic being, etc. What this film did, however, was begin the notion of the charming vampire, the monster that would just as well wine you and dine ON you rather than stalk you from the shadows and drink your life away. People began to ‘sex up’ vampires, removing the ancient primal fears our European and Asian ancestors knew and exchanging that for quick money. Sex sells…. just look at movies like “Love at First Bite” (Jim Carrey’s first role, FYI), “Vamp”, “Waxwork”… even classics like “Lost Boys” and “Fright Night” use the element of sexual desire to make their vampires more accessible.

My question is why? Why did directors and writers feel the need to mess with a creature we have feared since the days before Christ? Why do we temper such a primal fear? Before we continue with Hollywood’s castration of the terrifying bloodsucker, let’s take a quick aside to mention of my favorite authors who I think did some wonderful things for the horror genre.

During the ’70’s, Anne Rice released “Interview with the Vampire”, thus beginning her famously popular “Vampire Chronicles” series. Rice’s vampires were sexed up to the tenth degree, however, they were also so far beyond the pale in that regard as to bring out depths of monstrosity and depravity that had not been seen in vampire literature or film until that point. Anne Rice makes her vampires even more evil and sinister by giving them such base and wanton desires. The sexuality used in her books was not meant to generate profits or recognition, I think. I believe their debauchery made her vampires far more erratic, scheming, and threatening. Thank you Anne Rice!

But back to the main point, ever since 1979’s Frank Langela film, Hollywood has been pushing the romantic vampire down horror fans’ throats. Then came “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” in 1992. While I do enjoy the movie, it is VASTLY different from the novel in many respects. Francis Ford Coppola turns a horror icon into a tragic love story… while entertaining, not faithful to the malevolence of the original tale. The worst thing that comes of this, however, is that Coppola’s film paves the way for the sparkly, Radiohead-listening emo pillowbiters that are called vampires these days. Without Coppola, it is safe to assume “Twilight” would have been dead on arrival, thus freeing the world of the ‘woe is me, life sucks’ comic duo that is Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Also… Bella Swan for a name? REALLY? Must have took all of 3 seconds of Italian class to come up with that one. Bleh.

What vampires need is a proper return to form in a film that is done both passionately and competently, with reverence for the source material and it’s history. While not the best movies, I applaud “30 Days of Night” and “Daybreakers” for helping restore of bit of menace and dread to the vampire mythos. That being said,  I can only wish that perhaps one day we will have a faithful “Dracula” film that appeals to us via our deepest fears as opposed to lustful fantasies.


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