Where have all the real vampires gone?

So far, I have kept out of the whole Twilight-bashing thing, mainly because others are doing a much better job of it than I could ever do, but a piece in today’s Guardian by Charlie Brooker has prompted me to join the fray. So please excuse me for stating the obvious here and very possibly preaching to the converted.

I am all for writers and film-makers exploring and reinventing characters in order to make them fresh and bring the punters in. But with Twilight, the latest attempt at repackaging a horror staple, the essential elemental aspect of the vampire, in particular, has been completely stripped out, so rendering him emasculated, desexualised and, most pityingly of all, defanged. These are the very qualities that have made Stoker’s creation so enduring, even 113 years after his novel was first published. Okay, so I get that the books and films are aimed at a teen market, and to a certain extent they do need to be watered down slightly, but even when I was a child I watched some of the darker iterations of the Count and just loved the horrific thrill. I also bought (and made) the Aurora Dracula model kit of the monster (anyone remember those? I think I must have collected and assembled the whole series…), such was the hold he had on me.

With Twilight, what we get is the shoe-gazing, angst-ridden, blood-subsitute-sucking emo whiny teen – made infinitely worse by the fact of their immortality, so they’ll ALWAYS  be the shoe-gazing, angst-ridden, blood-subsitute-sucking emo whiny teen. Bram Stoker, if he were alive today, wouldn’t even recognise his own creation.  They’re vampires in name only, not in deed. And whilst I am loath to dismiss anything out of hand simply because everybody else is, this time time I feel that the steady romanticisation of the vampire begun by Anne Rice has reached a new low. Where is the truly malign epitome of pure evil that the vampire represented gone? Where is the predator with his contempt for all mankind, whose only care in unlife was to satisfy his needs and lusts?

It seems that, for the time being at least, he’s gone on holiday and left a woefully and inadequately prepared trainee to mind the shop.  A trainee, moreover, who will piss and shit his pants when his master comes back and finds out what he’s done in his absence.  A horror-lite creation that appeals to all those who would love to like horror films but can’t bring themselves to watch them. While blood and gore are not essential to horror films, and indeed are often better if implication and suggestion are used instead of mere viscerality, it’s the very nastiness and malignity of the vampire that provides the thrills, NOT the fact that he sucks people’s blood.

That was what locked into people’s psyches when Stoker published Dracula in 1897. Yes, I realise that sensibilities have changed enormously over the ensuing period and that the ever-evolving media reflects those changes, but even so, given the relentless pace of technology and social change, one would have thought that the vampire would have been even more isolated from the world and grown even more contemptuous of the little ants surrounding him. Instead, what we have is a sparkly, fairy-dust creature who probably needs to see a therapist because he doesn’t want to kill humans. He has, in, fact, been turned into a ‘good’ vampire.

And, in all honesty, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. While Stephenie Meyer’s creation is obviously raking in a lot of money, both for her and the film-makers, it’s also pissed off a lot of others because of the liberties she’s taken with the whole mythology of the creature and his raison d’etre. It’s like she’s taken the poor thing to the vet’s and had its balls chopped off. No wonder it’s become a pitiful, whiny animal.

What I want to see is a return to, in the cinema at least and in the ‘popular’ literature, is that hellish, snarling, dismissive creature of the night that attracted me to watch the films when I was younger and sent delicious thrills up and down my spine. I’ve watched the first Twilight film and, even given that I don’t fit the demographic it’s aimed at, I was horrified at what those responsible for it had done. Like I said above, there’s nothing wrong with creating reimaginings of what’s gone before – but I think the trick is to come up with something new whilst retaining the essential elements that have made it into such a powerful icon.

I hope that one day we will see the return of the beast, the one who really thinks that humans are nothing more than food and toys to be played with. I would like to see the predatory vampire, the one who makes the women swoon by his sheer sexual magnetism, Not the one who doesn’t want to bite the neck of the victim because it might hurt the pretty lady.

And no, before anyone thinks this, I am not jealous of the fact that Ms Meyer is famous and now rich and I’m not… I would rather be penniless and create something of value than be wealthy or be the progenitor of aomething so spineless… perhaps THAT’S my particular brand of stupidity… =)

So, that’s my minor rant about Twilight – normal service will be resumed tomorrow…. sorry for the interruption… =D

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9 Responses to “Where have all the real vampires gone?”

  1. Well said. She did the same thing to werewolves, too–took them out back and chopped off their balls. I’ve only seen the first two movies, but personally, I’ve been rooting for the vampires every time they get a chance to kill the girl (Bella, I think?). Maybe that’s sadistic of me, but I’m with you–when I think of vampires, I think of the dark, predatory, evil MONSTER, not the whiny, brooding, sparkly little emo kid who just happens to be immortal. But what do I know?

  2. Hear hear. I saw the first film before I really knew anything about the series, and it did nothing for me but even at 32 I guess I’m 15 years older than her target audience!

    Are you a Buffy fan? While I can understand the series overall not being to everyone’s taste, Whedon’s vamps are capable of the kind of evil you describe. In fact that’s the reason why most people appreciate Angelus more than Angel, and Spike more than either. Spike in series 2/3 is exactly how a 20th century vamp ought to behave, in my book 🙂

    • Yes, I watched both Buffy and Angel – and yes, I preferred the ‘evil’ incarnations of the vamps rather than the toned down versions…. even so, I can see a progression from the Anne Rice/Poppy Z. Brite (and now Stephenie Meyer) vision of the ‘romantic’ vampire, the troubled soul who baulks at attacking humans, in the BUffy series…. and given that it was for TV they probably had to make it less ‘frightening’… but this continual slide downward really has robbed the vampire of any power he/she may once have possessed… sad, I think…

  3. I heard Meyer in a radio interview in which she admitted to never having really seen/read any classic vampire stuff. It seemed like her Mormon upbringing prevented her from being exposed to it, so her own creations are like carbon copies–do we still have those?–of copies of copies of watered-down vampire myths she gleaned from someone else who once saw a Count Chocula box while listening to the Jonas Bros. I myself didn’t even realize the books were *actual books* when I first saw them on display at Borders a few years ago; I thought they were decorative tchochkes for teenage girls’ bedrooms. Which, I guess, they truly are.

  4. Lizabeth Marshall-Jones Says:

    I also suspect that her Mormon upbringing showed her how to make money in buckets and she’s following that other Mormon tradition of not allowing people to drink anything that may be considered to be a stimulant lest they be, well, stimulated.

    Still think Angel and Spike are cute though.

  5. In terms of return to the cinema, I couldn’t stop thinking last night about how excited I would get about a new version of Dracula, based heavily on the novel and shot in the grainy, atmospheric way of the recent ‘Wolfman’ remake.

    I’d be pre-ordering tickets, that’s for sure!

  6. Simon, you should read the new novel by Justin Cronin, ‘The Passage’. It wrestles the vampire back from the limp hands of the romanticists.

  7. Hey Steve, thanks for the recommendation – I’ve seen the Cronin book advertised so I may just have to find a copy for review… I’d like to bring such novels to people’s attention just to make them aware that there are writers who want to bring the vampire full circle to his origins…..

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