Monday, 17 October 2016

Is it time to make vampires scary again?

Are we currently seeing a lull in the production of (good) vampire stories? And if so, is it time to make the vampire scary again?

When was the last time a vampire story actually scared you?
There's been a bit of a respite in all things vampire on our televisions and in cinemas of late. True, The Vampire Diaries continue to limp through season after season with its cast of beautiful people, and so does the questionable From Dusk till Dawn (which is difficult to swallow no matter how much one's disbelief is suspended—just my opinion). The last vampire film out of Hollywood was the special effects-laden Dracula Untold, and given its poor critical reception, perhaps it should have remained so. Fiction, of course, continues to showcase vampires—just check out the paranormal romance space, though it's been a while since we've seen an Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer kind of popularity.

Where are all the scary vampires? Perhaps Buffy has dealt with them?
The days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, True Blood, and yes, even Twilight seem behind us. So, I ask you, is it finally time to make the vampire scary again?

Is it not the notion of the monster within a charming, seductive exterior that fascinates us most about vampires? The fact that these nocturnal, brooding creatures essentially hunt innocents—reading and influencing their minds, overpowering them physically—to satisfy an ever-present and frequently uncontrollable blood lust to 'feed', is perhaps the most intriguing and 'scary' part of the vampire mythology.

To be fair, most stories do attempt to convey this central component of vampire 'lore' to varying degrees of 'scary'. But vampires have increasingly become more sanitised, tame and domesticated. True Blood, on the whole, was an entertaining and frequently hilarious satirical escape. The vamps did hunt victims and human blood was a much desired component of the vampire lifestyle. But there were moments when they lost their scary. Bill and even Eric became puppies who just wanted to love and be loved by Sookie. Thank god for Pam—the vamp with all the best lines.

Pam from True Blood knew how to be a vampire
Coppolas's Bram Stoker's Dracula also did well in terms of portraying the vampire as the manipulating monster he is supposed to be. Even so, the genuine love Dracula held for Mina meant we sympathised with him rather than Van Helsing and the gang—the reverse was conveyed in the book.

Gary Oldman's Dracula was pretty scary, though in the end he retains our sympathy
It is now well accepted that Twilight is more a teen romance than a vampire story, and as a teen romance, it works. I read it as a vampire book, though (silly me), and was disappointed we didn't see the vampires doing what they're meant to do—suck zee blood. As a vampire book, it falls incredibly short. Edward seemed more vapid than vampire to me.

Buffy, of course, tread the fine balance of menacing monster and brooding vampire incredibly well. Vampires were squarely positioned in the Big Scary corner, and didn't we love watching Buffy stick 'em. Angel was the good guy, but his monster was always lurking within, keeping us on edge. And unlike Twilight's Edward, Angel's monster within was actually shown. We believed his potential for 'scary'. Perhaps it's time to revisit Buffy, and even Dracula, to review how a vampire's mystique and monstrosity can truly fascinate and spellbind us. It's timely for me to (once again) quote a favourite passage from Dracula to showcase how just how creepy vampires can and should be:

"... my very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down, with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings.  At first I could not believe my eyes.  I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow;  but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion.  I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones, worn clear of the mortar by the stress of years, and by thus using every projection and inequality move downwards with considerable speed, just as a lizard moves along a wall."

What do you think? Is it time for vampires to get their scary back?


Aderyn's own vampire trilogy begins with a novelette, The Viscount's Son and continues with The Earl's Daughter (a full novel). The third and final book will be released in 2017. If you're looking for a vampire series to get your teeth into this Halloween, check it out.

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