Sucking your blood since at least 1897
From the sword wielding Blade, to the sparkly brooding Twilight the world has gone crazy for vampires. But why? What is the attraction with the living dead, why do people get their teeth shaped into fangs, and why would you want to die only to come back with an unquenchable thirst for blood?
How did it all start?
The novel "Dracula" made popular the vampire myth. If you've not read the book by Bram Stoker (1897), it's excellent and you should make sure to check it out if you're at all interested in the story which provided the basis for all modern vampire fiction. Many film adaptations were made based directly on this novel, the most compelling being Bram Stokers Dracula (1992) staring Gary Oldman, a high water mark of quality on the subject matter. Dracula is dark, mysterious, ever present but not really there, an animal lurking in the shadows clever and deadly. When you compare this to the bang up to date Twilight they are worlds apart and theTwilight books and subsequent films have obviously targeted teen hearts and minds - the films in particular are made highly appealing to them with fanciful characters and moody soundtracks. But have they diluted what the core myth represents?
What is a vampire?
Vampires could be described as beings which sustain themselves on the blood of living creatures, and though such descriptions translate far back through human history (blood sucking demons), the term Vampire was popularised in the 18th century. At this time it was strongly believed that the origins of vampire legend and superstition came from Eastern Europe, a belief supported by novels from that time. The genre has since gathered steam into the 21st century, and we are now inundated with fiction, film, and popular culture based on the original myths; ranging from the worse possible and feared incarnations to the friendly and misunderstood characters popular at the moment.
What's so cool about vampires anyway?
We are the information generation and have been saturated with films, TV series, and books around this subject matter. It sells. Got a cool idea for a teen drama, chuck a vampire in it. Have a good idea for a novel but it needs a hook, put a vampire in it. It is the definitive answer to the question "what is popular right now?", but it's not without its merit. It's not like the myth is dull or uninteresting and modern incarnations such as the Blade and Twilight franchises have brought different sides to a tired story in their own right.
But it doesn't end with visual entertainment; people are out there mimicking the lifestyle. So popular is the concept of these dark characters that people go to great measures to look and act like vampires, changing the shape of their teeth, wearing attire popularised by any of these entertainment streams, and in some cases going to the extent of carrying around vials of blood which they believe they might need at any given moment. Obsessive compulsion like this exist in other pop culture too of course, though thankfully the werewolf thing hasn't taken off to the same extent ;-)
Do we need any more Vampire Films?
A quick scan of Amazon would suggest not! Here is a list of some well known vampire films that have swamped the genre. How many have you seen?
- Twilight Saga (2009 – Present)
- Blade Trilogy (2005-2008)
- Bram Stokers Dracula (1992)
- Nosferatu (1922)
- Interview with a Vampire (1995)
- Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)
- Vampires Kiss (2004)
- John Carpenters Vampires (2008)
- Vampires Suck (2011)
- Van Helsing (2004)
If you’re interested, here’s a full list of vampire films on Amazon.
I’ve seen (counting the Twilight Saga and Blade Trilogies as one title each) 7 of those 10 and I’m not in any shape or form a devoted fan, which perhaps goes some way to say how saturated it is. They must have some merit of course, else... why did I watch them?
Why can’t we get enough of it?
The horror genre is hugely popular, and this is where a number of these films originally looked to be. Perhaps more importantly, a great number of them also revolve around a story of forbidden love and in combination it looks like you have a winning formula. Let’s also not ignore the fact that modern vampire films usually depict the protagonist as a quiet, retiring, vulnerable hunk. Take for example the likes of Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Robert Patterson, Hugh Jackman (plays a vampire killer) who would likely all feature high in a women’s poll of awesome looking men. Also in the case of a number of those titles they are based on a book, which already has an audience, which in turn will probably want to see the film to damn the adaptation or enjoy the re-telling of their favourite novels.
When will it end?
When indeed. There is no sign of the trend slowing down, in fact the masses seem to be "eating" it up at an ever increasing rate. The franchises rather cleverly target modern teens - pocket money rich and openly obsessive, whilst films like the Lost Boys and more recently Blade attracted a similar audience in the 80's and 90's respectively. So with a clear market range set for those interested enough to read every book, see every movie, and check out every series relating to vampires I guess there is no clear end in sight for this popular trend. It’s simply too much of a money maker. And it’s not a sudden interest either, fleeting and throwaway, there is a long history – though it seems popularity is at an all time high surrounding the unavoidably attractive Twilight Saga.
I say, if you enjoy it fill your boots. If you don't, it's not drying up any time soon so settle in for the long haul. And for those that dress up, lurk around in trench coats, and wear fake teeth - please don't bite me, you'll likely not find me as appetising as you are made to believe...