The Vampire Pendulum

Post-Twilight we’re experiencing a bit of a backswing on the vampire pendulum. While there are a lot of romantic vampire stories still being marketed to tweens, you now also have the angry counter-movement, with old-school horror fans seeking to re-establish vampires as scary monsters.

The problem is that, in an attempt to make them “scary” again, vampires in this new horror movement are often reduced to growling, slavering, beast-like predators. That’s not what a vampire should be, either. That’s fine for werewolves and zombies, but a vampire is smart and well-put-together. A vampire is entrancing, if not because of attractiveness, then because of an unholy magnetism and a predatory, hypnotic stare. You can have a vampire pouncing on you in the dark from time to time, but mostly they should be graciously inviting you into your home and you should be accepting, despite the fact that you know that it means your doom.

My personal favorite kind of vampire is the one whose charm hides the fact that he is a monster until it is too late, or makes you love him despite the fact that he is a monster, and continues to be one.

A vampire needs to be a monster. It should never be someone who thinks he’s a monster even though he isn’t.

A vampire can be a monster without self-consciousness. He can be a monster who thinks what he’s doing isn’t especially monstrous. Finally, he can be someone who is a monster, feels bad about it, but still acts monstrously despite it. But he has to be a monster. Dracula is the first kind. The vampires in Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum are the second. The vampire in Let the Right One In is the third. Those were all pretty different takes on vampirism, but without sparkles or snarling.

There’s a common thread that runs through the most neutered and shiny of modern vampires: they don’t actually require human blood to survive. Anything that absolutely must have human blood to survive is monstrous to humanity, even if it is only a parasite that does not kill. Listen to people’s reactions when they talk about bedbugs, if you don’t believe me. If you remove the “human” part from the whole blood equation, you’ve essentially just created a powerful carnivore. It’s the cannibalistic aspect that’s monstrous, the blood aspect just allows the cannibalism to be sneakier, and more refined. And, as I said before, that’s part of it too. When you have a vampire just ripping people apart, they might as well be a werewolf.

My three rules for proper vampires* are as follows:

1. Must require human blood to survive

2. This must be a substantial amount, more than a single human can provide.

3. The consequences for not getting enough must be dire.

Please make a note of it.

*I’m also very strongly in favor of being burned by the light and needing to be invited in, but I think the rules above allow for some creative playing around while still letting them be monsters. Being able to create Renfield-style servants is also nicely creepy.

2 Responses to “The Vampire Pendulum”

  • keigain:

    I agree with you view on this. One vampire setting i enjoyed is hellsing, i know this came out before the twilight swing of the pendulum, but it had a good characterization on the vampires. With allucard who was at ease with his nature to his offspring sere Victoria, who gets turned at the beginning of the series and spends most of the series both fighting and trying to come to terms with her nature. While this series doesn’t show the vampires being adversely affected by sunlight it does make them monstrous, even when they are fighting for an apparent cause.

  • Stevie:

    Here’s what gets me about vampires in literature, movies, media, etc: you cannot ignore the groundwork that came before. Essentially I’m agreeing with you, but I’m going a bit further to say that what all vampire related material MUST DO in order to be legitimate is pay homage to Dracula. Dracula is a great work of literature, and most importantly the grandfather of all vampire literature. People who ignore the rules set forth by Dracula are slapping years of literary tradition in the face. Writers, true writers, don’t appreciate that. People who deliberately change the vampire because they want to be unique are also clearly not writers because a true writer would aware that NOTHING IN ORIGINAL. People hate hearing that. I could rant about the law of the archetype, but I won’t. Suffice to say, if a writer does not pay homage to Dracula when writing about vampires, then they simply aren’t a true writer. You give respect to the original (using this term loosely here of course), to the authors who inspire you. Expand upon it all you want with your interpretation, but the concrete rules that Stoker put forth should be acknowledged.

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