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.