Look at ol’ Christopher Lee, dressed up like the stereotypical vampire – black cape, white collar, hair all slicked back and teeth bared as he rasps at his victim. Oh, get back in your dingy coffin, you outdated has-been!
Vampires have come a long way since those old Hammer Horror movies, haven’t they? I don’t quite recall when the change took place, but I suspect it might have been Buffy and Angel who introduced a more glamorous version of vampire relations to our generation.
OK, there were movie adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and [[Anne Rice]]’s Interview With The Vampire, but Buffy suddenly brought vampires to a whole new audience – lovestruck teenagers. Sure, vampires have been charming humans for years, with a view to emptying their veins. Actually, wasn’t it Interview With The Vampire that gave us a first-hand look into the lifestyles of vampires?
Back in the Hammer Horror days, Vlad the Impaler was the sinister aggressor. He’d keep entire Transylvanian villages in mortal terror, but you never knew what motivated him beyond blood lust. Anne Rice’s vampires had more depth – Louis de Pointe du Lac establishing a vampire character who was horrified by his compulsion to drink blood – the first of the vegetarian vampires?
Louis was followed throughout the years by abstaining vamps such as private detective Mick St John in Moonlight, the Cullen family in Twilight, and even integrationist vampires like Bill Compton in True Blood who drink synthetic blood. Naturally, these types of vampires often tend to regard humans as more than just prey and frequently repress their tendencies in order to have romantic relationships with humans.
Working together, or alone?
In earlier vampire movies, the undead would often work alone. OK, Dracula would sometimes have a wench or two around him, but more often than not he hunted solo.
In Anne Rice’s novels, the characters would mostly arrange themselves in groups of two. But there were also covens, such as the Parisian one ruled by Armand. These covens established rules for the conduct of vampires – concerning killing one of their own kind and also forbidding the creation of other vampires. And the consequences of disobeying these rules – even if you didn’t know about them – could be quite disastrous.
Occassionally, you come up against ruling councils of vampires. Priya mentioned the Volturi in the new Twilight movie, and of course the vampire Eric holds court in True Blood.
Limitations of vampires
I want to talk about this in a separate post, but the abilities and limitations of vampires change a lot in literature.
Most vampires seem to be able to abstain from drinking blood for long periods without dying. Even the Hammer Horror blood-suckers would be rejuvinated by a few drops on their dusty corpses.
Esposure to sunlight isn’t the instant death it once was. Even in Anne Rice novels, Lestate and Armand survive direct exposure to sunlight, and of course the great and powerful Marius was turfed onto a bonfire and survived. Mick St John in Moonlight could survive in daylight for short periods of time, but became more animalistic as the exposure weakened him. And of course, lovely Edward Cullen turns into a shimmering god when exposed to Sol’s golden rays.
Garlic and crucifixes have gone out of fashion as vamp-destroying substances. OK, the Buffster could get away with using stakes to reduce her enemies to cinders, but you don’t see them about so much in the post-Buffy world. I know they paralysed, but didn’t kill Mick St John.
In a lot of vampire literature, certain vamps will be bestowed with additional powers – perhaps the ability to levitate, or read minds or ignite fires with their thoughts. The standard vampire attributes seem to be immortality, great speed and strength, highly sensitive reflexes, and of course the ability to drain humans of blood.
Which brings me back to Buffy, teenagers and cross-species dry humping. Yes, these days instead of trying to kill our fanged brethren, we send teenage girls out to obsess over them.
Buffy went gaga over Angel, Beth Turner chose Mick St John over her boyfriend-with-a-pulse, and of course Bella Sawn became sickeningly obsessed with the angular-jawed Mr Cullen.
But let’s face it, the vampire is the ultimate bad boy. There’s a risk involved in dating vampires that you don’t get with human boys. I’m speaking mostly about Twilight here, which makes me wonder if – in the teenage sense – blood lust isn’t just an allegory for sexual lust. Hmm, discuss.
Of course, the always-fantastic True Blood swings things into far-out filthy territory with people who sleep with vampires being labelled Fang-Bangers. The romance between Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton is designed to reflect racial tensions, of course, but it’s interesting to see prejudice and violence woven into a vampire-human love story. Certainly, True Blood is nowhere near as cloying as Twilight for that very reason.
That’s my brief look at how vampires have changed over the years. You’ll have noticed that I’m sticking to the vampires I know of. Perhaps you’ve read more extensively? If so, I’d be glad to hear your own thoughts on how vampires have been adapted down the decades!