Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Evolution of the Vampire on our Screens







When I was a child and I heard the word vampire, images came to mind such as Christopher Lee in the 1958 movie Dracula or Chris Sarandon in Fright Night. These classic vampires had 3 words on their mind, Blood, Torture, and Kill. Today if you say the word vampire to a teenager images come to mind such as sparkles, diamonds, and un-dying love. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE VAMPIRE?

So let’s take a look at the changes we have witnessed over the years. The first vampire horror movie was the silent movie Nosferatu (1922) this was based on Bram Stokers Dracula but the German production company who made the movie could not get the rights to the novel so they changed the names and some minor plot details. In this movie we had the classic Village Inn with the locals warning a stranger not to go near the old castle near- by as they know of the evil that lurks within its walls. This remained the typical set up to vampire movies for some time. Between the 1950’s and the 1970’s a UK production company called ‘Hammer Films’ became well known for their gothic horror movies. They are best known for their vampire movies and made nine of these over a twenty year period. Hammer Horrors version of Dracula was not based on Bram Stoker’s and in 1958 they cast Christopher Lee in this iconic role as Dracula. From this time until the 90’s they basically stuck to the classic vampire. This vampire was a dark supernatural creature who oozed terror and could hypnotise you with his eyes. The sun set them on fire and killed them, they could not enter your house without being invited in first, they had no image in a mirror, garlic, crucifix’s and holy water repelled and hurt them, they has a diet of human blood, they slept in coffins during the daylight and you could kill them with a stake through the heart and let us not forget their other weakness, the fair maiden.
In 1992 we were introduced to ‘THE SLAYER’ one girl in the entire world who had the strength and skills to kill the vampires in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unfortunately this movie was not portrayed in the way which its writer Joss Whedon intended so in 1997 he brought Buffy (starring Sarah Michelle Geller and David Boreanaz). to the small screen and we seen the darker side of the tale of the Slayer. Through Buffy we met our first vampire with a soul in the character of Angel. Vampires were soulless creatures and when Angel killed a gypsy’s daughter he got cursed to have to live with the guilt of all the murders he had committed through living with a tortured soul. Although we have the new concepts of The Slayer and The Vampire with a Soul, Whedon stayed true to the traditional vampire.
In 1998 the movie Blade was released. This was loosely based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name. It stared Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff and Kris Kristofferson. Blade was a child born to a mother who was bit by a vampire.  This was our introduction to a new type of vampire, The Day walker, called so because they can walk in the daylight. They are half vampire - half human, they have all the strengths of the vampire and none of their weaknesses. Blade dedicates his life to hunting and killing vampires. Blade controls his lust for blood by taking a serum which is a blood substitute. The concept of the day walker was exciting and new but still we were pretty much standing by the traditional vampire regarding strengths and weaknesses although at this stage the concept of sleeping in coffins had pretty much vanished from the screen.
In 2003 in the movie Underworld (starring Kate Beckinsale) we were introduced to the Hybrid who are half werewolf - half vampire and are far more powerful than either breed. In this movie vampires were not a supernatural creature like the original Dracula but the product of a virus. The movie illustrated the on-going war between the vampires and the lycans i.e. the werewolves.
With the changes I have mentioned so far we still pretty much had at least some of the attributes of the original vampires but that was all about to change in the noughties with a whole new breed of vampires in The Twilight Saga. Now don’t get me wrong I am a Twilight fan but according to Twilight the reason vampires can’t go out in the sun is because they sparkle, YES SPARKLE, not very spine tinglingly scary as the vampires in 30 days of Night. We all know the story girl meets vampire, girl falls in love with vampire, girl in mortal danger because she loves the vampire. Yes this is what vampires are turning into, not a mention of holy water or garlic and not a chance of sleeping in coffins these guys live in glorious mansions. Back in the day a vampire had no image in pictures or the mirror but in Twilight they are actually able to take wedding photos with all the vampires in them. The concept of having to be invited in has also vanished as Edward was able to enter Bella’s house without an invite. Where are the fangs? Not once in these movies do you see vampire fangs!!The only recognisable vampire trait is their hate for werewolves.

Now we could say Twilight is a once off change of the traditional vampire but now we also have the TV show The Vampire Diaries. These vampires are able to take their feelings and switch them on and off.  In Buffy, Angel was good because he had his soul, in this show they can turn it on and off like a light switch and basically choose to be good or bad. They have special rings to allow them walk in daylight and garlic has been replaced with a plant called vervain. They have kept the hypnosis of the vampire and the invitation rule but too much has changed in the vampires of this show too.
Now although I do find these shows to be entertaining viewing, my worry would be is the traditional vampire going to die off from the big screen and be replaced with this new age, teen angst driven vamps. When I watch a vampire movie I want to be scared and I just hope Hollywood doesn’t lose track of what intrigued and captivated us in vampire movies for all these years. 

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