My Favorite Monsters: the Vampire

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You don't see many vampire movies hit the big screen anymore -- at least not vampires of yore; those of the fang-toothed, pale-skinned cape-wearing variety. Those hoary old cliches have lately become box-office poison, but that doesn't mean the vampire story has left us. They've just shifted their shape a bit.

We had a lively discussion of the zombie a few weeks ago, and it was generally agreed upon that zombies are fascinating to us because they're anti-human -- they look human (just barely), but everything else about them is pure animal. Vampires, on the other hand, are very human; thanks in part to Bram Stoker, the stereotypical vampire exemplifies gentlemanly refinement, and is of the utmost class and breeding in every way save one -- he wants to suck your blood.

So what vampire stories have become are tales of the fatal flaw: of extremely high-functioning people who might be perfect, but for their horrible addiction. Under that rubric, movies like The Silence of the Lambs become modern-day vampire stories; Hannibal Lecter is a gentleman, a genius, a flatterer -- a Lord Byron type if there ever was one -- it just so happens that he'd rather eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti than chit-chat:

To my mind, then, zombies are interesting because they represent an inhuman Otherness -- death incarnate -- and vampires are interesting because they seem so human. They are essentially incomplete people -- hence their desperate addiction -- and the tragic thing about them is that they may want something other than what their nature demands; the vampire may love the girl, but he is doomed to kill her for her blood nevertheless.

But hey, enough blather. They just don't make 'em like this anymore:

What do you prefer -- Lecter or Lugosi?

Bonus question: what other modern-day vampire stories can you name (that don't literally feature a vampire)?

March 12, 2008 - 3:03am
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