Vampires: From Gothic Horror to Soppy Soap Opera (Part 1)

Count Dracula, the most notorious of all vampires, has always been a symbol of unquenchable desire. A desire for blood, a desire to consume, a desire to capture some of the life which he, as we are told by Bram Stoker, had lost.

I have always loved the allure of old vampire movies and literature, however lately I have begun to wonder – where has all the mystery, blood and horror gone? And what have teenage angst, glittery schoolboys and soft porn got anything to do with it?

So, film and horror buff that I am, I decided to do a little research.

Those interested in the subject have surely at least heard a mention of the movie landmark Nosferatu (1922), a black and white monochrome portrayal of the Dracula legend, which featured our dark anti-hero as a white, pointy-eared, cadaver-like bald Count who lives in a crypt.

This was the first in a generation of films which tried to focus on vampires’ darkness, their thirst for blood, their unforgiving stern natures and their nobility.

An example could be Dracula (1960), proceeding with a series of sequels, starring Christopher Lee (yes, the guy who plays Saruman in Lord of the Rings, obviously much younger).

Dracula was also later reincarnated into Francis Ford Coppola’s very good adaptation of the novel, officially named Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), starring Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves amongst others (and which, I admit, is my personal favourite adaptation to date).

Throughout all these films, Dracula, representing vampires in general, was always specifically identified with the medieval ruler Vlad the Impaler, who was an actual historical figure in real life. Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1467) was dubbed the Impaler after his death, due to his notorious practice of impaling his enemies, as well as deviant nobles, thieves, and in short, anyone who crossed him.

He had a reputation for creating ‘forests’ of impaled victims and taking a sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing. His victims are known to have numbered from 40,000 to 100,000, in that he often caused whole villages and fortresses to be destroyed and burned to the ground.

Not quite the dark hero whom you’d like to ‘admire’ you while you sleep is he?

So, what happened? How did this symbol of violence, horror and cruelty become a cursed, sexy and romantic figure whom every young girl fantasizes about?

Find out more in Part 2…