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C'mon Hollywood: Make vampires scary again (or stake the genre in the heart)

08.28.2012

I was watching UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING last week and about 10 minutes in I realized that I just didn’t care anymore.  I didn’t give two f*cks about Selene or the vampire/lycan battle and the notion of vampires in general just annoyed the shit out of me.  And more than that; I wasn’t scared of them in the least.

Having grown up on a bevy of vampire films, many of which rocked the house, from THE LOST BOYS, NEAR DARK, and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, to INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, and BLADE, there have been plenty of solid entries in the vamp genre.  But now vampires have been beaten-like-a-dead-horse and “defanged” thanks to the UNDERWORLD series (which is on it’s way to becoming the RESIDENT EVIL of vampire franchises) and those fangless tweeners in TWILIGHT, not to mention a slew of B-rate crap that has soured the genre, making the undead killers into a stereotypical joke.

As a kid, I remember being frightened of vampires, having seen them in all their monstrous glory in films like THE LOST BOYS, FRIGHT NIGHT, and even the Grace Jones starrer VAMP.  The blood-sucking creatures from those films were portrayed as vicious killers, shadows of the night that inspired terror and fear.  Now, with shows like True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and movies like the TWILIGHT series and UNDERWORLD, the fear and foreboding of vampires has been replaced with either wimpy emo love stories, over the top action clichés, or as a metaphor for gay rights. 

All I want is to be afraid of vampires again, rather than likening them to their human counterparts.  Granted, I’m a grown-ass man at this stage and the scares I had as a child aren’t the same as they are now, but I’m still a human being who rightfully fears the unknown.   And that’s the problem with today’s vampires; we know them all too well.  We’re hip deep in their business, down to who they ate for breakfast and what they long for in a human mate.  There’s no mystery.  It’s all out on the table.  There’s no fright either, because we become so connected to them that it’s impossible to be afraid anymore.

Say what you will about Freddy or Jason, but those guys can still scare, simply by maintaining their status as violent, murderous beings.  They don’t fall in love and get conflicted.  They kill, methodically, like hunters seeking prey.  And they enjoy it.  A vampire should be every bit as cunning, deadly, and evil.  The tendency to have them drink fake blood or animal blood is just a stupid notion to make us forget they’re vampires until it’s time to show a little gore or glow in the sunlight. 

I get that vampires are complex creatures and I’m not calling for bloodthirsty beasts heading out and just slaying random folks, I’m merely looking for an injection of character and action that makes me fear these undead f*cks, rather than be annoyed with their presence.  The modern day vampire, as portrayed in popular culture, has ironically become “mainstreamed” as it is in TRUE BLOOD.  In doing so, there’s very little to fear, because now they’re everywhere.  They don’t lurk in the shadows anymore, they live next door to us and are sensitive, loving beings that are just misunderstood.  We need to give them equal rights and invite them over for dinner…or, uh, cocktails.  The most compelling moment in TRUE BLOOD (season 3) was when the ancient killer Russell Edgington went on national TV and told the public that vampires just want to kill and eat humans.  It was a moment that let vampires be the vicious killers they are, rather than the poor, misguided creatures just trying to fit in.  It let vampires be the scary monsters they are, if even for a moment.

Ultimately, the problem isn’t that vampires have been made into protagonists, but that they’ve been made into the “good guy.”  UNDERWORLD, TWILIGHT, TRUE BLOOD, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, etc. have effectively shat on the vampire as a monster and instead made him into the hero.  That can work from time to time (BLADE, DAYBREAKERS), but turning it into the “new rule” has rendered vampires into a joke. 

The solution is simple; make vampires scary.  Nothing says you have to sacrifice character development or strip away their human characteristics, but forgetting the basic truth that they are ungodly creatures of the night that feed on human blood is something that should be placed at the forefront, not hidden from view.  Let them be evil and monstrous, as they truly are, not emotive little wussies or action clichés.  At this point, the most I’d fear from a vampire when I turn out my lights at night is whether they’d try to hit on my wife or steal my hair gel. 

Extra Tidbit: What type of vampire film would you like to see (if any)? I'd like to see a return to the ruthless band of vampires like the original The Lost Boys. Brutal, vicious, scary, and pure evil.
Source: JoBlo.com

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