Last week I add to my Cemetery Dance review collection with its third incantation. (You can check out the first two here and here, btw).
But as much as I love CD stories, the previous post about the age-old Horror trope of Haunted Houses got even more attention. I think people like reading about subgenres. Let’s test that theory & go for another of the most beloved ones out there…
Why Are Vampires So Awesome?
SUPER-SHORT ANSWER: They’re the most powerful monsters ever created. Period.
Go ahead and do a Google search for “vampire powerful”. There are DOZENS of awesome images. This is my favorite.
MODERATELY-SHORT ANSWER: People respond to powerful antagonists. Vampires’ speed, strength, & other supernatural abilities (more on that later) = more power, which in turn = more action/ drama/ suspense, which in turn = entertainment gold. It’s arguably why vampires stories, while having reached a certain saturation point in the past decade or so, will probably never go away completely.
MEDIUM ANSWER: Vampires are more than just powerful, actually. They are also exceedingly complex, which only adds to the shine of golden book- & ticket sales. On the surface, vampires are powerful, passionate creatures possessed with a primal hunger for blood. That’s pretty cool. But underneath- and far more important to any decent vampire story- vampires are smart! Think about it. Nearly every other type of monster out there is fundamentally stupid. It’s what humans can so often exploit in order to survive/ win the day. Go ahead. Pick any classic monster type and you’ll see instantly that only vampires make us fear them because of their cunning.
LONG, FAKE CONVERSATION TO PROVE MY POINT:
I think this is from The Walking Dead. *Definitely* going to have to do a post on that show one of these days.
You: Ok, give me a moment to test this. Ok… ok… I get what you’re saying. I mean, obviously ZOMBIES–
Me: Dumbest of them all. No thought processing whatsoever. Just *walk* and *eat*.
Orc horde as depicted in the film “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”
You: Right… I got that. They’re similar to GOBLINS, TROLLS, & ORCS–
Me: Muscle slaves. Herd mentality by the thousands.
If you look closely, you’ll see *two* ghosts. Her humanity eeking through, perhaps?
You: Right… That was my point. But how about… um, GHOSTS & GHOULS? POLTERGEISTS, even? Surely they can’t be–
Me: Remnants of weak humans who couldn’t bother to die properly. The entirety of their mental capacity is whatever they remember from their former lives, which usually doesn’t amount to much to begin with.
Not so silly monster.
You: Okaaaay. Fair enough I guess. What about MUMMIES then? The one in that Brendan Fraser movie–
Me: Straight-armed, staggaring, moaning morons. Don’t be fooled by Fraser’s nemesis. It was an exception to the rule & still wouldn’t measure up to any standard v
Michael J. Fox in ‘Teen Wolf’. What a great film showcasing the essential problem of the werewolf… the human under the fur is a victim.
ampire intellect. Most are as dumb as the blocks of stone that entomb them.
You: Fine! [pause] How do you explain WEREWOLVES then?
Me: Ok, we’re getting closer now, but only if you consider their human half. The cursed human hiding under all that fur and claws *could* conceivably be, say, a brilliant scientist–
[Woah. Cool idea… Einstein was a werewolf all along! I claim that story concept!]
— but that’s not really the monster, is it? The monster comes out while they’re transformed… so, yeah. Werewolves are just another salivating mouth with lots of teeth.
Not exactly accurate to the book, but seriously… Don Quixote. Nice.
You: [pouting] [thinking] Ok, smart guy. What about FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER? Ah! See, I’ve actually read that novel, and despite its lame film depictions like the one that chases Abbot & Costello (real movie… look it up… *sigh*), I happen to know that the real Frankenstein Monster was actually quite the intellectual. He taught himself both to read and to write. His ultimate motivation was actually to fit into society at large. He was no dumb–
Me: Now you’ve got my attention. But the first problem we have here is that there is no “species” to speak of. The Monster in question was literally the only one (Yes, an exception = “Bride of Frankenstein” -but that was only in that one movie, so think of it like… exceptions = rule breakers). Yet even with his bride, the Monster’s one-of-a-kind nature means that in comparing him to the standard vampire we are comparing apples to oranges. He’s not a ‘type’ of monster. He is a unique entity, one that cannot reproduce and cannot therefore utlized with any degree of fair creativity by new writers. He is, in a word, not a ‘creature’ but a solid-state ‘creation’. In any case, that’s not even the wrench in your gears. Your bigger problem is that even with the Monster’s desire for knowledge- and I’ll admit he had an impressive amount of it… [post for another day, perhaps? Let me know & maybe I will!], he is still no match whatsoever for the likes of Count Dracula. Vampires’ immortality makes them very old, and very experienced in the ways of the world. This immense experience makes them not just smart, but truely wise. And that means they’re even more dangerous.
You: [silence] [and then…]
But You Said ‘Complex’, Not Just ‘Smart’!
Me: When I was in college, the film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” came out. I went to see it on campus. It was a packed house. At one scene towards the end, Dracula falls from a height and gets himself impaled straight through the chest on a wrought-iron gate… one with all those giant spear-like spikes at the top.
Gary Oldman as Count Dracula. Fantastic film. Fantastic portrayal. And that hair!!!
I knew what came next.
The whole theater knew what came next.
When Dracula inevitably rose from that gate and Kept Coming Anyway several moments later, one ignorant girl shouted (in honest terror, I might add): “Oh my God, he’s still alive!!”
It was at this point in the film that SOMEbody in that theater became the hero when he stood up, cupped his hands to his mouth, and shouted (at the top of his lungs, I might add): “Will you SHUT!… THE (expletive)!!… UP!!!!?”
And it was at THAT point that the entire theater erupted into applause because said ignorant girl had been doing that type of thing the whole film and apparently said hero hadn’t been the only one who had had enough.
I can’t recall exactly who that wonderful hero may have been, but there’s a decent chance he was born on Halloween, loved all things vampire, and today writes a certain Horror blog for a certain awesome online magazine.
My point is, everyone knows that you need to impale a wooden stake through the heart to kill a vampire, right?
Not a movie prop. People actually made these things.
I mean… right?
The thing is… that girl, somehow, didn’t know. I don’t know what rock she’d been living under up to that point in her life, but really… she didn’t know. And while that particular vampire rule is one I simply cannot forgive, the truth is no monster in the entirety of the Horror genre has more Rules and Regulations than vampires.
Sadly, many of them have been forgotten over the years, which is a shame because some of them are genuinely cool! Heck, I wrote a whole Award-Winning story thanks to one of them.
[A story that is being turned into a serialized novel
Fortunately, I’m here to help.
Below is a wickedly-cool list of 22 Rules that govern the vampire species. How many are you seeing for the first time?
SIDE NOTE #1: I’m not talking about physical traits here like pale skin, red eyes, or being cold to the touch. I’m talking about things that actually affect vampires or their human victims, aka: What Humans Need to Know to Fight Vampires. I’m also not talking about something that happened one time in one story by one author which went thenceforth ignored by other authors. I’m talking about the classic rules that took root and appeared again and again in dozens/ hundreds of vampire tales.
SIDE NOTE #2: Most of these Rules, by the way, were invented by Bram Stoken in his immortal (ha!) classic, Dracula. Several others, however, emerged thanks to the authors who came immediately after him.
SIDE NOTE #3: I researched for several hours on this, but I’m pretty sure I still missed a few. If I did, please let me know in the comments. (I’d love it if someone actually left me some comments).
You: Awesome! I’m ready to copy-paste for my files! Gimmie gimmie!
Me: Bless your little heart.
22 STANDARD VAMPIRES RULES
- vampires feed on the blood of any mammal, preferably humans (& very preferably, virgin girls)
- vampires cast no reflection
- vampires can only be killed in 4 ways: A) wooden stake through the heart, B) decapitation, C) prolonged exposure to sunlight, D) complete immolation (burned in a big fire)
- vampire skin burns when touched with any of: A) holy water, B) garlic, C) a crucifix, D) silver
- vampires can shape-shift into any of: A) bats, B) mist or fog, C) various canines, D) snakes (called ‘lamia’)
- vampires have super-enhanced senses of: A) hearing, B) smell, C) sight
- vampire fangs recede when not feeding to make them appear human
- vampires have super-healing for anything that doesn’t kill them
- vampires procreate by biting a human 3 times, usually on 3 successive nights, but while NOT drinking their blood
[Shameless Plug Alert!]
[You should buy it. It’s only a dollar. Or just $2 if you want to hear me read it to you.]
[What a fun bedtime story!]
- vampires can control the will of any weak-minded humans (possession)
- vampires can manipulate the dreams of any mortal
- vampires can create a half-vampire/ slave by forcing a human to drink some of their (the vampire’s) blood
- vampires can control whole hordes of lesser creatures such as snakes, rats, spiders & other insects
- vampires cannot cross moving water… unless encased safely in dirt
- vampires cannot enter the home of a mortal without first being given permission
- vampires can move small-to-medium-sized objects with their mind (telekinesis)
- vampires can climb any surface, no matter how vertical or slick
- vampires can lure their prey (humans) with their sheer sexuality (they also love sex, btw, but not as much as blood)
- vampires can be temporarily held at bay by reading Christian certain scriptures at them
- vampires can make themselves invisible
- vampires can control the weather
- vampires don’t die if they don’t drink blood, they merely get weaker & more miserable as the days & weeks go by. In truth, they can continue ‘living’ like that forever.
Seriously. Just LOOK at that list. Uh… yeah. They’re complex. Whole shelves on libraries have been filled for any ONE of the above abilities. And the standard vampire has them all. Yeowzers!
BRIEF FAKE CONVERSATION SUMMING UP ALL THOSE RULES
You: Wow, dude. I’ll admit it… that is impressive. But that doesn’t explain the whole Twilight craze! Those vampires break almost all of those rules. I think you’re missing something.
Me: No. I’m not. Because Twilight sucks. That damned story has been ruining vampire stories ever since it’s first publication, dammit, and I will not ignore its horrible influence. So get your gloves on, people. I’m going there…
Why So Angry?
To be honest, Stephenie Meyer did a fine jo–
I nearly choked on my own vomit.
But I went and brushed my teeth, tongue, and tonsils with a metal file and month-old orange juice, so I’m better now. Let’s continue, shall we?
Listen, I really did read Twilight, and it’s bad, ok? And I don’t simply mean that it’s not “up to par” with what Bram Stoker or Anne Rice or Stephen King have done with this awesome subgenre. I mean… it’s BAD WRITING! Bad sentence structure! Bad dialogue! Bad storytelling! And just plain HORRIBLE for the whole vampire subculture.
Yes, I will admit it helped encourage a whole new generation of readers (…of pre-teen, love-sick girls. Big whoopdie-doo. J. K. Rowling did a far better job of that with a FAR better story in the Harry Potter series. Go read that to your kids instead, dammit).
Classy, brilliant lady with her 7th consecutive classy, brilliant book.
Yes, I’ll also admit it helped make vampires more commercially acceptable (…for a couple years. But it also pushed vampires into and beyond a saturation point of publishing acceptability. The truth is, most publishers are sick of vampire stories these days, and a major part of it is just how many authors have been trying to cash in on that -ug!- “style” of vampire tale. Just ask the Fiction Vortex editors. It’s a damned wonder they published “Bombardier” in the first place.
[Heh. Ok, I’m done plugging that one. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself].
But seriously… those things don’t even matter. The point is that bad writing & bad influences aside, the treatment of vampires– the most awesome Horror monsters ever created!– was insulting.
Listen to me here and now…
Also, they don’t play baseball during thunderstorms,
and they concern themselves with teenage angst and secret crushes,
and the prime vampires are ancient adults of pure evil, not teenagers struggling (weakly) with moral crises.
Meyer sucked all the bad-ass out of vampires and neutered them into emo high school cool dudes. She turned the Ultimate Bad Guys into Mediocre-at-Best Good Guys. That’s like turning Darth Vadar into a comedy character. It’s just not ri–
“Yes, I always have coffee when I watch radar. You know that. Everyone knows that!”
“Of course we do, sir!”
Rick Moranis was flippin’ hysterical as “Dark Helmet” in Space Balls.
But my point holds.
If it weren’t for the genius partnership of Mel Brooks & Rick Moranis, Dark Helmet would have been a true insult to & depravity of what is probably the greatest Bad Guy ever put to screen (ah, James Earl Jones… your voice is ambrosia to my ears).
But I digress.
Yes, Ms. Meyer was perfectly within her right as a creative person to do whatever she liked and change the Rules and exploit a popular subgenre to make her millions. The problem is, she succeeded.
Today, the Twilight “saga” (a word that will forever been dead to me thanks to this collection of driveling prose) has become synonymous with what vampires supposedly are. And that’s a shame. A real loss. What she wrote had virtually nothing to DO with vampire culture. What she wrote was actually a soap opera.
Come to think of it, I think Ms. Meyer did a pretty good job writing a teen drama. It has all the tropes & checked all the right boxes. No wonder it sold so well.
But as far as a vampire story, it sucked.
Ok. I got that out of my system. I feel better now.
But may I should go walk naked through a car wash a couple of times.
Just to be safe.
If you think about it, adding together vampires’ strength, speed, intelligence, and numerous other abilities, what we’ve really got here is the perfect monster.
Honestly, if there really were such things as vampires, guess what people? We’d all be dead. The whole planet. We’d have been sucked dry centuries ago. In fact, their only true danger would be falling victim to overpopulation. With all the humans (and eventually, the rest of all the other mammals too) gone, they’d have no warm blood left to drink. And even though they’d technically survive, they’d be miserable.
This is maybe why authors don’t have vampires take over by the millions. They (both authors & vampires alike, haha) are too smart for that.
Agree or disagree with any of this?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
-K. Edwin Fritz