(Sorry for…leaving this hanging. Going to try and finally finish my series here.)
1. a preternatural being, commonly believed to be a reanimated corpse, that is said to suck the blood of sleeping persons at night.
2. (in Eastern European folklore) a corpse, animated by an undeparted soul or demon, that periodically leaves the grave and disturbs the living, until it is exhumed and impaled or burned. (dictionary.com)
I’ve rewritten this post like four times. Why? Because vampires are so popular right now, and at the same time really divisive. I hear people who love, love, love vampire movies and stories and then people who think they’re sacrilegious and any story containing them shouldn’t be touched (which, as always, if that’s you’re conviction? don’t go against it). Me? Well. I don’t really care one way or the other. I like a handful of vampire stories, but for the most part I think mostly they’re rather unengaging.
However, in an effort to address different “horror” things and give some kind of viewpoint twist on them, I still wanted to write a post on what vampire stories can offer and why a sacrilegious element is different from a sacrilegious story.
First: why sacrilegious?
In Levitical Law, God commanded the Jews to pour out the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. They were not to eat the blood with the meat even of clean animals. Vampires, in contrast, are immortal creatures who thrive on blood (usually human).
Going off the assumption that all vampires in all stories mock God with their very existence, that does, indeed make them downright profane. Evil.
But stories need conflict, don’t they?
For the most part, I’ve found most stories do not actually deny OR endorse the evilness of vampires. The Lost Boys and Fright Night are two classics (though I’ve only seen the remake of the latter) where vampires are inarguably evil, even in spite of the campy atmospheres of the movies. For the first film the battle is fought through trying to hold out against the evil of drinking human blood until a solution can be found to become human again. For 2011’s Fright Night the instant someone is turned into a vampire their fate is sealed, their soul gone, and they are solidly, no questions asked, no gray-ish morality, bad. Even in Joss Whedon’s TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the vampires are pure evil. Angel isn’t a “good vampire,” he’s the “vampire with a soul” (which leads to a whole different discussion for another time).
Bram Stoker’s Dracula portrays vampires as an offense against God Himself with their existence. It’s a beautiful book, actually, and one of the most powerful pieces of literature I’ve ever read. There is no justification for Dracula’s actions, not “but maybe we just don’t understand why he’s doing ABC.” Dracula is a blasphemous being that cannot be allowed to exist. It’s a story that takes a being portrayed as pure evil and pits it against a handful of men who acknowledge they will never be able to prevail without God’s divine grace, mercy, guidance and empowerment. Man cannot stand against evil in Dracula; man is flawed and fearful. But all power be to the God who empowers man to carry out His will. That is the story of Dracula.
On a less direct note, 1994’s Interview with a Vampire throws the door wide open in regards to questions of death, immortality and morality. Interview asks the question of if immortality is gained, is it worth the evil price paid to acquire it? And, once acquired, is it worth the continued evil and loneliness to continue to keep it? It paints an image where all sensual desire is fulfilled…and still the heart comes up wanting for something it cannot find. It pretty much shows the story arc that says “all is vanity.”
It’s only been a pretty recent thing that vampires have been portrayed as having a choice to be good over being evil. Probably the most prominent example is Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight, where the sin is shown as taking human blood, specifically. And even here, the vampires are shown struggling with the question of soul. In Underworld the vampires are neither good nor evil, just a type of creature fighting against another type of creature.
Vampires are so popular right now that you can probably find them supporting just about every philosophical position you can think of. And sometimes, the word “vampire” is thrown onto something that is just starring in another monster movie. It’s become a much more fluid term as to what it might actually mean. Now vampires are beautiful and elegant and intelligent, or ugly and primal. They are seductive, or monstrous, or anywhere in between.
Of course, even with the unique angle on the relationship between immortality and morality, vampire stories still aren’t the best thing for everyone. Almost all vampire stories include some varying degree of lust. Vampires can be seen as what people wish for–a way to avoid death so as not to answer to a God they know in their heart exists–while also seeing what the consequences might be for acquiring that wish–the question of the lost soul. And in the midst of a lost soul, why wouldn’t they eat, drink and be merry?