In trying to get my muses back on track I’ve decided to blog about a few of my favorite things. No there are no raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens in this blog post. You might find blood drops on roses or decrepit tombs filled with spider webs. In this first installment of my Creatures of Darkness I discuss my favorite obsession when it comes to preternatural creatures–Vampires!
As many of my close friends know I Geek Horror like no ones business, but my first true love in horror is the vampire. I’m not talking about the glittery vegetarian variety, but rather the classic monster of yore who at times has been romanticized yet is at his/her core an inhuman creäture of blood lust. My first introduction to the vampire myth was Count Dracula portrayed by the intense and talented Christopher Lee. My mother was the one who introduced me to the genre of horror mainly through the classic horror films created by the British production company Hammer Films. These were the movies she gravitated toward in her twenties and for her there was only one man who epitomized the character of Dracula, Sir Christopher Lee. More modern, younger audiences associate Lee with such movies as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Saruman) or Tim Burton‘s Sleepy Hollow.
For me Lee was the standard by which I judged all vampires growing up. He was tall (6′ 5″ to be precise), elegant, and had piercing dark eyes which seemed to drill through a person right to the core of their soul. Dressed in black with the predominate widow’s peak, Lee could with a single glance freeze a man in his tracks and seduce women into baring their throats. When Lee’s Dracula showed his true face though–the face of a beast–most viewers would piss their pants and run a mile in less than 5 seconds if their legs were still capable of functioning. The subtle changes were more terrifying to me than anything a special effects whiz of the 21st century could come up with. His eyes would take on a crimson sheen and those exquisite fangs bared reminded one of a rabid wolf. He might be beautiful, but beneath the glamour he was a soulless monster who was a slave to his desire for blood. He was dangerous beyond imagining and only one man understood what he was Van Helsing (played with equal intensity by the eloquent Peter Cushing).
The singular thing about Lee’s Dracula was you might be able to kill him, but at best it was temporary. There was always some brainless twit out there who knew or discovered how to resurrect the bloody bastard. Find his ashes add fresh blood via some innocent virginal sacrifice and Dracula was reconstituted like dried potato flakes. You would have thought Van Helsing would have held onto his ashes until they had to pry them from his cold dead fingers like a gold member of the NRA, but then we are talking about the majestic fantasy of the movies.
To date Christopher Lee has portrayed Dracula more than any other actor in movie history (10 separate movies between 1958-1976). Almost 20 years of blood sucking insanity from the time he was 36 (Horror of Dracula-1958) until he 54 (Dracula and Son-1976). His intensity sent shivers down my spine as a child and instilled in me a love of vampires I still have to this day.
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I decided to read Bram Stoker‘s Dracula and to my utter disappointment I found it quite boring, Perhaps, it was my age or my dislike of the writing style, but even that could not keep me from my love of vampires. My library holds an extensive collection of vampire novels (and no I refuse to acknowledge or own those Twilight disasters) and many vampire series and movies. Each writer has a unique take on the vampire mythos and as I grew older the vampire became more distant from his/her monstrous origins and more a romanticized dark hero of sorts. I have nothing personal against this evolved version of this particular creäture of darkness as long as it makes sense.
An example is the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the spin-off Angel in which vampires are monsters with the exception of Angel whose alter-ego Angelus was the vilest of the evil until he killed the wrong girl. Cursed by gypsies Angelus the monster is given his human soul back and is driven half-mad by what he’s done, roaming the dark recesses of the world feeding on rats (much like his predecessor Louis from Anne Rice‘s novels) until he’s given a chance for redemption a century later by helping the Slayer. Unfortunately, Angel’s human half eventually falls in love (part of the curse is he will be freed when he experiences true love). Once he consumates his love for Buffy, he is freed, but not in the way he believes (the demon is freed from the gypsy curse) and all hell breaks loose. Luckily, the curse is put back in place, but not before he manages to murder and defile the lover of one of the main characters. In Angel’s world monsters are monsters even when forced to co-exist with a human soul inside them. It makes sense–it works.
For me the major point I’m trying to make is glitz and glam it up all you want as long as beneath it all the darkness remains, lurking, and waiting to escape to the surface. The most dangerous of monsters are the ones who can walk among us.