THE DEGRADATION OF A MONSTER
As I go through my desk and look at pages upon pages of ideas I’ve jotted down and tossed in to “the file” drawer, I always come back to one in particular. It is a vampire story and I actually began this particular story back in 1997 and tossed it to the side. I will, occassionally, pull it out and jot down a new note and I hope to eventually, perhaps this year, write this thing. It is important to me. And here is why.
The vampire, as it is truly meant to be in characterization, has been ruined over the past twenty-five years. I will not mention any writer or particular series by name but the truth of the matter is that this character, who is supposed to be a vile, viscious, ruthless monstser has been “pussified” by contemporary writers and turned into some kind of historical romance character. Now, don’t take that as a shot at historical romance. I love romance stories and writing. I just don’t like what has happened to the vampire.
For the record, I’ll mention a few of the vampires that I happen to like and think represent the character better than most and certainly better than to which they are given credit.
Lord Ruthven, from THE VAMPYRE, written in 1819 by John Polidori. It was born out of a challenge to a ghost story writing contest by Lord Byron to his friends. While Ruthven did have that mysterious element of romance, he was a ruthless killer, as vampires should be. He is probably my favorite of the written vampires.
On the theatrical screen, there are several that I enjoyed the characterization of the vampire, but maybe not the productions themselves. 30 Days of Night depicted what I think to be very good, ruthless killer vampires. I also thought that the vampires in Quinton Tarantino’s Dusk to Dawn were very close to being the monsters they should be.
One of my favorites and so sad they did not have a bigger part were the vampires in in the Penny Dreadful series. These creatures were viscious and completely wreckless in their hunger/thirst for blood. There was certainly no romance demonstrated by them other than their love for blood.
My favorite characterization of all are the monsters from the book and movie I AM LEGEND. In the book, they are much more explicitly vampires. Even in the movie, the creatures are vampiric and referred to as such – they hide from the sun, which burns them, they drink blood, and they are transformed from normal humans. In the book, there are two different sets of these creatures and a difference between them as vampires – some are dead vampires and some are living. The dead are mindless monsters, the living can be civil and have their own society, which is not reflected in the movie.
So, what kind of monster do I like as a vampire? I’ll give you a real-life model of one. If you look to the French writers and the vampire/monster lore they penned, they were inspired not just by the other writers of their era but by their own real-life monsters. Gilles de Rais (14041440) was a hero of France. de Rais was a brilliant general who fought with Joan of Arcbut was also a man known to have few equals as a sadistic murderer. He tortured and killed a number of young boys (and a few girls), receiving intense sexual gratification in the process. He also practiced a form of Satanism. It was only with great difficulty that he was brought to trial. Upon conviction, he was strangled and his body burned.