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October 28, 2005

What Are The Real Rules Of Vampires?

Over at Lorie Byrd's site, she's posted her favorite horror movies, with links to other lists.

I was sort of beginning to compile my own list when a question hit me:

Given that vampires are probably the best-known and overall best monsters, why are there so few vampire movies that are any good whatsoever?

Really, the only good vampire movies I can think of off the top of my head are Lost Boys and Fright Night, which is, I contend, the best vampire movie ever made, despite the fact that it's partly a comedy.

Thinking about those two movies made me curious: What are the real rules of vampires, anyway? Lost Boys has one set of rules and powers (an expansive set); Fright Night a more limited set.

Skip this unless you really want to geek out on vampires.


I like the limited set better. Here are my personal preferred vampire rules:

Can Only Walk In Darkness?: No. It's silly. They're just very weak in daytime and sunlight causes painful blistering after a few moments. But they shouldn't explode on contact with sunlight (as they did in Fright Night, but what a cool ending).

Must Retire To the Coffin?: Eh, I don't know. So central to the myth, but a little dumb. I guess I'll say "yes" to this one. Maybe they have to die again each day in order to rise from the dead at night.

Can Only Be Killed By Stake Through The Heart?: No. They just heal like Wolverine. You need to deliver a massive wound to the head or heart (or sever the head) to kill them. Everything else they just recover from almost instantly.

Superstrength and superspeed? Definitely. I think Interview With A Vampire had a nice little scene showing Louis move across a room in blink of an eye. The speed element doesn't get stressed enough. Probably because it's harder to show in film, and partly because all monsters are slow and plodding (that's the only way the heroine can keep alive for more than three seconds).

Fly?: No. Although I hate the idea of flying vampires generally, Lost Boys did sort of reduce my resistance to it. But not enough.

Levitate?: Maybe. Levitation is fundamentally creepier than flying. The only thing I remember from Salem's Lot is the little boy vampire in his night-shirt levitating outside the window, scratching on the glass. Very creepy.

Spider-climb?: Yes. It's creepy-looking. But no just walking on your feet up a wall, as if gravity is perpendicular to the surface of the wall. That's silly.

Silver harms?: No, that's werewolves.

No Image In Mirror?: No, that's ass.

Can't Enter House Without Owner's Permission?: No, that's stupid. Who the hell made this one up?

Hate Garlic?: Maybe. Kinda dumb, but it's so well-known.

Recoil From Crosses?: Yes. Very cool. But I like Fright Night's take on it. You can't just put up a cross and expect a vampire to cower. "You gotta have faith for that to work on me."

Do You Have To Die Before Becoming A Vampire?: No movie seems very consistent on this. You would think, vampires being undead, that you'd have to be killed by a vampire and then rise from the dead as a vampire later. But heroines are forever getting bitten, and of course they can't die, so there seems to be an alternate rule that you can become vapire-ish ("half-vampires," they always say) by just being bitten a few times... and without ever actually going to the grave.

I think really perfect consistency would say: You have to choose to become a vampire, maybe by drinking the blood of the vampire who will kill you, and allow him to murder you. If you do that, you may rise a vampire. To be undead you have to first be dead. Seems reasonable to me.

Otherwise, no vampire-spawning. If a vampire's sucking on you, you just become a little pale and weak and maybe perverse. Maybe some minor feats of strength.

And on that, I really prefer the throat-slashing murdering vampires than the discreet almost-sexual blood-sipping ones. A monster should be scary. It should kill people.

Turn into Mist/Rats/Bat?: No, especially to the first one.

Handsome/Beautiful?: Yes, but it's an illusion, or mask they wear. Vampires, once enraged or in blood frenzy, should show ugly demonic faces. Again, like Fright Night. They're not superheroes. They're monsters posing as human beings.

Claws?: Oh yeah. Love the claws; better than the teeth, if you ask me. They're really just part of their warped demonic bodies, hidden from normal view by illusion or whatever.

Gay Aristocrats Sitting Around Quoting Shelley And Pining For Lost Loves?: NO, NO, NO. They're monsters, not anti-heroes. The humans are the heroes. Rutger Hauer had a quote about people who thought the robots were the heroes in Blade Runner, something along the lines of, "They're not heroes, they're robots. Can a robot love you? No, it's a robot. I was playing a villain, not a tragic hero." And I think that should be the way vampires are. They don't love; they kill. (Or their "love" is murder.)

They're seductive, but not sympathetic. Again, they're monsters. They're as capable of loving human beings as a tiger is. Or less so, really; tigers don't swear a pact to Satan and become cannibals.

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posted by Ace at 02:19 AM

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