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What Ruined the Vampire Genre?

Asked What Ruined the Vampire Genre, I Answer:

Is it really ruined, though? And are we just saying it because, as a collective, we hate Twilight? How much do we really know about vampire lore?

Vampire - Painting of red haired woman bent over a man, as if drinking his blood
“Vampire” by Edvard Munch, 1895

Vampires have been the stars of legends millennia before the Cullens. Vampire folklore as we know it today originated almost exclusively from early 18th-century southeastern Europe. Vampires were “revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches.” They could also be created by “a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire.”

Because there’s so much media surrounding vampires, I’ve created a handy-dandy chart of common vampire traits in literature, film, and television. Media includes Nosferatu and Dracula as ye olde classic vamps; Interview with the Vampire and Twilight in modern day literature; Buffy/Angel, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries in TV; The Lost Boys and What We Do in the Shadows in film; and Bunnicula and Adventure Time in children’s literature and TV.

Vamp Chart

 

Drinking

Blood

Undead

Fangs

Sensitivity

to sunlight, crucifixes, garlic

Must be invited in

Can’t cross sacred ground

Death by beheading, stake through heart, fire

Nosferatu

X

X

X

X,X,X

X

X

X

Dracula

X

X

X

X,X,X

X

X

X

Interview with the Vampire

X

X

X

X,X

 

X

X

Twilight

X

X

 

 

 

 

X

Buffy/Angel

X

X

X

X,X

X

 

X

True Blood

X

X

X

X,X

X

 

X

Vampire Diaries

X

X

X

X

X

 

X

Lost Boys

X

 

X

X,X

X

 

X

What We Do in the Shadows

X

X

X

X,X,X

X

 

X

Bunnicula

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

Adventure Time

 

X

X

X

 

 

 

Anomalies

Lestat and Louis gazing
Tom Cruise (L) and Brad Pitt as Lestat and Louis in “Interview with the Vampire” (1994)
  • Count Orlok (Nosferatu) can be defeated through distraction by a beautiful woman; he is so focused on drinking her blood, he doesn’t notice the coming sunlight.
  • Twilight vampires have no fangs and no sensitivity to sunlight; as we all know, they simply sparkle.
  • True Blood vampires explode in a rain of blood and guts when killed. They also have retractable fangs.
  • Buffy vampires and The Lost Boys vampires look the most similar: bumpy forehead ridge, yellow eyes, and gnarly looking fangs. In my opinion, these are the most terrifying vamps on the list.
  • While most Vampire Diaries vampires can’t go in sunlight, the Salvatores & Friends are exceptions; they possess spelled rings/necklaces that allow them to walk in daylight. They also have weird veiny eye details when they shift.
  • The Lost Boys vampires are not technically the undead; Michael is turned simply by drinking blood.
  • All vamps in The Lost Boys, What We Do in the Shadows, and Adventure Time possess the ability to fly. In the book, Dracula has shapeshifting abilities, most notably a bat, which allows him to fly. 
  • Every vampire on this list must be invited into a building (Twilight, Interview, and Adventure Time are unknown) but there is one slight deviation that I know of: Vampire Diaries vamps don’t need to be invited in a house if the owner of the house has died.
  • Since Bunnicula and Adventure Time were created for children, the vampires (and vamp-rabbit) don’t drink blood. Bunnicula drains vegetables of their juice, and Marceline drinks the color red.

Trickle-Down Vampirism

Vladislav, Deacon, and Viago smiling with blood on their mouths; Deacon makes bunny ears behind their heads
Jemaine Clement (L), Jonathan Brugh, and Taika Waititi in “What We Do in the Shadows” (2014)

So, it seems most popular vampire culture stemmed from our classic vamps, Nosferatu and Dracula. These two examples were essentially the building blocks for later vampire literature, films, and TV. The story of Dracula was so influential, in fact, the writers of Nosferatu took that same tale and just changed some details. Released in 1922, it was a German expressionist horror film written as an “unauthorized adaptation” of Dracula. The estate of Bram Stoker was so infuriated, they sued the film studio responsible for Nosferatu and won. This sent the studio into bankruptcy, and it is a miracle that there are still copies of the film around today. 

Like most things, the vampire genre takes cues from itself. So, writers and creators can pick and choose how they want their vampires represented, whether that means going with some classic vamp traits–such as death-by-sunlight and shapeshifting into bats–or creating completely new ones–like sparkling in the sun.

There are also tales of vampires being unable to leave a room if there are scattered seeds or tied string. In the X-Files episode “Bad Blood,” Mulder is led to believe they’re dealing with vampires when he finds his shoelaces untied. When he scatters sunflower seeds on the floor, the vampire suspect is unable to leave before counting each one.

Is the Vampire Genre Undead or Just Plain Dead?

Cover of "The Bunnicula Collection"
“Bunnicula: The Vampire Bunny” by Deborah and James Howe (first published in 1978)

In my opinion, nothing ruined the vampire genre. Vampires have been around for millennia, and I don’t believe they’re going anywhere anytime soon. Sure, there are bad representations (I’m looking at you, Twilight) but there are also great ones (Taika Waititi as a nervous, love-struck, neat-freak vamp is among my faves). Sometimes, vampires are fussy and French (Lestat). Sometimes, they’re dark and gritty and southern (all of True Blood). Sometimes, they just suck (pun definitely intended, but I’m still looking right at Twilight).

 

I was introduced to vampires through Bunnicula, and now, as both a reader and writer of fantasy, I still love the idea of vamps. There’s a canon, sure, but just like anything else, once you know the rules you can go ahead and break them.  

 


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About the author

Lauren Boisvert

Lauren Boisvert is a writer and pisces from Florida. She has had poems published with Memoir Mixtapes, spy kids review, The Mochila Review, and others. She loves Mystery Science Theater 3000, classic horror, and making everyone in the car listen to the Beastie Boys.