Vampires are the most complex creatures of horror. At their core, though, they play on some of our most basic needs, wants, and fears that every person portrays. Words that can refer to vampires include; sex, lies, strength, blood, night, and death.
Vampires are very sexual creatures. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the book not the movie) Dracula hunted after beautiful women, and controlled their minds and bodies. Women fear this loss of control over their own wills. Men would love to be able to control every woman that they lusted after, but at the same time are always afraid of someone doing the same to the women that they love.
The bite of a vampire can be looked at as the most sexual action in all of horror. The vampire will embrace a woman who is controlled by him against her will. He will place his lips on her neck and quickly puncture her neck with his fangs. When he does this, she gasps and her body goes limp. When he is done, he lays her body on the ground or bed ever so softly. This is of course an old style vampire, not the new kind that just rips the person’s throat out.
Sex is one on the basic human functions. People may say that this stems from the need to procreate. Some will also say that it stems from the need to climax which a woman seems to do when bitten by a vampire. Essentially, one of the fears that can be brought on by vampires in women, is the fear of being raped. A vampire takes a woman against her will, and she has no say in the matter, and is helpless to resist.
Vampires are liars like the world has never seen. They have to lie to hide their existence. This touches on our fear of not being able to know the truth. In the stories, you could be standing right next to a vampire, and never know it.
Vampires seem to have super-human strength. I would personally not want to be in a fist fight with one of the undead. People have a belief that they are the strongest of all of the species. All humans believe that we are the pinnacle of Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. But in vampire stories, there is a stronger creature. A creature that is higher up on the food chain, a vampire.
Blood is the basis for human life. Without it, we simply die. Many people are disturbed by blood and become nauseated at the sight of it. A vampire only needs two things to survive, darkness and blood. This is an opposite from humans. We need foods, companionship, love, water, and a sense of being. All of these are unimportant to vampires. Any creature that would find human needs as trivial scares us.
Vampires are the creatures of the night. It is dark at night, and we have problems seeing in the dark. We are leery when we travel down a dark alley at midnight because we do not know what is on the other side. This is where vampires live and breed. This is their home, an area that most people try to avoid.
Finally, vampires counter death. Most people harbor some kind of necrophobia. Necrophobia is the fear of the dead. Vampires are of the undead. They can return from a state that humans cannot return from. Vampires are also out to cause death in humans, this is why they scare us so much.
Lets look at vampires from a different angle, the movies. One of the first horror films was Nosferatu (1922). This was a German silent film that starred Max Schreck. Now Max was an ugly man to begin with. Once they added the makeup that elongated his face, sank his eyes, and pointed his ears, he became horrendous looking. The film was shot with very low lighting. This made the film even more tense. This was continued by Universal Studios when they shot Dracula (1931).
If you were to run Dracula on one TV, and another film from that era on another TV, you would notice that Dracula is much darker. There was very little light that was used while filming the movie. A strange little fact was the many of the actors in the original Dracula had problems restudying their lines onset. As a result, some of the dialogue changed while filming from the original script. The director, Tod Browning, tried to tell people for years that he had allowed the actors to take liberty with the script. It was not until many years later that Edward Van Sloan who played Helsing admitted this issue.
In the 1979 version starring Frank Langella, we see that the driving force behind this version was sexiness. Every movement that Langella made was done in a sexual, tempting manner.
In modern vampire movies, the core mystique of the vampire has been lost. In most modern vampire films, the essence is the shock value of the gore. Granted that this works well with zombie, and stalker films, but not with vampire films. If you look at a picture of Dracula, you will see a tall, dark, attractive man that is dressed to the nines. One that would take great pride in the way that he looks. Not so for modern vampires who will let the blood spill where it will.
The vampire is one of the oldest legends in the world. The fears that have been brought about by vampires in today’s society are the same fears that plagued Medieval Europe. These are the same fears that will plague the nightmares of our grandchildren’s grandchildren.