Your Weekend Creature Comforts For Halloween Part Deux: Vampires

All right all you blood-sucking villains, now is your time in the spotlight of everyone’s favorite weekly weekend creature column. This creepy Saturday we are going to go all vampish. Get your fangs out to take a bite of delicious vampire-mania. It’s time to get our succubus on. I am a little overwhelmed with the possibilities of what we could discuss, as the vampire is one of the most quintessential Halloween characters in existence. Since the definition of vampire is a creature that feeds off of someone’s life essence, tales of such monsters have been in existence since prehistoric times, though the collaborative title of vampire for said abominations did not arise until the 18th century. Naturally, the highest concentration of vampire legends comes from Eastern Europe, and that is where the name originates as well. While the original stories of vampires described some as undead, the life-status of the essence feeding devil spawn was not part of the classification until John Polidori wrote his novella The Vampyre, which solidified the vampire as we know it today. You know what I am talking about, that handsome, seductive, mysterious, and perfect specimen of a human that lures you in only to drain you dry.

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Getting back to the roots of vampirism, tales of vampire-like creatures can be found as early as ancient civilizations like the Mesopotamians, ancient Greeks, and Romans. While we traditionally picture fangs against red lips and white skin, there are many variants of what a vampire would usually look like. Pale skin does seem to be the norm, though some of the original vampire folktales described ruddy, pinkish skin, which was secondary to the vampire just having ingested blood. Fangs also seem to be more common than not. As for having a reflection, well, that seems to be more variable, and older tales were more likely to feature a reflection-less monster than the more modern stories.

Vampires are also described as commonly having certain weaknesses and strengths. Of all ways to kill a vampire, the most commonly cited method is a stake through the heart. Exposure to sunlight is the second most common, with about 75% of the stories making it fatal (and no, there are no other vampires that sparkle like in Twilight). More variable threats to a vampire’s longevity include silver (I think they were getting a little confused with werewolves), garlic, decapitation, fire, and holy water. The whole invitation in to a home is also variable, although my favorite vampires aren’t limited by your requesting them into your abode, to be on the save side you might want to be careful about your invitations. Though if you get lucky like Sookie Stackhouse you can just rescind that invitation to quickly eliminate that vampire home infestation that we all struggle with on a day-to-day basis.

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The strengths and special powers that vampires have intrigues me quite a bit more than the weaknesses, as I found the various special abilities and meeting all the talented vampires in Twilight’s Breaking Dawn to be quite fun. Interestingly the strength of immortality was not present in European folklore, but is a consistent finding in more modern vampiric descriptions across the board. So rest assured, if you or I are able to convince one of the vampire persuasions to change us, well we should be close to immortal since we will have been created after the 1800’s. Enhanced senses, speed, healing, and strength are also a common power vampires attain once they are turned, with 99% of all descriptions out there having that trait. Flight? Well, flying vamps is a little more rare, but does occur from time to time. Of course, some depictions require that you transform in to a bat in order to fly, which might not be the most advantageous. But when you get in to the more elusive super powers, like mind reading, shape shifting, predictions of the future, telekinesis, and pyrokenesis…well, they are definitely rare but I will go as far as to say I think we will all have a better chance at obtaining those powers via transformation in to a vampire than by waiting around for good old slow poke mutations to give them to us.

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Now in general vampires fall in to two camps: those that are your good old classic blood-lusting monster, and those that pine over their existence as a harbinger of death hoping to aspire to be something more than a lifeless blood-sucker. I have commented on this before, and the whole guilt-ridden, tortured vampire soul is definitely a more modern creation. Not necessarily for the better. I was having a hard time deciding which vampires to feature in this post since I own quite the plethora of vampire filled novels and movies, so I decided to slowly go through my collection and mention all of them, some briefly, those that I love with more detail. I know I will have missed many that you all would have included, but these are the ones adorning my shelves now. And since there really are these two sub-species of vampires in my opinion, the traditional villain and the more modern whiny brat, I will break down all of my collection in to one of those two groups.  Let’s get those whiny brats out of the way first and save the end for our favorite villainous piece of works.

The pathologic goodies:

I think this whole wussy version of the penitent vampire might have started with Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, but despite the resultant development of pitiful vamp-specimens that might be blamed on her characters, I really do love this story. The film version is one that I think did a stellar job as well. Tom Cruise is just the perfect Lestat, but I guess he has just the right amount of crazy already in him to help inspire his rendition of the psycho vampire. And though I am not always a lover of long hair on guys, I swoon over the pining Brad Pitt’s Louis. I know he was the start of all these moaning and regretful suckers, but you can’t help but love Louis’ aspirations. And Kirsten Dunst’s out of control Claudia, the child that was turned too young, is phenomenal. This is one of those films that I readily rewatch every year and it just doesn’t get old.

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The House of Comarre series features lots of creatures, but the majority of the important players are vampiric in nature. While there is one evil queen of a vamp that will stop at nothing for total destruction of the world, the majority of the portrayed vamps are your characteristic repentant type. I do relish these characters, and Dominic reminds me of a cross between Gambit and Michael Corleone.

Daybreakers is a little hard to categorize between these two groups since there are definitely some vamps that want to continue going on being throat slashers, but since the story centers around some vampires that find a way to cure themselves of the ailment I will place it in the goodie camp. Set in the future, a plague has spread throughout the world and turned pretty much everyone in to vampires. Of course, with hardly any humans left a food source is pretty hard to come by, and the vampire government tries to fix this by catching all remaining humans they can find and placing them in blood farms where they are harvested for their blood but kept alive for as long as possible while researchers try to design a new synthetic blood substitute. Groups of rogue humans discover a cure, and help our protagonist Ethan Hawke come back to the human world as well as help cure the vampire race of its ailments. It’s not the best film, but Sam Neill makes a great evil vampire, channeling some of his inner Event Horizon, and it’s worth a watch if you haven’t caught it before.

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Mr. Darcy, Vampyre was not quite what I was expecting. Yes, it was a little corny, but it starts off where Pride and Prejudice ends, and follows the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth Bennet as she discovers the man she married is not what she thought. Luckily for her, Mr. Darcy thinks that finding a way to end his vampiric nature is better for both of them in the long term when it comes to marriage. So the story follows them on a quest to rid himself of his curse, and it was definitely entertaining.

Deborah Harkness (no relation to Arthur that I know of) brings us The All Souls Trilogy, which spotlights many vamps, including one of the main characters Matthew Clairmont. Matthew is your archetypical dark, steamy, gorgeous vampire. But since I will be illuminating this astonishing trilogy next week as well, I will save my review till then.

Well, my discussion of Twilight might decrease your respect for me, but I have to put it in here. I read the books well before the movies came out, and while the story does center on an awkward and sometimes painful romance between Edward and Bella, the books really are so much more. Sure, any girl might get sucked in to the romance a bit, but if you read it I would recommend reading it for the rest of the story. The Volturi are quite a malicious group of vampire rulers, the shape shifting wolves have some interesting backgrounds, and my favorite part that I already referenced is in the final installment you meet over a dozen new vampires, all with interesting new super powers. I would recommend the books over the movies any day, but I will say that the movies improve with time. The complicated interweaving of Bella, Jacob, and Edward’s lives all make sense in the end, and even though I nearly had a seizure when I saw the battle scene they put in to the movie that was not in the books (I literally turned to my boyfriend in a panic saying “It’s ok, they can put Carlisle’s head back on and he will be ok, it’s ok- AHH!!!” as they then set his body aflame torching any possibility of him coming back), the movie stays true to the book in addition to giving all those poor men forced to watch the flick a damn good fight scene.

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Let Me In might technically be about a little girl vampire that you want to succeed, but it is another flick that has quite a bit of horror and gore in it. Definitely a feel good terror, if that is possible.

If you want something with a little less horror and a little more fun, the family friendly film of The Vampire’s Assistant might be what you are looking for. I think the best description of this movie is cute, as it is a bit reminiscent of the hilarious A Series of Unfortunate Events and is something on the lighter side if you are a bit burnt out from your blood lust.

Looking for some humor with your sappy vampires and bloody cocktail? Well Christopher Moore’s Bite Me: A Love Story is a touching and laugh out loud funny love story of several vampires. My favorite of the novel is the male cat that accidentally gets changed in to a nosferatu. In one epic scene this horny, blood-thirsty cat confused by his new immortal and powerful status makes quite a move against one of the female vamp characters, and I will be surprised if you don’t end up on the ground laughing hysterically when you get to that spot in the story. Definitely an excellent read once you get past the weird narration of one of the main characters.

Back to a personal favorite vampire, Sanctuary’s Tesla is such an all-star vampire specimen. Smart, handsome (kind of), and the wine aficionado, I do love watching him assist our heroic team with his sadistic vampire humor on board.

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Sunshine is a novel that got quite exemplary reviews, starring a newly powerful witch as well as a grateful and enigmatic vampire. While it was not horrible, they left a little too much of the details out for me, and I was not overly impressed. However, despite my unenthusiastic response to the book, it still has a phenomenal star-ratage on Goodreads and might be worth checking out.

And then there is The Vampire Diaries. As much as this show has it’s teeny bopper moments, I have to admit I am hooked. Pretty much all the characters are pleasing to look at, but the further you get in to the series the more you get away from the pathetic high school references (though you still get the occasional cheerleader episode from time to time). The show really evolves with time, and becomes more and more complex with quite a good back story. So good that the CW Network that airs the Diaries has created a spin off series about the original vampires of VD, cleverly called The Originals. Even the heart-throb star Stefan has a past as a “ripper” (and a relapse, like most addicts). When Stefan is on the blood, he just can’t control himself, and you get some 5-star violence in seasons 2 and 3 because of it. I know it might be something that your innards are telling you is not worth watching as you will have to survive those awkward teenage moments, but I do have to highly recommend this show, just make it past the first couple episodes and I can almost guarantee you will be an addict as well.

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Our throat shredding monsters:

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is pretty much the most awesome and original vampire out there. And you can catch the film version or the novel. While I was in high school I was not the biggest fan of all the 19th century literature we had to read, but I chose this novel for an advanced English lit course and was completely sold. The novel is old (from 1897) but a true masterpiece. It will definitely make you want to sleep with the night light on, but is worth the sacrifice to your electric bill with its phenomenal imagery and combination of love and horror. The movie did a good job as well, but I am a Gary Oldman fan, and his depiction of the vampire is creeptaculous. If you want an original vampire, this is where to turn, NOT Vampire Diaries’ new spin off.

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I don’t need to describe The Strain to you as I already have previously, but this more recent novel series features some pretty horrific vampires, from the suckers to their disgusting habit of squirting out all their blood product excrements when they flee. This series has some great horror and bone chilling vamps.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter might have sounded like a super corny flick, but I have to give them props. This is one of the few situations where the movie blasted the book out of the water. I own both the book and the movie, and while the book has a fun story it is written as a series of memoirs that can be slow moving at times. The movie however is all out action, and these vampires are diabolical to the end. The basic storyline deals with vampires inspiring the Civil War in order to maintain slavery, as the slave trade is the perfect source of a stable food supply for blood suckers. So you can hate these monsters for two reasons: in addition to being the terror inducing vamp they also are strong supporters of slavery. The movie is much better than the book and will keep you on your toes from the start.

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Interestingly enough, the reason I heard about The Lost Boys was thanks to Vampire Diaries making a reference to it. Being a vampire enthusiast I went out and obtained a copy, and in addition to the wonders of Keifer Sutherland as a bad-ass vamp, those of you 80’s children would probably love the blast from the past being that this is quite an older film. It centers around a family that just moved to Santa Clara, California (one town over from where I live now!!!) and a gang of malicious boys on the beach that turn this family on its head. While the special effects are not quite what we might be used to today, there are some chilling scenes and great references. If you loved The Goonies you will probably enjoy this movie quite a bit.

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While both the Deadtown novel series and Mortal Instrument series are more about shape shifters, shadow hunters, and demons, there are quite a few appearances of vampires in these books. In fact, did you know that Juliet from Shakespeare’s famous play was a vamp? You will be wooed by her too if you pick up the Deadtown novels. And Simon is one of the main characters of The Mortal Instruments that gets turned in to quite a great vampire. Both of these books will probably fulfill your creature obsession and are worth mentioning even if they are not spotlighted around vampires.

My adoration of the vampire species led me to purchase the 2011 film The Priest, which centers around a vampire and human war in the future. I could tell you a lot more, but I will be up front and honest in saying I was not impressed. I guess it’s worth a watch for those of you in love with the more monstrous vampire versions, but overall this one was sadly a dud.

While the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer may feature Angel, a heart-broken goodie vampire, the show’s vampires are traditionally horrifically blood thirsty monsters, so I will place Buffy under the category of throat slashers. Buffy is definitely an oldie but a goodie. While it might be a bit on the older side, it is worth wiping the dust off your copy and re-watching for some fun. I won’t say more as I will be sure to feature her in my TV from the Crypts post in the future.

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The Historian was a novel that in my opinion tried to combine a novel reminiscent of Dracula with some mystery and adventure. Sadly it fell short of its aspirations, and though it did get some positive reviews, I found it painfully long and boring. I stuck it out to the end, but feel that this novel would have been better as a shortened version of its story.

Fangland is another novel that aspired to spotlight some Dracula-wannabe like vampires but I think it is just territory you should not try to cross. This novel stars the collapse of a TV news channel as an ancient vampire finds his way in to their lives, but overall was a bit drab and sluggish.

As I searched my collection for vampire novels I realized I missed mentioning Lilith St. Crow’s Strange Angel series last week on my werewolf column. This is a young adult series that has been packed to the brim with creatures. The main characters are half bloods, part vampire and part human. Interestingly those born of humans with vampire blood become a creature hell-bent on destroying vampires. While the vampires themselves don’t make as many appearances as their bastard children and a ton of werewolves, this series is full of heart-stopping action and suspense. Watching Dru grow up in to a bad ass vampire slayer will keep you up way past your bedtime.

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Let’s face it, Kate Beckinsale is freaking hot in her leather outfit in the Underworld series, but for the vampire lovers out there is more to this story than just a girl in a trench coat that can make you drool. These movies feature the aged story of vampires and werewolves being mortal enemies, and Beckinsale’s Selene character gets right in the middle. These action packed flicks are super fun every time. My favorite of the four is actually the one without Selene, The Rise of the Lycans movie. It tries to explain a lot of the back story references in the first two movies, and has some great wolf on vamp scenes, in more way than one. The most recent in the series, Underworld Awakening, is sadly probably the weakest but still full of great bloody fight scenes.

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The movie Van Helsing features the original Dracula as well as incorporates tons of other classic fantasy horror stories. The vampires in this film can be quite grotesque, though I particularly enjoy Dracula’s wives, as the CGI did a great job showing their flowing dresses and outfits transforming in to horrific scaly skin when they take on their monster forms. The word I think that best describes this movie is fun, lots of actions, cute and admirable characters, and all around fun for you fang bangers.

My personal favorite vampires:

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Bill and Eric have truly won my hearts as my favorite vampires for different reasons. Well, what I really should say is the vampires of The Southern Vampire Mystery Series have won my heart. Let me include both the novels and the spin off TV show True Blood. Here is my take on the two for what it is worth: True Blood is a fun show packed with more sex than seems physically possible, as well as some good action, lots of blood, and violently scary characters. It is enjoyable and always ends at just the right moment making you beyond impatient to see what happens next. However, it is NOTHING LIKE THE BOOKS. Pretty much HBO bought the rights to use the characters’ names from Charlaine Harris and didn’t have to agree to keep ANYTHING else the same. I do love the show, but if you read the books you have to completely compartmentalize yourself between the two renditions, and in some ways that just means you get to enjoy two different story lines for what they are. The only difference for which I will give props to the show for having changed the story was their decision to keep LaFayette alive. That being said, LaFayette was never an important character in the books, so his death was not that remarkable, and the actor playing him in the show is much more entertaining, hence worth saving from the stake.

Now as for the novels, I just ADORE them. I did get a little sick of Sookie’s whining in books 3-5 (“Oh, woe is me, there are too many supernatural beings that want to sleep with me, why won’t my vampire boyfriend pay more attention to me, or how do I choose which sexy man to sleep with?!”), but she matures along with the books and seems to grow out of her pathetic phase. And the vampires in these novels are just great. While Bill did break Sookie’s heart when he admitted that he initially met her on orders from the Queen of Louisiana, Bill stays a true friend to her throughout the books with so many redeemable qualities. A tense and awkward scene I think of when I picture Bill and Sookie is somewhere around book 10 or 11, Sookie is running from some super-ripped killers in the rain and mud, only to realize she could hide in Bill’s house. However, being that it is still daytime Bill is in his vampire sleep, and afraid that she will lead the killers right to her if she trapses through his house in muddy wet clothes, she strips outside the bushes of Bill’s house and sneaks in to his hidey hole under the floorboards. Bill is there as well, only in the nude and comatose as he slumbers his vampire slumber. Bill’s cute and half-dead/asleep response to Sookie is very endearing, though the nerve racking scene leads to a lot of whispering “Shut up or wake up Bill” as the killer search the house for them.

And speaking of the Queen of Louisiana, her character in the book was a young Eastern European girl who was about 15 years old when she was changed, and her longevity as well as angelic and innocent face make her powerful and horrifying.

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Eric also grows on you over time, but can still be quite the ruthless bastard in moments of stress. You grow to admire Eric in his increasing respect for Sookie and attempts to include her in the vampire world, even if that meant marrying her through a vampire ceremony without her knowing. But through Eric we are able to understand the inner workings of the vampire government as well.

One character the book has that never makes it on to the screen is Bubba, who actually is Elvis, turned to a vampire when a vamp-mortician felt a faint, undetectable pulse in his body at the morgue. While poor Bubba has quite a few neuroses, including not being able to handle hearing his original name as well as having an appetite for housecats, he is a great addition to the crew.

And Pam. Well, I do like Pam on True Blood, but she might be my absolute favorite vampire in the books. She is a feminist super power that really knows how to kick ass. And unlike in the TV show, she and Sookie develop a close relationship after having plotted and successfully killed some rotten vampires together. Pam’s one liners have also led me to laugh out loud when I read them, with this short interlude being one of my favorite Pam quotes in the books:

“Fangtasia, where all your bloody dreams come true,” said a bored female voice.
‘Pam. Listen.’ Sookie whispered.
‘The phone is pressed to my ear. Speak.’
‘Appius Livius Ocella just dropped in.’
“Fuck a zombie!”

Yes Pam, that is one way to put it.

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In addition to stellar characters, Harris really re-creates the south and all it’s vampire mysteriousness. These books are a guarantee to make me smile and worth feasting on yourself if you want something more fulfilling than the sexcapades of True Blood.

Well folks, this concludes an insanely long edition of Your Weekend Creature Comforts, but the unfathomable vampires deserve this much time in the moonlight. Until next week my delicious fang-bangers.

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Posted on October 12, 2013, in Creature Comforts, Geekology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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