Cinematic Vampire: From Shadows to Spotlight

Woman's mouth showing vampire fangs

The vampire is a creature of popular legend, and one that has fascinated countless cinema-goers for more than one hundred years. Vampires have been featured in folklore and fiction in various cultures. Their characteristics have varied, their name has even varied, but predominantly the myth has centred on the need of these unnatural creatures to consume human blood. Akin in many myths to ghouls, zombies, or other undead, the vampire has always been connected to death. As part of this they have often been associated with concepts of taboo or liminality. They are creatures that conjure a mix of reverence and fear; they represent immortality but only through unnatural existence. They will live forever, but always as monsters. As such the vampire is considered a liminal character, understanding that liminality is the temporary state between two fields, as it removes the borders between life and death. The symbolic desecration of the mortal border of existence crosses an essential line. For the vampire to feed it must take the life force and blood of a living human – a fundamental violation of our belief in the sanctity of life. It is then not a long step to the association of vampires with other immoral transgressions. As such, even in early mythology there have been clear connections between vampires and deviant sexuality. More often portrayed through the breaking of basic Christian values, such as sex outside marriage or multiple partners, it has also been presented as a façade for necrophilia or other forms of bondage, blood play, etc. that are not usually considered part of mainstream society. The vampire in many ways represents the other, the counter-cultural norms of the society in which its myths appears. This continues to hold true in Western cinema’s portrayal of the vampire. One of the great things about cinema, and especially the horror genre, is that as times change and societal fears evolve, so too has the representation of the monstrous vampire.

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