What makes a Vampire?

[A mini-retrospective from journalist/columnist/photographer, Erika Wiman]

What makes  a vampire?

The first image the majority of us get from thinking about vampires is fangs. I have tried during Vampire Awareness Month (©Bell/Deniz) to note down characteristics of the vampires in the films I’ve seen and I have come to the conclusion that not only can a vampire be badly hurt by garlic and crosses but they can also be totally unaffected. Edward in Twilight has very little in common with Nosferatu. But still we accept they are both vampires.

Edward or Nosferatu?

The only common thing all these vampires have is that they drink blood[1]. Not necessarily human blood, but blood from a living creature. They don’t even all have fangs.

Modern mainstream vampire stories (The Southern vampire-series, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight) have resolved the problem by making the fangs retractable. The latter two have also resolved the daylight issue somewhat or how else could they attend high school? Magic rings protect Damon and his brothers from being pulverised in the sun and as for the Cullens, as many have ridiculed, they sparkle. Sunlight would be a giveaway but not necessarily death.

Pam (True Blood) - A vampire with fangs...

What about garlic and crosses? In the early cinematic stage of the vampires these two would protect a human and  a vampire would be burned by them. Nowadays they aren’t bothered, even if they don’t always like garlic (Bill Comptom refers to not liking the smell).

So as the vampires have become more endearing, handsome and charming they have also become more dangerous. There are not many things that will protect you. The only sure thing is a wooden stake through a vampires heart.

But what makes a vampire? In folklore, suicide, an unholy burial or such was enough. In Nosferatu we are not told. The victims dies. Later on in the vampire film world it was enough to be bitten once (The Brides of Dracula). Then you had to be drained  by a vampire to become one. Another twist is (in the southern vampire-books for instance) where you have to die with a vampire’s blood in you to become undead.

David (The Lost Boys) - a typical vampire?

There are so many different characteristics, Martin (from the film of the same name) qualified purely by drinking human blood. You might even say that we used to have a type of vampire in Nordic mythology as well. They were called blotrese, which derives from the live sacrifice. They were creatures that had overfed at the sacrifice and therefore became unnaturally strong. And just that is the only thing Hollywood has been able to agree on, that vampires are strong and they drink blood.

These teeth were made for drinking...


[1] referring to the Vampire Awareness Month [©Bell/Deniz] films

About Mark S. Deniz

English teacher, writer, editor, publisher, reviewer and blogger. Founder of publishing company, Morrigan Books and imprint, Gilgamesh Press. Also cycles, listens to lots and lots of music, reads a ton of books and tries to fit in some TV, film and writing too. View all posts by Mark S. Deniz

2 responses to “What makes a Vampire?

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