THE FEAR OF VAMPIRES: What does it mean to truly be alive?
October is a crowded month at the box office. Studios begin to roll out projects they believe are Oscar-worthy. Horror and Halloween-themed films make their entrance. Even family films get into the fray as alternatives for those who don’t gravitate to the above mentioned standards. One film I can guarantee will perform this month is Dracula Untold. It won’t be because of amazing visuals and special effects – which I’m sure it has. It won’t be thanks to an A-list cast – which it doesn’t have. It won’t even be attributed to the fact that it’s a solid Halloween release. Vampire-themed movies tend to do well no matter what month they are released in. The reason why? They speak to some of our greatest questions and fears about this life and what might be waiting for us when it ends.
Most people have such a terrible fear of death that the thought of living out eternity in this world, which is the vampire’s “curse”, is greatly preferable to facing whatever might be around the corner in the world to come. While not traditionally supported by faith communities, vampire films explore matters of spirituality in more complex ways than most genres would ever dare. The connection between blood and eternal life should be a concept any Christian identifies with. Films like Dracula Untold speak to the oldest and most basic human questions. Why am I here? Does what I do while I’m here even matter? And perhaps most importantly — what does it mean to truly be alive?
What’s most interesting is how vampire films have evolved over time. Vampires, and particularly Dracula, used to always be the villain in the story. As viewers, we wanted to deal with the big questions a vampire story raises, but we needed some separation. We needed to tackle them through a character who was “different” than us. For the past 20-30 years, the vampire has been promoted to being the hero of the story. HE is the character we identify with and see ourselves in. His concerns and problems are ours. We are in tune with his negative traits. We, too, occasionally feed on the innocent. We, too, sometimes consume life out of others for our own purposes. We have come to accept than we are neither black nor white, but instead 50 Shades of Gray (SO SORRY – I couldn’t resist.) Sometimes our actions disappoint the culture we live in and even the people we love most. But sometimes, on those rare days, we are capable of the most incredible acts of beauty and kindness that seem to obliterate the dark acts we committed the night before, as if they never happened. WE are the vampire. And HE is us.
You can read more of my thoughts about vampires and faith in my book, There is Power in the Blood: Faith + The Rising Vampire in Popular Culture. Click the link below to purchase.