The Fear Factor: On Vampires, Werewolves and other beasts – Urban Myths

Introduction

1. Vampires do not die, they can only be replaced, or from Dracula and Nosferatu to Blade Via Anne Rice Vs. Stephen King

2. The Human Animal

3. Freddie Vs. Jason and Vice Versa plus Michael Meyers

4. Other Monsters

The Fear Factor: On Vampires, Werewolves and other beasts – Urban Myths

Introduction

Another sub-genre of Science Fiction is the Horror genre, otherwise known as "Urban Myths", which has always been considered as marginal and non important until Stephen King managed to make the transition from the fringes to the mainstream. He paved the way for creators such as Cronenberg, Carpenter, Craven etc', who specialized in the genre before that they too were able to make the transition to the mainstream.

Since I have no intention of delving into the psychology of fear, as someone who never stopped laughing throughout "The Exorcist", all I can say is that this fear can be a healthy release, because the whole point is that we know that we are sitting in a safe and secure location (all things being relative), and that no matter what happens in the Movie, it will be over in an hour or two, the lights will come back on and we will return to our reality and our routine, which usually are gray, boring and really not scary - again, all things being relative, of course. Perhaps that's why the horror genre is far less successful in Israel than it is in the U.S., for example, but the longer the author or the screenwriter can make us forget this fact, the novel or the Movie are better (which is true not only in the Horror genre). In this respect, there is no doubt that King rules.

1. Vampires do not die, they can only be replaced, or from Dracula and Nosferatu to Blade Via Anne Rice Vs. Stephen King

In the Principality of Wallachia (now a part of Romania), there lived in the 14th Century a prince named Vlad, a descendant of the Principality's founder. His grandfather was a local warlord who fought against the occupying (Ottoman) Turks. His father was a military commander in Sighi÷oara, who had the honor of being initiated into the Order of the Dragon, an Order of Knights similar to the contemporary Order of St. George in England. Members of the Order were commited, amongst other things, to fighting the Turks. As a sign of pride, Vlad Senior adopted the nickname "Dracul" (Dragon).

Upon the death of the Roman emperor Sigismund, the relations between Vlad and the Turks deteriorated, and the Sultan demanded that he sends two of his sons to the Court as hostages. Vlad Junior, who adopted the nickname "Dracula" ("Son of the Dragon"), was one of them. When he was released and returned home, he learned that his older brother and his father were murdered by local rival noblemen

Soon rumors strated to spread, linking Vlad to acts of atrocity and cruelty. One of the earliest of which was his revenge against the noblemen whom he held responsible for the death of his father and brother. His favorite method of execution was impalement, a method which caused his victims the most suppering and earned him the nickname "The Impaler", but it was not the only one. In all fairness, there were many accounts depicting him as a national hero and a great patriot, mainly because of his fight against the Turks, who supported his brothers and other rivals. He continued to fight against the Turks until he was killed in battle in 1476.

So far it all sounds like every boring and banal story about a common medieval prince, right? Nothing unusual or uniqe for the period, not even in the cruelty of the man, whose victims numbered tens of thousands. So how did Vlad, Prince of Wallachia, turn into Dracula, the horror-inspiring vampire?

It is unclear how much information writer Bram Stoker had about Vlad the man when he wrote his Novel in 1897. He must have had other historical sources about Transylvania and Dracula's family, but their contribution to the myth is unclear. According to drafts of the Novel held in the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, the name of the vampire was supposed to be simply "Vampire." Stoker decided to change the name when he found a footnote in a historical book entitled An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, by William Wilkinson, stating that "Dracula means Devil in Wallacian", without any explicit reference to Vlad himself. Incidentally, Vlad was never called or even considered a Vampire during his lifetime.

Some actors have made their careers portraing the Vampire, including the "Son of", "Sister of", "Bride of", "Daughter of", "Grandmother of", "Dog of" - Boris Karlof, Bella Logozi, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (Saruman in "the Lord of the Rings"). Which one of them portrayed the Vampire for a record number of times? You do the math (Incidentally, this is also true for "Frankenstein". Just a reminder - Frankenstein was the scientist's name in the book. The Monster had no name...)

The first cinematic vampire was actually Nosferatu, who made is debut in a 1922 Silent Movie (portrayed by the terrifying Max Scherck). The Movie was naturally based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. All the names were changed in order to avoid copyright conflicts, which didn't prevent Stoker's estate, acting for his widow, Florence Stoker, from sueing for copyright infringement (and winning).

If you're intrested in the story of the making of this Movie, which in itself is fascinating, you are invited to watch the Shadow of the Vampire, in which John Malkovich portrays the director Mornau and Willem Dafoe portrays Max Scherck.

Bella Logozi, a Native Romanian himself, is probably the actor most identified with the character of the vampire, and he worked closely with Stoker on the Movie. The 1992 Movie Innocent Blood starring Anne Parillaud (the original La Femme Nikita), pays him a tribute (in the form of archive clips from his Movies).

Another adaptation of the story was made in 1992, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and at least another one is coming soon. Incidentally, Female vampires are pretty rare on Cinema and Parillaud is one of the few who had the honor. Another example is the Queen of the Damned.

Speaking of Blade, lately we get to see on TV all kinds of vampires (see shows such as "Buffy", "Angel", "The Vampire Diaries" etc’…), and it seems that like in every species in nature, female vampire are more lethal male vampires...

Incidentally, in "Matrix Reloaded", the Oracle, looking like anybody's aunt or grandmother, explains that vampires, aliens, werewolves, angels, ghosts, etc' are nothing but software that malfunctioned and were not integrated in the Matrix, the master plan, which allows people to think they can see them. Interesting, isn't it?

In light of all that has been said so far, it is clear that there are still many unanswered questions that have no uniform and agreed upon answers in vampire literature.

How was the first vampire created? Where did it come from?

Is the transmission of vampirism by bite automatic or involuntary? How many bites are required?

Is feeding on blood necessary, or is it possible to settle for blood substitutes and even ordinary human food?

How do vampires breed, if at all? With humans or with other vampires?

Can the vampire come in uninvited, or does he have to be invited in?

And last but not least, the most important question of all - how do you destroy a vampire?

Pack a cross, some holy water, a wooden stake and a gun loaded with silver bullets (a Star of David will not work, garlic will not hurt);

Trap it outside its coffin in broad daylight;

Drive a wooden stake through its heart;

Shoot it with a silver bullet;

All of the above.

Good Luck!

 

Blade

Dark Tower, the

Hunger, the

Salem's Lot

Twilight Saga

Underworld

Vampire Chronicles, the

 

2. The Human Animal

The Werewolf myth has some basis in reality. Apparently it is rooted in Lupus, a very real disease, affecting the immune system and manifesting itself in serious inflammations in different body parts, and when it hits the face and the head it can make them look flaky and "wolf like". The part about awakening under a full moon is just an added bonus.

Interestingly enough, although out of every 9 cases of the disease among women there is only one case among men, men star in the majority of Werewolves stories.

Myths about humans turning into animals, not necessarily wolves, are also common. This usually happens because of a curse, a botched scientific experiment, an accident, or voluntarily, or some combination of the above. When it involves teenagers, the reason can also be an uncontrollable hormonal rage...

Ladyhawk tells the story of two lovers cursed by a jealous and cruel bishop - he was turned into a dog, a day creature, and she was turned into a hawk, a nocturnal creature, so they were doomed never to meet again, until a wise old monk and a young thief found a way to remove the curse.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Remus Lupin had a secret - he was a werewolf, and Sirius Black turned himself into a formidable black dog (he was an Animagus, a wizard with the power to become any animal he chooses). By the way, both names definitely betray the secrets of their owners, so why do they even bother to hide them? Professor McGonagall's favorite animal, however, is a cat, a magical beast in its own right.

See also Manimal and Sheena.

And in conclusion, consider yourselves warned – if you travel down a country road, not to run a wolf over (like Jack Nicholson did in Wolf”...)!

And on a trivial note, how do you destroy a werewolf?

Hint: see "how do you destroy a vampire"

3. Freddie Vs. Jason and Vice Versa plus Michael Meyers

Horror literature features another kind of monster. Its evil is motivated by instinct, unlike Stephen King's evil, which is deeply rooted. It usually involves an ordinary human who was apparently evil from an early age and met his death in a particularly gruesome way, which only increased his evil to the point that he becomes immortal. He usually preys upon innocent (or not so innocent) teenagers, and they are the ones who manage to destroy it, at least until the next time.

Some creators have specialized in creating plots of this kind. Following the "Summit Meeting" between two of the best-known characters of the genre, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, here are a few tips.

 

Children of the Corn

Final Destination

Friday the 13th

Halloween

Nightmare on Elm Street, A

Resident Evil

Saw

Scream

 

 

4. Other Monsters

Monster design is of particular importance in Science Fiction Movies. The more successful the monster design, the better the Hero is portrayed when he manages to destroy it (after it killed countless innocent victims) and the more horrific it gets if and when it manages to destroy him. But that does not mean that the monster necessarily has to be particularly disgusting or big. Note the cute little shark from Jaws (which was not a Sci-Fi Movie), because there is no doubt that its successful and convincing design contributed greatly to the success of the Movie.

Also worthy of an honorable mention are the monster from "Alien", David Cronenberg's flies ("The Fly," "Naked Lunch"), Sil from Species (the first, not the second, which was really bad); interestingly enough, the scientist in the Movie says that Sil was designed as a female so she would be easier to control. Is it possible that such a distinguished scientist forgot that in most species in nature, the female is the most deadly? Arnold Schwarzenegger's Predator (also the first), and yes, even the dreaded roach from "Men in Black" (also the first) and Shilov, the monstrous spider from Lord of the Rings-Return of the King, and many others. Who is the winner of the Best Designed Monster contest? You be the judge.

All these monsters have one thing in common – their design is based on insects. The survival skills of these creatures is simply amazing, and it is really scary to think what would happen if an average cockroach was somehow able to reach a substantial size. There have been cases of insects who while being small, still managed to cause terrible disasters (locust, predatory ants of various kinds, killer bees making a few guest appearances on the X-Files and in the Movies based on the series, and other pests...) These fears also serve as an inexhaustible source for all kinds of horror Movies (see Arachnophobia, Kingdom of the Ants, etc'.)

However, Kenneth Johnson's "V", which received quite a few favorable mentions, featured one of the most fascinating characters, in my opinion, of a Science Fiction monster, which is the infamous Diana, the leader of the Visitors. This goes to show that you don't have to look like a monster in order to be a monster. In this show, incidentally, the Visitors were not insects but reptiles, but the principle is the same. The problem is that a mammal or a bird can never reach such a monstrous size and survive for any length of time, and most contemporary mammals and birds (and reptiles) are "scaled down models" of their prehistoric ancestors.

See also: King Kong (ape), Godzilla (Gojira), Mothra, Gorgo (reptiles), which are different in their design - probably because of their Japanese origins... By the way, Godzilla and Mothra are alive and well in Japan, destroying Tokyo again and again, thanks for caring (when do the Japanese find the time to rebuild it all over again?)...