Apr 4, 2010


When I was a kid ...
When I was a kid, and long thereafter - ok, still today, actually - I have been fascinated by the figure of the vampire. Legitimately, the clichés of the vampire formed around the representation given in Stoker's "Dracula", which i read and found to be the work of a dilettante, also legitimately, because of the way it is written. But that is another story. The point is, all the clichés I learnt in comics about vampires weren't present in the novel, which I found disappointing for that matter, especially for those among them that fascinated me the most. Some others in the novel were superfluous in my opinion, and violated the simplicity I liked the vampire character to have.

Blood sweet blood, home sweet home
As an  example of what I didn't like, I can recall the power of the vampire to transform into a wolf, though I reckoned it to be part of the original transilvanian mythology. I don't get it, I remember thinking: either it is a vampire or a werevolf, they cannot mess up things like that! It is always difficult to trace the threads of popular myths, and to separate what belongs to their original formulation from what is a literary or hollywoodian addition to it. All I know, is that one of the things I liked that the novel didn't have, is the fact that a vampire can never EVER enter a house without being explicitly invited to do so by the legitimate owner of that house. What a wonderful thing, I thought, the image of home as a second utero whose thresold evil cannot trespass. This is actually a lack of power, a reassuring limit to the power of evil, which could be faced victoriously with the aid of the simplest element of human aggregation: home.
But then again, vampires, or at least the most powerful among them, the "lord of the undead" count Dracula, had the power to hypnotize people, thus inducing them to invite him in their home agains there will, so the rule of thumb here is that you can never trust things (your house in this case) to do the work in your place. Still, the you-might-even-be-the-son-of-Satan-but-you-ain't-gonna-enter-my-house-if-I-don't-allow-it thing struck a chord with me.

The dead and the dread (could be a rap)
Another thing I realized thanks to my profuse frequentation of the horror-genre, is that fear is all about death. To be more specific, fear refers principally to the dead awakening. Think about that, it's the most offensive paradox to the concepts of nature and reality as we know them. Even if it was our wife or mother who are awakening from death, we couldn't feel anything but an atavistic dread. You might object that is nothing new, and that we don't a movie or a literary work to realize that death is scaring? Well, the objection can be easily rejected by pointing out that the real object of our fear here is life. And, yes, if there is a literary genre whose philosophical pregnancy surrenders too frequently to his acquired character of commodity of mass-consumption in the minds of the critics, that's horror. The fact that horror is the genre the most liable to show its hand to kitsch and crap, doesn't mean that it cannot teach us something too.
Here's one lesson for starters. The way I see it, zombies, vampires, Frankenstein, mummies and ghosts (that's to say, the gotha of the horror imaginary) share one trait in common: they are all undead. Neither alive nor dead: dead come to life following different procedures. If you were to depict the essence of horror, you oughtn't disregard this principle. It can be discussed what makes a movie an artwork, but certaintly, a noir movie where somebody gets killed and the detective must find out who did it scares you in a different way than a horror movie, because the latter deals with situations and fears that cannot be found in real life, but only in the deeper layers of our conscience. That can open up the golden doors of poetry and the interpretation of the unknown, whereas a whodunit mainly sticks to logic.

Good mortality or bad immortality. That is the question
The second lesson brings us back to the vampire character. In life there is no such a thing as a free lunch, and the gift (in german "Gift" means poison and that is no coincidence, think about the concept of "poisonous pill") of immortality comes packed together with a devilish filp side: you have to damn people irreversibly to be able to continue your own damnation.

To make a long story short: the eternal charm of the vampire character relies on the hidden message that, just like democracy is the best form of government but by no means perfect, the human condition is all we have got, and all those who dare to aspire to a better condition are going to die - literally or symbolically - in the attempt to overcome their natural limitations.

To die, or worse.

 "Demon-woman Lilith tries to seduce the drawer who, after heroic resistance, surrenders to the frivolous power of evil"

No comments: