Vampirism on TV is more than obviously a little hot right now after going cold on the big screen and being reinvented there besides. But since TV is the place to be for any actor nowadays, it’s no wonder considerable buzz is developing about a new show using vampires called “The Strain” on FX. With Guillermo del Toro as co-creator, it manages to take vampirism back to the bad place where it started before they started integrating into society in the movies and other TV series.
What makes “The Strain” reinvent vampirism is that it’s looked at as a disease from a mysterious virus rather than being direct descendants from Count Dracula or ancient vampires. While some might look at it as a mere knockoff on what initially caused zombies (at least in the “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Walking Dead” universes), what will fans of vampirism think after so much romanticism?
One thing you can say about Guillermo del Toro: He’s no-holds-barred when it comes to his projects. He’ll hit you over the head with astonishing special effects while also giving you a new spin on an overly worn genre. But who can be blamed for initially romanticizing the vampire genre in movies and TV? For the movies, it might have started with 1979’s “Dracula” starring Frank Langella. Directed by John Badham, it was an adaptation of a stage production that took directly from Bram Stoker’s novel, except with far more romantic elements between Drac and his women.
Prior, vampires were made to be ugly and sinister rather than romantic subjects, despite Bela Lugosi being considered romantic in the 1931 movie of “Dracula.” Today, he’s probably looked at as overly creepy rather than attractive, even if we don’t know how different he was when playing the role on the stage. Whether there was any influence from the 1979 take on movie adaptations like “Interview with a Vampire” and the “Twilight” series isn’t known for sure. It’s clear, though, that teenagers who lived for goth media found the idea of being involved romantically with a vampire very attractive.
We eventually came to the point where vampires became so integrated into fictional society that we were just waiting for a movie about a stay-at-home dad who happened to be a vampire. With the “Twilight” series having a very different ending, it’s a different story with HBO’s “True Blood.” Aforementioned series has been a very fascinating portrait of vampire integration with humans, or at least one human who happens to descend from fairies with telepathic abilities.
“The Southern Vampire Mysteries” series of books that “True Blood” is based on wisely didn’t integrate vampires in with just an ordinary human since “Twilight” already did that with tragic circumstances. Someone with fantasy-oriented origins integrating with a vampire made for a complex mix that also broached a million explorations of issues we hear about in the news regularly. Also, having a romantic couple who are both outcasts makes for a stronger love story when it’s two against society.
While HBO’s “True Blood” is about to end, who threw a new direction into the vampire genre recently? It was none other than indie producer Jim Jarmusch.
Intellectualism and Vampires
You could call Jarmusch’s recent “Only Lovers Left Alive” the most thoughtful vampire film ever done. Rather than young adults as the vampires, we have older vampires here, particularly two vampire lovers who happen to have an existential crisis in searching for life’s meaning. If that’s a far cry from what we’ll see in the future of vampire products (no thanks to limited box office for Jarmusch’s film), it brought a noticeable new look to vampire tales that at least opens it up to much more than just “Twilight”-inspired movies.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” may have put a capper on vampire movies for a while as the genre continues to flourish on TV. “The Strain” will now make vampires the enemy once again, unless they figure out a way to make one of the vampires human enough to start a romantic relationship with a character not affected by the virus. We’re already seeing some elements of such things with zombies.
What will the vampire romantics do, though, once pop culture goes back to making vampires ugly and dangerous again? Other than watch the “Twilight” movies and “True Blood” on Netflix over and over again, it should be considered a service by pop culture to remind how dangerous vampires once were in films and TV past. The fantasy marriages with attractive vampires ultimately shouldn’t take away the notion that vampires can’t be tamed and ultimately look like Nosferatu under the veneer.
At least “The Strain” will bring the zombie quotient to vampirism for the first time, hence bringing enough violence and desolation to teach us to focus more on plain survival as “The Walking Dead” has.