Why the Vampire Myth Won’t Die
Bloodsucking monsters are avatars for our cultural anxieties. Especially now.
by Jason Zinoman
Have you heard that the Covid vaccine turns you into a vampiric monster — and that the proof is right there in the 2007 Will Smith movie “I Am Legend”?
This conspiracy theory appeared online last year and spread so widely that Reuters actually ran a fact check debunking it (and clarifying the plot). One of the screenwriters of the movie also felt compelled to tweet that it was fictional.
While such ludicrous disinformation may seem peculiar to the social media era, it’s also a throwback to the origins of our most famous monster.
No, the first vampires did not appear in books or movies. They weren’t debonair Transylvanian counts or good-looking, disaffected teenagers. Rooted in folklore, they were symbols of epidemics — and a plausible explanation for disease, at least for the time.
To scare audiences, artists must adapt. Fanged Europeans don’t terrify like they once did, but contagion does. As societal fears become oriented around the pandemic, what will happen to the future of the vampire?
Joe Dante, a veteran horror director, speculated that we have so much more to be scared of today than in recent years, both politically and medically, that “it may be difficult to go back to the purely supernatural approach.” But Larry Fessenden, who starred and directed in one of the best vampire movies of the 1990s, the intimate New York indie “Habit,” sees new opportunities for horror.
“The pandemic has heightened our fear of each other, of infection and contagion, invisible droplets delivering a cataclysmic blow to our physical beings, leading in turn to an atmosphere of deep mistrust and isolation,” he wrote in an email. “And always, there will be those who don’t believe the monster even exists. I think a wave of vampire stories that captures a claustrophobic preoccupation with death and paranoia may be filling our screens next.”
Take a deep-dive into Zinoman’s article at The New York Times
GEP fans will know Jason Zinoman
from his interview in Rob Kuhn’s documentary The Birth of the Living Dead
and we can’t recommend Zinoman’s book “Shock Value” highly enough!
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