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Strange coffin fellows: Intimate vampire tales

The intimate nature of the vampire elevates most vampire films to erotica or romance. 

Sex and horror just go together. We’ve seen it in movies and television shows. Someone, usually an older brother type, gives the sage advice of taking a girl on a date to a scary movie. The girl is supposed to be so scared she seeks comfort in the awaiting embrace of her suitor. If the formula is properly executed, the young lovers should end up rounding a couple of bases before the date is over. (Watch out for the popcorn trick!)  Horror movies, particularly of the 70’s and 80’s variety, cater to the horny teenager. They feature gratuitous nudity, sex scenes, and inevitably, the naked characters get the axe, chainsaw, blobbed, etc.

And yet, vampire movies don’t quite fit in this sphere of horror. Instead of targeting random promiscuous youths, these movies revel in the hunt for innocence. Not only is the hunt for a victim deliberate, the victim becomes endowed with a bond, a mutual bloodlust. They are often gifted with strength or eternal life.  Vampires do not target their main victim for the slaughter, they are bitten and reborn, fully aware of the power of their sexuality. And of course, there are plenty of vampire movies that just go for the cheap thrill factor, but the intimate nature of the vampire elevates most vampire films to erotica or romance. 

Dracula (2013)

Any film adaptation will do. After all, this is an immortal man who has “crossed oceans of time” to be with his beloved. But I want to begin by pouring one out for Dracula, a series which aired on NBC Friday nights and was laid to rest after only ten episodes. It was too beautiful for this world. The show was set in a traditional Victorian setting, but was updated with many modern twists. Jonathan Rhys Meyer played the world’s most famous vampire with so much fun and intensity. The desire, which fuels erotica, ran rampant in this show. Mina burned with a passion for Dracula, but wrestled with her Victorian sensibilities. Lucy Westinra’s reluctance to settle down had nothing to do with her promiscuity and more to do with her secret longing for Mina. The most interesting change to this adaptation rested in the hands of Lady Jane, a vampire hunter who could not deny her sexual attraction to Alexander Grayson (secretly Dracula). Throughout this web of attraction, Dracula remained fatally in love with Mina. It was just a little too sexy for television, but man, was it an entertaining ride. 

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

This is a Hammer Film production starring Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla, a very hungry and seductive vampire. Carmilla soon begins to haunt  Emma, a young virgin’s dreams, and leaves her with bite marks on her breasts. The relationship between Carmilla and Emma is one of predator and prey and yet it also one of desire. Carmilla and Emma, played by Madeline Smith, are bonded to each other and need each other. It’s a Hammer Film and sure there is a lot of cleavage, but the connection between Carmilla and Emma is particularly strong. Especially, when Carmilla exerts her power over the men as she fights to keep her hold over Emma. 

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Reading the book as a teenager and then revisiting it as an adult is very eye opening. The story of Louis de Point du Lac is one of endless sadness. The relationship between Louis and Lestat is complicated to say the least. Louis basically knows that Lestat is bad for him, but he cannot stay away. Lestat knows Louis does not want him, but needs him to stay. This is basically a story of loneliness and the search for a lifelong companion. The film shows this in Lestat’s (Tom Cruise) stalking of Louis (Brad Pitt). It is also shown in Louis’ desire to leave Claudia for Armand. Armand , played by Antonio Banderas, tells Louis, “you are truly beautiful. Lestat must have wept when he made you.” There is an unspoken understanding between the vampires of a deep yearning for something better. 

The Lost Boys (1987)

Kiefer Sutherland grabbing Jason Patric by the face in a scene from the film ‘The Lost Boys’, 1987. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

How is the Lost Boys erotic? Sure, there is a romantic relationship between Michael (Jason Patric)  and Star (Jami Gertz), but there is more to that. Michael seems to have an entire host of feelings opening up for him. The town of Santa Carla has put him out of his element. Given his mother’s recent divorce and the move to a new town, Michael and his brother Sam (Corey Haim) are outsiders. This isolation is best exemplified in Michael who has an almost instant attraction to Star. The attraction is reciprocated, but Michael also catches the eyes of a group of vampires, most notably David’s (Kiefer Sutherland). One could argue that the desire for Michael’s soul is far more powerful than Star’s desire for Michael. Michael has to fight against his desire to join the vampires.  His newfound lust for blood and deviant behavior awakens new feelings in him. Read into that however you will.   

Near Dark 1987

Near Dark, directed by Katherine Bigelow is just a romantic movie. One can’t help but be moved by the young lovers. Set in a rural town Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) meets and is drawn to Mae (Jenny Wright). She turns him into a vampire and it becomes the two of them against the world as he is thrust into life with Mae’s vampire gang. Mae has infuriated the leader Severin (Bill Paxton) and they are on dangerous ground. Maybe it’s the isolated setting, the Tangerine Dream soundtrack, the pressing danger, but there is a sexiness in this movie about first loves. Their connection is bonded so much that Mae even sacrifices herself to save Caleb’s sister from becoming a vampire. Mae did not want to kill Caleb with her power, she wanted to share it with him.

The romantic nature of the vampire cannot be ignored. Vampires have inspired countless books, films, and television shows.  Unless it’s Count Orloff (maybe you’re into that? I’m not judging), vampires are depicted as beautiful irresistible beings.  From Dracula to Twilight, seduction by vampire is typically seen as intense and passionate. It’s easy to overlook that Mina was happily engaged, Bella Swan was a teen stalked by a 200 year-old.  Vampire seduction ranks high in erotic fantasies. But don’t leave your age appropriate partner holding the popcorn in the theater while you run and try and find a vampire. Remember that very few vampires ask for consent or care about your dietary needs.

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