The Vampire Diaries is undoubtedly a very popular TV show, especially with young people. Amid the current trend for making vampires more like glamorous pin-up idols than the monstrous, menacing creatures of the night they once were, The Vampire Diaries is right up there as it continues to accrue a massive fan following, a jaw-dropping popularity that shows no signs whatsoever yet of diminishing.
This is all very well and good if you like your vampires to be a little more human and, as such, besetted by all the everyday hang-ups and problems that normal mortals have to face. But what if you are a traditional, die-hard horror fan like me who prefers their vampires to be much more like Nosferatu (or Dracula), sleeping in coffins or crypts by day, then rising from the grave at sundown like a demon from hell, to stalk the night in search of the next human feast to satiate their raging bloodlust? In short, a real, mean – proper evil – vampire. Well, if you are one of those fans, then a program like The Vampire Diaries would definitely prove to be very unappealing and unentertaining.
Horror buffs who prefer the more traditional scary vampire – like the creatures so awesomely portrayed in the Hammer films by people like Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt – have often bemoaned the modern take on vampires, branding them as nothing more than just “vampire romances”, describing them as “too soft” and “not scary at all”. And who can blame them for voicing such disapproving views? Because if you sit down and watch what purports to be a vampire movie or show, but instead find yourself being presented with a story full of handsome young men and nubile young women behaving as if they were in a glossy teenage soap opera – with not a crumbling castle or dusty crypt or gory stakeout in sight – then you may well feel like screaming at the TV in utter frustration: I want to be scared, not romanticised!
And it’s not just in TV shows like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood that slushy, heartthrob vampires hold sway, for the superfluity of vampire romance also fills the shelves of all the bookstores. Popular as these formulaic novels might be with the younger demographic, many of their front covers are very similar in style, depicting either a hunky, medallion wearing male, or a buxom, raven-haired female. Granted, on some these book covers, you might sometimes see a bit of blood trickling down the corners of the mouth, or a glimpse of fang here and there, but generally these novels all, more or less, follow the same old template. No ominous looking, black-caped monsters of the Stoker variety here.
What programs like The Vampire Diaries are seriously deficient in is what I would call The Scare Factor. If most teenagers prefer the more human, more romantic vampire, then that’s fine. One man’s meat and all that. But as far as generating an atmosphere of real menace and fear in telling these modern-day vampire stories, then I’m afraid the writers really do fall short here. It is a great shame, as the vampire is a monster that has always had great potential for being resurrected – again and again – in many terrifying incarnations. The last thing a true horror fan wants is to see a vampire made sloppy and mild and more of a mortal than a creature. The more you go down that path, the furtherer you getting away from the vampire’s traditionally dark and dangerous tendencies.
I, like countless other true vampire fans, long for the day when all the current slushiness that is spoiling the vampire story starts to wane in popularity, and vampires start being scary again. I hope that blessed day when the good old Fear Factor finally returns to the vampire movie will not be too far away. More snarling – and less smooching – is what a true vampire story should be all about.