Admittedly, every generation strives to claim an archetype that they feel most appropriately encapsulates the trials and tribulations of their tumultuous youth. Depicting an eclectic mix of characters with complex problems is one way to appeal to the most ravenous demographic of our society (preteens/teenagers/young adults) as a sure way to make them feel heard and understood as well as thoroughly entertained. The film industry is infamous for its cultural impact on the youth, the vampire genre is the most recent development revitalized in pop culture that was conceived initially as one of the most original literary feats of all time. Since its original publication, Dracula has been referenced extensively in pop culture and film, usually to more of a comedic purpose than serious. But teen fiction has proven to have an enormous demand for these mysterious, brooding, and blood-thirsty archetypes.
In 2014’s Only Lovers Left Alive we have felt the need to make vampires feasible by assimilating them into society. In this alternate universe, vampires are mopey recluses that lament about how the world is changing for the worst while they make “funeral music”, take blood shots, wear sunglasses at inappropriate times, and reflect on their brushes with several noteworthy historical figures.
The central concept of this recounting is focused on the relationship between the two leading characters and their rather stagnant existence. This film seems to be appearing to challenge the vampire genre by giving it some merit on a human level as well as taking an artistic license to make it stylistic and watchable. There are even humorous moments in which the film even appears to be aware of itself and the pure ridiculousness of its category. Although it is successful in disproving some stereotypes about vampire movies, it is still very much of its genre because it proves perhaps most of all that vampires do not hold a place in our society whatsoever. The fact that the film goes for realism rather than shameless cinematic B-movie formula makes it even more laughable at the condescending flatness of the main characters.
It seems that we find it impossible to break away from our notions of vampires as flawless, intelligent beings of ambiguous morality because the only problems vampires seems to have is where they get their blood supply, how annoying it is that they are adored by all and to hide the evidence when they cannot deny themselves of their cravings. In fact, there seems to be only two types of vampires according to this film’s presences; one is the responsible, intelligent and discreet, and in one character, we see insight into a less retrained, more frivolous vampire who doesn’t even try to deny her impulses.
In these scenes, one cannot break away from the extended metaphor as consuming blood being synonymous with sexual acts, in this film; it also appears to be equivocated with a potent drug. In other words, we have fetishized vampires to the point in which they seem to belong in their own category of deviant sexual preferences. The only time a vampire film has ever been successful is when the sexual innuendo was downplayed or flat-out ignored. In the Swedish film Let the Right One In, it is a convincing portrait that transcends its genre because the main characters are children and have complex character traits that make them relatable and synonymously less admirable for the moral greyness of some of their actions.
The film also strays from the sexualization of vampires as the act of drinking blood is more primitive and brutal and seems to be more about “the other” rather than a fan girl’s obsessive journaling about “the supernatural hunk” or a counter-culture recluse that is an elusive musician only interesting from a distance. Let the Right One In poses actual moral dilemmas and is truly horrifying because of the atrocities committed and due to the fact that the characters seem to actually suffer consequences for their actions and face high stakes as a result.
Vampire movies can be noble in their intent, but often they are less than the sums of their parts. Despite the fact that vampires do not have a place in our society, vampire movies have certainly carved out a large place for themselves. The fact that they can be considered good cinema is subjective. The fact that they are even as successful as they are brings up an interesting conversation about pop culture in itself. They are a reflection of the current generation due to the fact that they are in huge supply and demand.
Ultimately, they are hugely escapist films, they can be shallow and self-indulgent, in the case of Twilight, pretentious and anti-genre (Only Lovers Left Alive) or they can be a challenging portrait of the ugliness and brutality of human nature (Let the Right One In). They are certainly still relevant, but whether any film produced through this period of popularity will survive the test of time due to its merit as good film-making is yet to be seen.