Carmilla: A Good Old-Fashioned Monster

downloadI just finished my next audiobook adventure: Carmilla, the classic by Joseph Le Fanu, about a mysterious female vampire who preys on the young daughter of an Austrian nobleman. Given that this follows on the heels on Frankenstein, I’m thinking you can probably sense a theme here: monsters of yore. I am a fan of the Gothic horror genre. Forget the blood, gore and guts of modern horror tales, I’ll take an intelligent tale of things that go bump in the night, moral heroes and most importantly, monstrous monsters.

Yes, I said monstrous monsters. As of lately, monsters have gotten … conflicted. They have ‘reasons’ for doing what they do. They justify their actions. They lack the original mystery that made us scared of them. We’ve become so familiar with these monsters that we’ve had to add blood and gore to their stories to find any kind of fright in them. And in that familiarity, we’ve humanized them.

What do I mean? Dracula, in Dracula Untold, was forced to become a monster by an enemy who was more monstrous than him (again, using Ms. Shelley’s argument that man is the real monster). Damien, in the short-lived series reboot of the original story of the anti-Christ’s early years, was described as a millennial in therapy, conflicted about whether he should take over the world or not. The vampires in Stephanie Meyer’s books sparkle and marry and have children – a inside joke that made it into Hotel Transylvania, which went further to humanize and endear the monsters more than any other film I can think of (I actually liked the series).

I think this is what irked me most this time. I did what I usually do when I complete a book I know has a film adaptation and I googled Carmilla. I found sequels and reimaginings that focused on the lesbian love part (if only to titillate their audience, no different than Mr. Le Fanu), but dismissed the part where she was undead and preying on young women. And I know that authors and writers can create their own worlds and visions for stories, but there are some rules that don’t really change. Undead is undead. No matter how ‘romantic’ the notion, vampires can’t have kids, they can’t feel emotions, and no, they don’t sparkle in the sunlight – they burn. Plus, drinking blood is gross and unhygienic, not sexy.

And while we’re on it, silver kills werewolves, not vampires.

So yeah, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to this. Give me a good old-fashioned monster any day. Their backstories might be tragic, and their tales meant to shed light on the unexplained, but in the end, they are evil and worthy only of vanquishing. When lines like that are drawn, life goes back to being simple. Black is black and white is white; and we find our purpose in the evil we battle.