The vampire is arguably the most explored and societally-saturated monster of the Classic Monster series and that posed a huge problem when trying to connect to my personal translation of the essence of Count Dracula. I've read so many books and seen so many movies about vampires that I can't begin to recount them all and yet, in most cases, I absorbed this material without specifically seeking it out.
This is a monster who's casually strolled the spectrum from demonification to romanticization. Vampires have been depicted as primitive and maniacal and, just as often, angelic supermen. Sometimes their hideous atrocities, other times seductive Adonises (or would that be Adoni?). A pick-and-choose mythology is presented and it all rolls up in our collective consciousness. So, when deciding what Dracula (and vampires in general) meant to me, I had to do a lot of listening through the static to pick out the voices that meant the most to what I considered the true vampiric essence.
I'd ignored vampires for most of my childhood and been somewhat amused by the surge in vampire-related media that happened around the time of shows like True Blood and movies like Twilight. Sure, there were a few pioneers in the dark that caught my attention before the flood like Interview With the Vampire and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the latter of which I didn't truly realise the brilliance of until some years later.
But it wasn't until the mania over vampires was already getting stagnant that I actually began to question why it still felt the perfect nerve had yet to be struck. Though I really enjoy the film The Lost Boys, I felt it was missing a vital emotional component and perhaps here I'm speaking more from the standpoint of my ego as opposed to a universal demand.
The Lost Boys presented us with vampires who were very comfortable in their own skins as creatures of the night alongside vampires who still had one foot in their humanity. However, this internal struggle in some played against the celebratory narcissist wasn't illustrated nearly as artfully in The Lost Boys as in Interview With the Vampire.
I wanted to take the adolescent contemporary (potential) angst of The Lost Boys and combine that with the contemplative drama of Interview With the Vampire and write a screenplay for a movie that I was calling This Low. It started to come together around the idea of a teenage vampire, bummed out, sitting on a beach at night smoking a cigarette and watching the waves as well as a soundtrack of Iggy Pop, Suede, and the Velvet Underground. I eventually lost interest in it but not before developing some definition to my personal associations to the vampire mythology.
Bram Stoker's novel originally explained a deformed, animalistic demonic creature almost visible beneath the surface of the vampire; a putrid stench underlying the perfume. While certain films and television shows portrayed this dichotomy swimmingly, I had never absorbed such a strong disgust in the vampire as in Bram Stoker's writing. I wanted to capture the superhuman beauty prevalent in some interpretations as well as the subhuman viciousness in other portrayals.
So came about my Dracula, a youthful dandy (not too unlike Dorian Gray) who, I feel, also exudes a disgusting quality that's difficult to immediately place. He's effeminate with animal grace, wearing black vinyl pants like a rock star, holding up a wineglass of blood elegantly, and even mocking preconceived notions with a silver crucifix necklace.
Yet, his chest and chin are stained with blood, an indicator of his debilitating lust. The ears, fingernails, and even a hint of the fangs reveal a bit of the demon within. Dracula is ancient, allowing him to come to terms with his vices and see them as part of his nature. The human and the demon are perfectly blended in Dracula, allowing him clinical control, yet he understands the importance of losing himself in the lust of the moment and allows this.
Sometime in the '80s, I was watching a rerun of a Halloween episode of The Monkees in which Davy Jones (who, despite the fact that I was probably about 5-years-old, I identified with) is seduced by Dracula's daughter. I recognized that vampires sucked the blood from humans, yet someone I idolized was not only kissing one, he was becoming obsessed with one. The strangeness of Davy Jones's behavior merged with my own strange attraction to Dracula's daughter and, possibly for the first time, the concept of sexual attraction dawned on me.
It was either that or Prince's video for "Kiss" and a trading card I'd found by a drainage ditch of a woman in spandex. But with Davy Jones's allegiance to Dracula's daughter, I also felt a deep sense of betrayal. This wasn't just one of the good guys, this was the best guy, and this girl was giving him something tempting enough for him to sell that all out. And this was also possibly the first time I linked a feeling of betrayal to vampires; a feeling integral to vampire mythology.
In almost all vampire stories, the vampire was seduced into a life of addiction or obsession, giving up his/her values and virtues in a desperate attempt to satisfy his/her newfound lust. Vampires are fundamentally corrupted beings but in a way that is disturbingly conscious. They aren't zombies; they remember who they were with guilt or disdain but it rarely changes their course.
At the end of the day, they still find themselves fang-deep in their next conquest. I wanted this blend of seduction and betrayal to emanate from the two most recent brides of Dracula, gyrating and writhing to his left and right. I wanted their faces to show a giving in to orgasmic pleasure and desperate horror simultaneously.
Their eyes are hidden, perhaps as a way to strip them of their identities or even their souls if you're to believe eyes are the window to the soul. Each is bound to Dracula in one of his animal forms: bat or wolf. The binding around the neck is an allusion to guilt in the hiding of the bite wounds as well as a means to tie the brides to an animalistic nature. This bondage can also be used to express a slavery to an addiction or a vice as well as, on a more surface level, sexual asphyxiation.
Finally, this particular chamber of Dracula's castle features a disco ball and walls crawling with dry ice or mist. While on the obvious level, this shows Dracula's party spirit and ties him to a time at least somewhat modern, it works on another level that I unfortunately fall short of explaining.
The disco ball was one of the last aspects added to this illustration but I immediately knew it was vital. It still somehow provides the adhesive for my concepts of Dracula and vampires in general and attempting to explain it would only drag us further from the truth.