[By Nic Lindh on Tuesday, 04 May 2004]
Watched Underworld the other night, and it’s a pretty enjoyable and shamelessly Matrix-inspired romp, complete with decadent Louis XIV-style vampires. Can’t have a good vampire scene without some languid decadence.
One annoying thing this movie shares with pretty much all other vampire movies, though, is that the vampires physically change when they feed, becoming uglier and more “monstrous.” It’s hard to understand why so many directors feel the need to add this kind of visual cue that vampires are Evil … shouldn’t the literal sucking of somebody’s blood and tearing of the victim’s cartilage be enough to get that message across?
It’s also really annoying in that this gratuitous transformation short circuits the beauty and grace of the vampire. As Anne Rice did such a fabulous job of showing in her Vampire Chronicles, the vampire is Beautiful Death, seductive in its grace and power, but ultimately nothing more than a predator. The symbolism that gives such strength to the archetype is of course obvious and multi-layered.
When the vampire strikes, revealing its true destructiveness, this is the point where its beauty becomes paradoxical and therefore chilling, so why do all these movie makers feel the need to change the eye color or have their faces morph into something ugly and gnome-like?
While on the subject, one thing I’ve never seen in a vampire movie, and that really stuck with me from Anne Rice’s books is that her vampires have no other body fluids than blood, so when they cry or sweat, blood comes out. Brilliant, and the juxtaposition of the fluid of life with pale marble features is a haunting image.