Horror needs two things to survive. Believe it or not, you are not a monster, demon, or malicious individual. (But it helps).
We have all seen it. The opening of the film. Narration. The opening sequence. And then, embossed on the screen as a stamp of authenticity: Based on a true story. Now the chills are detected and ready, the nervousness begins to develop slowly and overwhelmingly, and your attention is glued to every detail.
Vampires officially begin in our study of literature in 1897 with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (it should also be noted that the work is written as diary entries) and on film with FW Murnau’s chilling Nosferatu in 1922. However, their existence dates back thousands of years. In 4000 BC, the ancient Sumerian civilization located in Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq, corresponding to the opening sequence of The Exorcist of 1973) lived in fear of the Ekimmu. Like Greek or Roman cultures, this fear could have been used as a means of control or an urban legend. Bodies that were not properly buried or those that died a violent death would have fallen prey to these blood-sucking demonic ghosts. In the cuneiform texts discovered and translated by R. Campbell Thompson, 50 text plates containing incantations have been found to eliminate “fever-sickness” and more symptoms.
As the vampire myth spreads throughout Europe, cultures from Eastern Europe (as you would expect) to Scotland have reports of these wandering spirits wreaking havoc in the villages where they once lived. So, the first initial fear was a horrible spirit that could possess you and lead to a life of damnation. Over thousands of years this has been amplified to include the fact that they somehow walk among us.
This leads to the second necessary detail of horror: those who believe and those who disbelieve. To put it simply, if an entire village in the Balkans believed in vampires and they just didn’t go out at night, vampires would likely be in danger of extinction without any casualties. However, with belief groups versus disbelief, there is more than the nature of the conflict. There is mistrust and disbelief in everyone around you.
It is fitting that the Enlightenment led us to the grandeur and imagination of romantic literature around 1798. However, it is also fitting that these flights of fantasy could take another darker direction and give birth to the Gothic novel. Horror first hit the shores of England with Matthew Lewis’ The Monk in 1796. The monk Ambrosio is tempted by a couple of women, the virtuous Antonia, daughter of an illicit union and already widowed, and Mathilde, who joins the monastery disguised as a boy and appears in a painting in Ambrosio’s room as the Madonna. Beyond its natural romanticism, the more sinister characters are more memorable. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (whose poem Cristabel will also be listed as an inspiration for this branch of literature) would praise Lewis’ portrayal of Mathilde, while her struggle with the earthly and the supernatural would lead to over novels in its controversial wake.
And that’s how the Gothic novel began to take shape. Dark, gloomy and atmospheric works with conflicts and power issues over nature would attract a new readership: women. Romantic (and rival) writers John William Polidori, Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary Shelley and Lord Byron would challenge themselves to write the best Gothic novel on Lake Geneva during the rainy summer of 1816. Mary Shelley wins the competition with the classic 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, but Polidori’s 1819 novel The Vampyr will actually create more Gothic works and provide the model for the vampire novel. From a fragment of a story Lord Byron may have told, Polidori woven fact and fiction into a story so believable it would later be cited in the history of vampires.
However, again, there are those who believe and do not believe. The French author and librarian Charles Nodier adapted Polidori into a play in 1820 (Le Vampire) and then in 1826 followed in the footsteps of Shelley’s tale (Le Monstre et le Magicien). Alexandre Dumas will write several bestsellers following the escapades of his vampire Lord Ruthven (soon the archetype of a certain Count), and Leo Tolstoy will create a village besieged by vampires who then turn against each other in The Family of Vourdalak (later part of Mario Bava’s 1963 horror trilogy, Black Sabbath). Oddly enough, when Dumas’ play returned to England as The Vampire in 1852, none other than Queen Victoria wrote that it was “very trashy”.
With reality now officially questioned, the vampire romance is unfolding in a variety of directions. Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu presents a female vampire in 1872. The 1879 Captain Vampire written by Marie Lizet places a vampire in the midst of the horrors of war. And in the United States, Uriah D’Arcy creates The Black Vampire. However, the so-called “vampire craze” peaked when Stoker released Dracula in 1897. Excluding all of the camp and the different circumstances and existences of the famous bloodsucker, Dracula made it simple, mysterious, and always disturbing. Written in the midst of an epidemic of syphilis and tuberculosis in England, Dracula has brought the vampires back to their hometown of Eastern Europe and all of those societal changes to subtext. Not only does Stoker make it intensely real, but he also sees it as a disease. His notes detail the myth and folklore of Transylvania, and he creates Abraham Von Helsing, the archenemy who perhaps believes to the point of madness.
With such a straight-line narrative, Dracula opened up a myriad of possibilities as both a transitory and a seminal work in literature. Those who read it were free to interpret the characters as they saw fit. For example, Lucy Westenra was a victim turned vampire. This transformation created a realm of possibility dating back to The Monk where she (or any character for that matter) was a kidnapper, intruder, traitor, or could just fall back on themselves as if under a spell. With this set of endless possibilities and the archetypes firmly in place, it’s no wonder Dracula defines vampires to this day.
Whether you believe it as a reader or spectator, the myth extends even further into small American towns (Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot), contemporary communities where they live almost sympathetic lives (Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire) or a post-nuclear world (Vampire Hunter D). And to think of it, it’s all based on a true story.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.
NEW THIS WEEK
BAD BAD NOT GOOD – Talk Memory
[LP/CD](Innovative Leisure / XL)
For ten years, this Canadian instrumental group has sown this fertile ground between Funk and Jazz. Never too much one or the other, they managed to weave beautiful collaborations with Tyler The Creator and Kendrick Lamar, while finding their own voice with other guest singers (Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands, notably and effectively ) and themselves. For “Talk Memory,” they bring in a host of up-and-coming musicians, including Brandee Younger and Karriem Riggins, and longtime cult favorites Arthur Verocai and Laraaji. What once looked like jazz now sounds very laconic and futuristic.
SLOW DOWN, MOLASSES – Minor deaths
With so much “indie rock” suddenly becoming so flabby and resembling each other, this Saskatoon quartet blows through the doors with a white-hot Sonic Youth-ish burner. Slow Down, Molasses is quick to add a slow-burning instrumental streak to their songs (“I Need The Darkness”), but it only improved the atonal harmony when they make their grand and glorious comeback. . “Son of Titanic” is a catchy And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead style guitar flurry that only needs a minute to build up the rousing burst of Yo La-style “Some Fine Action” Tengo. While it sounds like weird bedfellows on paper, it’s the magic of Slow Down, Molasses – whether in their carefully orchestrated compositions or between them, the emotional push is never lost. An exceptional start.
ALIEN WEAPONS – Tangaroa
In metal, there is a growing tendency for bands to use instruments and song ideas from their cultures within the confines of a guitar-based explosion (usually). Like the Mongolian / Tuvan rock of The Hu (“Wolf Totem”), Maori band Alien Weaponry is about to write their songs in their native language. What’s fascinating is how much this trio borrows from the almost mechanical streaky sound of modern Alt. Metal to tell these organic stories. Like Gojira’s “Fortitude”, their best tracks are drum-filled, rough and harmonic rams (“Hatupatu” who, chased by a witch, screams loud enough to open a mountain) or an out of tune Nu Metal that is indigenous to their people. . (“Buried Underground.”) At only 18 years old, Alien Weaponry has a lot more myths to share and metallic grooves to wield.
JEAN COLTRANE – Supreme Love: Living in Seattle
Wizard John Coltrane probably reached his true peak on the landmark 1964 recording of “A Love Supreme” – an album that still deserves careful study and feels ahead of its time. The problem with this historic streak is that Coltrane rarely performed the entire work live after its release. Until a few years ago, the only performance recorded live was at a French festival in July 1965. Later that year, on September 30, Coltrane and his band performed at the Penthouse in Seattle, WA. . Saxophonist Joe Brazil was not only on hand to perform with the band on “Afro-Blue” (captured on the 1971 album “Live In Seattle”), but he also recorded the entire show. Despite 3.5 hours of music recorded for the original album, and a few other songs that reappeared on various reissues over the years, the Brazil tape remained in his private collection until his passing in 2008. Now, for the first time. never can you hear the entirety of “A Love Supreme” from that 1965 night.