Vampire craze: from “Dracula” to “Twilight”

Written by: Claire Phillips | Entertainment Editor

If any of the names Count Dracula, Lestat de Lioncourt or Edward Cullen ring a bell, the popular vampire media culture has been doing its job. Whether “Dracula” was required reading in high school, or you ran to the first screening of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1,” vampires have a knack for finding their way into the lives and hearts of many.

Vampires, of course, found their humble beginnings in mythology. In European folklore, dark and shrouded vampires visited loved ones and caused mischief in their villages, a stark difference from the pale, cold-blooded creatures society knows today.

The word “vampire” originated in folklore in Southeastern and Eastern Europe. Demons and spirits were precursors to vampires in Mesopotamian, Hebrew and Greek cultures. Many other cultures have their own variations of vampires.

Drawing from Transylvanian folklore, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” has been a popular gothic classic since its release in the late 1800s. The novel has no single narrator, and the majority of it is told in letters and journal entries. Many may know this book from high school English, and while the memories may not be so fond, it is not a forgettable story.

If a book or even a movie adaptation of the classic doesn’t sound appealing, there are even more ways to enjoy the vampire tale. “Dracula Daily,” a free subscription newsletter, sends Jonathan Harker’s journal entries one day at a time so readers can experience the story with him.

In 1976, a novel titled “Interview With the Vampire” was published. Twelve books later, Anne Rice made a name for herself in the vampire world. The first book received a movie adaptation in 1994 by the same name, starring Tom Cruise as Lestat de Lioncourt, Brad Pitt as Louis de Pointe du Lac and a young Kirsten Dunst as Claudia. In 2022, a television series aired on AMC based on the original “Interview With the Vampire” book. 

Set between San Francisco, New Orleans and Paris, “Interview With the Vampire” has a romantic yet gory take on vampire folklore. The interweaving of characters and settings set a precedent for future vampire stories. Anne Rice, herself, was an executive producer of the television show but sadly passed before it aired. However, she assured everything went according to her vision. 

Pacific Northwesterners are well aware of the “Twilight” franchise. Whether people were “Twilight” crazy, or “Twilight” haters, everyone knew about this popular franchise in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Written by Stephanie Meyer and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, this vampire love story has not fallen out of the limelight.

Rosario Peralta Cortez, the English writing specialist for Spanish speakers at Western’s Writing Center, brought “Twilight” culture to Western’s campus when she was a student. “In my dorm in Landers, I had two massive Twilight posters that my friend who worked at the movie theater had gifted me,” Peralta Cortez said.

Peralta Cortez is still spreading her love for vampire culture at the Writing Center — all you have to do is ask.

The original “Twilight” movie, an adaptation of the first novel, was supposed to be an independent film, but garnered $408.4 million at the box office and set a foundation for a successful five-movie saga. Bella Swan and Edward Cullen charmed the entire world both then, and now, and vampire enthusiasts enjoy sharing the story with others.

“It’s nice to still be able to return to the same story so many years later and find new joy from it,” said Peralta Cortez. “I also got my mom hooked on the books in Spanish, which was fun to experience. I learned the word for Twilight from the books, crepúsculo, which sounds so much cooler than Twilight.” Vampire stories suck you in, no matter the language. Don’t forget to make a trip up to Forks, Washington.

“What We Do in the Shadows” references all the vampire stories above, left and right. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement know how to appeal to an audience, especially those who are already familiar with these stories. Both the original 2014 movie and ongoing television series are filmed in a mockumentary style — almost like a horror “Modern Family,” if you will. Even the “cameramen” get involved in some vampire fun.

The movie and series follow two sets of vampire roommates, respectively, and their chaotic adventures. There are wholesome moments, sad moments and some straight-up weird and gory moments. It may not be for everyone, but it sure is hilarious. 

Some may say choosing to consume any form of vampire media is silly or immature. Many think it might be beneath them. However, there is a lot to learn from all of these stories. Rosario Peralta Cortez said it best: “Old stories can be given new light, and vampires can be enjoyed with whatever level of seriousness you choose to give them.”

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