Friday, October 30, 2009


from: Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, Murnau, 1922

Once upon a time, back when I was in high school, remember sitting with my friends trying to figure out what supernatural creature would be the next unicorn. I laughingly suggested that in the future pre-teen girls would have posters of vampires on their walls, all pouty and brooding. We cracked up at that, because we were all fans of the gothic side of vampires, the stuff of Anne Rice, Nosferatu, and Bram Stoker. Creatures who were as far from teenage romanticism as possible. Creatures whose very existence was an affront to all that was holy or natural. Now I think of that conversation and sigh.

See, once the night was a lot darker than it is now. And people would sit in small cramped houses and hear things out in the night, and it wasn't a matter of flipping on the flood lights and seeing what it was that was going bump. You had pretty much two choices, you could go out and fumble around and maybe find what you were looking for by the light of a torch, or you could stay safe by the fire and tell stories of what you thought you heard. The best of the stories would circulate from house to house, constantly being improved on, and added to, much like a clay sculpture being molded and refined, until at last there was a visage staring back at you, full of the most horrifying and frightening creatures your mind could conceive of made flesh and whole. And then, your creature would take on a life of its own, but still you have the power to hold it back. Oddly enough you subtract by adding: garlic, silver, crosses, stakes, daybreak... all these additions bind the unbridled fear and allow you a handle to restrain your unholy offspring.

The problem is that eventually the unbridled fear of the original is watered down, and made fit for mass consumption. The glass slipper loses its razor sharp edge, the witch is spared the fire of the kiln, and the creature of the dark is free to move in daylight, but bereft of its ability to capture you and lead you into its crypt-like world.

But for one, night... on one particular night we pull all the old horrors out of the back of the closet and let them loose once more. The lids of the coffins creak, and we jump with genuine fear. We put on display all of the sins we revel in, and we let them own and control us, and we laugh because it's only for one night, only for show and only for make believe, but for one night, we let the vampires retake their fangs, and let them fly true and frightening again, and for one night, we make tales about the creaking floorboards, which spread from house to house...