In the New York Times today, filmmaker and author Guillermo del Toro and coauthor Chuck Hogan –they have a novel coming out called The Strain — write about how vampires first made it into popular culture early in the 19th century when a group of English writers summered at a villa on Lake Geneva. Mary Godwin, soon to become Mary Shelley, invented Frankenstein’s monster, and a doctor named John William Polidori created a tale called “The Vampyre” from various folk legends. (Bram Stoker’s more familiar novel was written over 75 years later.)
Del Toro and Hogan’s essay suggests the appeal of the vampire myth rests on the “blood alchemy” accomplished when a vampire bites, as human life is exchanged for a more sinister one: “For as his contagion bestows its nocturnal gift, the vampire transforms our vile, mortal selves into the gold of eternal youth, and instills in us something that every social construct seeks to quash: primal lust. If youth is desire married with unending possibility, then vampire lust creates within us a delicious void, one we long to fulfill.”
Perhaps that has something to do with the weird “swine flu parties” that cropped up in the UK this summer. Social fun combined with deadly risk — what could be sexier?