Very recently, season 2 of Netflix’s Castlevania aired and this time you can binge a whole 8 episodes instead of a measly 4 like in season 1.
To briefly summarize, the show centers around Trevor Belmont, a drunkard/vampire hunter and his two companions, Sypha Belnades and Alucard, trying to stop Dracula from ending all of humanity.
And it’s a good show … (wait … might this be one of the first actually enjoyable video game adaptations? How have I not heard anyone talk about this milestone?)
Either way, what is appealing about Castlevania, aside from the storyline, is the action. There is no shortage of blood and gore and the atrocity of more and more imaginative evil creatures still sends chills down my spine. And I would absolutley wager that this horror/dark fantasy approach is exactly why Castlevania works despite its underlying, done-to-death genre: the Vampire story.
No, I won’t go back all the way to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the book) or Nosferatu. Because those are classics and the creatures in them are purely cruel and evil. No, the more recent vamp craze, which arguably began through Steph Meyer’s Twilight book and movie series, shows those fantasy creatures in an entirely different light.
Smoldering, brooding, mysterious and enticing. From Edward Cullen over Stefan Salvatore to Eric Northman – the young female audience (clearly this genre’s target demographic) was satiated to the brim with strong jawlines, rippling abs and sharp, pointy teeth. And the infatuation rose so high that even the most unforgivable of offenses (hello? brutal mass murder?) was romanticized into a mere character flaw that could more or less easily be rectified through the love of the female protagonist.
And to a degree, the success of such stories was understandable. An existential romance plot paired with mortal danger and underlying historical family drama? For a good chunk of readers/watchers, this was the whole package. Hell, even today there are still such stories being written. Not too long ago, Vampire Diaries, the ridiculously long-running CW show, finished its final season and a myriad of fandoms continue to invent vampire AUs for their OTPs (that stands for “alternate universe” and “one true pairing” for all you ‘uncultured’ non-fanfiction readers out here).
The two stand-out vampire stories that have emerged in recent years which don’t fall prey to the same trite and tired tropes are What We Do in the Shadows (a hilarious mocumentary comedy) and, lo’ and behold, Castlevania. Going back to the genre’s gothic horror origins but including a whole list of interesting, multi-faceted characters, the Netflix show seems to appeal to a much wider variety of viewers (aka women AND men) despite being an anime-style cartoon.
That being said, however, Dracula is my least favorite character on the show. After countless renditions of history’s most powerful vamp daddy, I am tired of the same old story. Yes, he checks all the boxes of an ancient, (usually) irredeemable villain. But we’ve been there and we’ve seen that countless times now. Buffy had the right idea when they dedicated no more than a single episode to dear Mr. D.
Not only has it become such a tired storyline to have the heroine save her vampy lover from his own self-destructive, mope-y, borderline suicidal existence while getting nothing out of it other than a lifetime’s worth of near death experiences. But also, there are only so many times you can re-tell the exact same stories with the exact same human-vampire or vampire/ancient enemy plotlines providing the exact same set of limitations and dangers. The genre simply has nothing novel to offer.
And as with any craze, this one seems to have finally fizzled out. Most movies and tv shows have long since moved on to superheroes and fantasy novels seem more interested in magic and faeries these days.
However, many a-time, the tropes stay the same – our heroine finds herself thrown into some sort of fantastical realm amidst dangerous monsters only to heal the stony heart of and then fall in love (or vice versa) with the most humanoid of these creatures. And then fight the endless barage of all who dare to interfere with this soulmatey romance
not that I’m complaining. The only difference is that the new prrroblematic, over-sexualized love interests don’t drink blood and don’t fear sunlight.
It’s time we move on from vampire stories for good. So many intriguing fantastical creatures have yet to be explored, so there is no reason to dwell on them bloodsuckers. And if you really need a sure-fire deterrent from the whole genre, might I recommend 2014’s Dracula Untold. Nothing kills a fandom faster than a terrible Hollywood adaptation.