Two ancient diseases grew up side by side — Leprosy and Rabies — consuming millions of lives all through history. Today both have been cured, yet one somehow still lives on. What’s more, against all good sense, we keep inviting it back into our stories and into our lives.
Rabies — the plague that passes on from the bite of the infected — has come down to us in the form of the terrifying 19th C vampire. The gone-mad sufferers appear as far back as ancient Greek tales, work their way through East European legends, reaching their apex with Bram Stoker’s classic ‘Dracula’ in 1897. Like all great myths, the vampire is rooted in facts (Rabies) morphed into fiction (Dracula).
Hollywood — always ready to turn any creature into a cash-cow — has been sucking the blood out of the vampire as voraciously as he’s been with his victims. However, never ready to say never, the studios picked up the vampire’s undead cousin, the Haitian Zombie, and added him to the mesmerizing mix.
What is there about us civilized, rational creatures that happily pays money to be frightened out of our primitive wits? To answer, we could travel one of three paths: Biology…Psychology…Theology:
* the biologist will find genetic hard-wiring that helps explain how our evolved physicality has learned over time to anthropomorphize our primal fears in order to better identify and confront them
* the psychologist may find the same by way of our psychic hard-wiring
* the Biblical theologian will probably begin with a very different beginning — the fallen nature of humanity forever condemned to do battle with evil in the world
It’s not likely any of this is on the minds of most viewers. They’re here for other reasons. One, as with all tales of evil and horror, is the chance to confront our fears knowing all along we will survive them from the safety of our seats.
“See,” we reassure ourselves, “we always come out all right!” That said, we then have to step out into the blackness of the real night. Where safe endings are far more chancy.
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