On October 10, 2014, the film Dracula Untold opened worldwide. Unlike other vampire movies, this film weaves vampire mythology with historical facts about Prince Vlad, the Impaler. Vampire films and the history on which they are based can combine into a good research paper topic.
If you’re looking for a topic in literature, consider writing a research paper on gothic literature and its part in film and mythology. Here are a few gory details to get you started on your research paper.
The film Dracula Untold shows the origins of the Dracula legend. It takes place during the Middle Ages and follows the exploits of Vlad Tepes as he battles the Turks. As far as historical fact goes, however, that may be the end of the story.
Elest Ali saw the film and wondered, “Is ‘Dracula Untold’ An Islamophobic Movie?” In his October 24, 2014, article for NewRepublic.com, Ali pointed out the inaccuracy of the film’s depiction of Turks. According to Ali, the timing of a film where Turks are portrayed as villains is unfortunate. Moreover, during the Middle Ages the label, “Turk,” included anyone of the Islamic faith.
Historically we know that Vlad II Dracul swore loyalty to the Ottoman Sultan in exchange for help in securing the Wallachian throne. His two sons, Vlad Tepes Dracula and Radu cel Frumos were held hostage by Sultan Murad II to ensure the father’s loyalty.
Upon his release from captivity, Vlad Tepes began his rebellion against the Turks. Many of his victims were impaled on wooden stakes and left to die a slow and painful death.
“Vlad’s insurrection was not dissimilar to the terror tactics of the so-called Islamic State. He killed indiscriminately: Men, women, and children; Turks and Bulgarians; Muslims and sympathizing Christians alike were put to the stake,” Ali said.
The film’s final scene shows the Sultan placing his thumbprint on an edict against Vlad Tepes. Alongside the Sultan’s seal is a stamp bearing the name of God in Arabic script. Ali sees this linking of cruelty with the Muslim god as yet another negative depiction of Islam. The irony is that a bloody tyrant who killed thousands, Vlad Tepes, “emerges as the tragic hero.”
Evolution of vampire films
The first depiction of a vampire in film was George Melie’s Le manoir du diable in 1896. Since that time the vampire has taken many forms. Early versions showed him ugly, with fangs and claws as in Nosferatu. More modern depictions of the vampire reflect someone who lives in a modern city and uses current technology.
Most Dracula enthusiasts are familiar with vampire movies based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic novel, Dracula. Stoker was inspired by the Romanian legends and history of Vlad Dracula, known as Vlad Tepes, (Vlad the Impaler) who ruled in Walachia from 1456 to 1462.
Stacey Abbott explored the evolution of the celluloid vampire from gothic monster to modern day in the book, Celluloid Vampires: Life after Death in the Modern World. According to Abbott, vampires reflect the cultural and social climate of the societies that produce them. This is especially true in times of intense change and modernization.
A prime example of how the vampire in literature reflects society is in Stoker’s novel. Like many writers in late nineteenth century Gothic literature, Stoker placed his characters and story at the center of modern life. In his novel Dracula existed in modern London.
“While eighteenth century Gothic focused upon the past’s intrusion on the present in the form of an external threat or monster, nineteenth-century Gothic was increasingly defined by internal threats and anxieties,” Abbott said.
Gothic literature as an art form took shape mostly in England, from 1790 to 1830. In addition to Dracula, gothic novels that you might recognize include:
- Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
In a December 20, 2013, article for VirtualSalt.com, “Elements of the Gothic Novel,” Robert Harris outlined the elements that constitute the gothic genre. These elements include:
- setting in a castle
- an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, gloom and horror
- an ancient prophecy
- omens, portents and visions
- supernatural events
- women in distress
“The goal of the dark and mysterious setting is to create a sense of unease and foreboding, contributing toward the atmosphere element,” Harris explained.
What’s your favorite Dracula movie or book? Tell us in the comments.