Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. For centuries, the vampire myth has frightened cultures around the world. But in recent decades, assorted scientists, archeologists and forensic specialists have investigated the real-life inspirations behind these blood-sucking night dwellers. Their discoveries might surprise you. The intriguing and spooky documentary Vampire Island provides the facts behind the legend.
The myth really took hold with the 1897 release of Bram Stoker's Dracula, a defining work that continues to thrive in publication to this day. In the years since, books, comics and cinema screens have been flooded with new takes on an old tale. Each version speaks to changes in the culture during the time of their release - from the hints of anti-Semitism in 1922's classic Nosferatu to the teen-angst love story at the center of the Twilight franchise.
In truth, the models from which popular culture has based much of its vampire lore are more ghoulish than alluring. Stoker used Vlad the Impaler - a savage warrior who was born in Transylvania in the early 15th century - as the blueprint for her title character. As Prince of Wallachia, Vlad led the revolt against the Ottoman Empire as they struggled to expand across Europe. His tactics were particularly barbaric; he was known for driving the bodies of his victims through large stakes planted into the fields of combat. The punishment he inflicted on his victims eventually became prophecy as he ended his reign buried alive with three stakes pounded through his ankle, hip and throat.
This is just one of the parallel stories presented during the course of the film. Over the centuries, similar urban legends have festered in countries like Australia, China and India. The filmmakers travel across Europe and beyond to explore the origins of these cultural myths. We learn the various states of decomposition which may have led frightened villagers to believe in the existence of the undead. In addition, we witness the uncovering of various artifacts which show how each community chose to combat these fears.
Occasionally morbid but consistently fascinating, Vampire Island is a must-see for fans of the horror genre, as well as those who relish the macabre curiosities of world history.