Vampire (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Vampire, in the fictional world of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, is a unique breed of demon which can only exist on the earthly plane by inhabiting and animating a human corpse. In Fray, a Buffy comic book spin-off, vampires are also called lurks.
The vampires in the canonical Buffyverse differ greatly from the ones which appear in the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. The non-canonical vampires are able to fly, look pale but relatively human, and don't crumble to dust when killed.
The canonical vampires, introduced in the first episode of the TV series, are explained as demon souls that inhabit human corpses; when the ancient demons known as the Old Ones were banished from Earth, the last one fed on a human and mixed their blood, creating the first vampire. This was later contradicted by Illyria who remarks that vampires existed during her time as an Old One, long before the rest were banished from the realm (though she may have been referring to the Turok-Han, a more primitive type of vampire). Vampires possess all the memories, skills, attributes, and qualities of their human predecessors, and much of their personalities, including any mental illnesses: Spike retained his love for his dying mother and Harmony her vain shallow valley girl personality and her love for unicorns. In the case of Jesse McNally, he also maintained his lust for Cordelia and hatred for her social group. Darla comments to the newly turned Liam/Angelus that "what we were informs what we become" and after her resurrection as a human claims that the darkness he unleashed as Angelus was always in him (as a human), years before they met.
Vampires possess superhuman abilities such as superhuman strength, speed, endurance, agility, heightened senses, and accelerated healing, all of which increase as they grow older or as they drink the blood of powerful supernatural creatures or beings. They also possess the ability to drain a human and/or other creature of every last drop of its blood in but a few seconds. Vampires are immortal and capable of living indefinitely without any signs of aging though extremely old vampires take on more demonic features and lose the ability to pass as humans. Their abilities grow more powerful with age.
Like all vampires, those of the Buffyverse live on a diet of blood (preferably human, though that of other mammals will do). They prefer fresh blood and seem to dislike the taste of non-human blood (with the possible exception of otter); likewise, they are able by taste alone to determine what type of animal (human or otherwise) blood is from. They require no other food or drink, and although they can ingest it, they experience a much duller sense of taste. Prolonged deprivation of blood can impair a vampire's higher brain functions and they become "living skeletons", but lack of blood will not result in a vampire's death. They also do not need air, though they can breathe to speak or smoke, yet they cannot pass that breath on to others via CPR. They are shown to be affected by various drugs, poisons, and electricity, so they can be sedated and tasered. Some, such as Spike, enjoy alcohol and tobacco.
Vampires can change at will between human appearance and a monstrous form with a pronounced brow ridge, yellow eyes, and sharp teeth, though their ability to pose as humans is lost with extreme old age. They make a roaring sound when angered, much like lions or tigers (mainly leopards). In human form, they can still be detected by their lack of heartbeat and body heat. They do not cast reflections, although they can be photographed and filmed. In "Earshot", it is revealed that their lack of reflections also extends to some aspects of their minds, rendering them largely immune to telepathy. However, Willow Rosenberg somehow can telepathically communicate with vampires such as Spike in the episode "The Gift."
Vampires can be killed by beheading, fire, sunlight or other burning, or penetration of the heart by a wooden object. A vampire explodes in a cloud of dust when killed; the act of slaying a vampire is often referred to as "dusting". They heal quickly from most injuries, but do not regrow lost limbs and can acquire scars. Their flesh burns in direct sunlight, and on contact with blessed objects such as holy water (which also can kill them when ingested), a Bible, recently consecrated ground or a cross. They can enter consecrated buildings but appear to feel ill at ease. In the episode "The Wish" it is stated that vampires are attracted to bright colours and that they are said to dislike garlic (where it is shown in use as vampire repellent), although the truth and effectiveness of these claims are never explicitly shown.
They cannot enter a human residence without having been invited once by a living resident; however, once given, such an invitation is revocable only by a magic ritual. If all living residents die, vampires can also enter freely. Areas open to the public, as well as the homes of other vampires, demons, and non-humans, are not protected. Some private residencies may be entered by loophole, Angelus once successfully entered a privately owned library because it had a sign that invited all who sought knowledge to enter.
In order to reproduce, a vampire must drain a human being of much of their blood, before forcing them to drink some of the vampire's blood. This process is known as "siring", and the vampire who does so is referred to as the newborn vampire's "sire" (along with the vampire which sired the sire, etc.). Because of their partly human nature, vampires are considered impure by other demons, who sometimes call them "blood rats." The amount of time it takes for a new vampire to rise seems to vary; Buffy often kills vampires as they rise from their graves, but other vampires are seen to rise after only a few hours. There is no explanation given for this in the series. Sires often act as mentors to their 'children' and form small covens of related vampires for various purposes. Some vampires can be telepathically linked to those that they have sired.
Vampires cannot normally reproduce sexually, but Jasmine manipulated events that allowed Angel and Darla to conceive a son, Connor, who has a human soul with vampire-like abilities, but none of their weaknesses or need to drink. When pregnant, Darla's endurance, speed, cravings for blood, and strength are magnified resulted by the hormone produced to control her reproductive cycle, in addition of sharing soul with her unborn child.
It is regularly established on the show that vampires do not have human souls, but, as mentioned by Giles in "The Harvest," the human corpse a vampire is born in is infected with a demon soul via vampiric blood, and therefore lack a conscience. Angel and Spike, vampires who have their souls returned to them, are shown to feel remorse for their previous actions. However, soulless vampires are still capable of feeling human emotions such as love, though these tend to take on twisted and obsessive forms.
Variations of vampires are seen on both Buffy and Angel. In the Angel season two episode "Through the Looking Glass", Angel and his team travel to a parallel world, Pylea. Here he is not harmed by sunlight, but when he attempts to take his "vamp face", he instead becomes a "Van-Tal" demon: green-skinned, spiny and bestial. This form is described by Wesley as the vampire (specifically the demon that creates the vampire) in its "purest form." While in this form, Angel lacks the ability to reason, possessing neither the compassion the soul gives him or the sadism he possesses as Angelus.
Buffy's seventh and final television season introduces the Turok-Han, an ancient species of vampire analogous to Neanderthal man. These Turok-Han, colloquially referred to as "über-vamps" by the characters, are stronger and harder to kill than common vampires, usually able to withstand a stake to the chest without dusting and show minor burnings against holy water, but can still be killed by beheading and sunlight. Like the Van-Tal of Pylea, the Turok-Hans show very little intelligence and can't speak.
At the end of Season Eight, Buffy destroys the Seed of Wonder, affecting the magical world; while all active demons and vampires already present on Earth remain, all new vampires sired after the Seed's destruction rise as mindless, feral creatures that Xander Harris dubs "zompires."
The idea of the "vamp faces" — to have vampires' human features distort to become more demonic — was implemented for a number of reasons. Firstly, Whedon wanted normal high school students that the other characters could interact with normally, only to have them turn out be vampires, therefore creating a sense of paranoia. Secondly, he was conscious to make the vampires look physically demonic, stating, "I didn't think I really wanted to put a show on the air about a high school girl who was stabbing normal-looking people in the heart. I thought somehow that might send the wrong message, but when they are clearly monsters, it takes it to a level of fantasy that is safer."
In early episodes, the vampires appeared "very white-faced, very creepy, very ghoulish". This was changed in later seasons to make the vampires look more human, partially because of the sympathetic vampire character Angel, and partially because such elaborate make-up was too time-consuming. Whedon claims that people thought the white faces to be "funny looking" but personally found it creepier, comparing it to the monsters in zombie movies such as Day of the Dead and The Evil Dead. The character of the Master was designed to be in vamp face permanently to highlight his age and make him appear more animalistic; make-up artist John Vulich based the Master's appearance on a bat, reasoning that the character has devolved to a more primal, demonic state over the years.
It was decided that vampires and their clothes would turn to dust after they died. Indeed, the introduction to one episode, "The Wish", parodied this vampiric trait; when Buffy kills a non-humanoid demon, one of her friends, Willow, wonders why the demon corpse "doesn't go poof" and must be buried.
Joss Whedon had the vampires explode into dust (even when they are freshly dead) because it is practical. It represents that they are monsters. He didn't want a high school girl killing bad guys every episode and have them clean up bodies for 20 minutes; and it also "looks really cool".
The first episode toyed with the idea that vampires' clothes would resemble the era in which they died, with Buffy identifying one purely by his dated outfit. Joss Whedon felt this concept was a "charming notion" but ultimately rejected it for the most part (though a few vampires such as Drusilla and Dracula do prefer archaic clothing) because he believed that, if every vampire in the show was dressed in old-fashioned clothes, they would cease to be scary.
When creating the vampire "rules" that they would use in the show, the writers chose bits and pieces from various existing vampire lore. They decided not to have the vampires fly as in the Buffy movie because it was impossible to make flying vampires look convincing on a television budget. Garlic was mentioned in early episodes as a deterrent to vampires, but is seldom used. Some established rules, such as a vampire's inability to enter a home uninvited, both helped and hindered the storytelling. Joss Whedon says that, whereas shows such as The X-Files spend more time explaining the science behind the supernatural and making it as real as possible, Buffy and Angel are more concerned with the emotion resulting from these creatures and events than justifying how they could conceivably exist. The shows therefore tend to gloss over the details of vampire and demon lore, simply using the Hellmouth as a plot device to explain unexplainable things.
- "Lie to Me", Season 2 episode 7
- "Welcome to the Hellmouth", pilot episode
- "Pangs", Season 4, episode 8
- Angel - Season 1 episode "Somnambulist,"
- "Never Leave Me" Season 7 episode 9
- Joss Whedon (2000). Commentary for Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Welcome to the Hellmouth" (DVD (Region 2)). United States: 20th Century Fox.
- Joss Whedon (2000). Commentary for Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Harvest" (DVD (Region 2)). United States: 20th Century Fox.