SFX has a Vampire Special out at the moment. And to celebrate here’s a reminder of the Top 50 Vampires as voted for by you in the previous vampire special…
SFX ’s second Vampire Special is now on the newsstands, and the popularity of the fanged fiends hasn't ebbed one it in the intervening months. If anything, they're probably becoming even more popular. Anyway, as a way of getting you in the mood to go out and buy the new special (yeah, this is not-so-subliminal advertising) here, for the first time on-line, is the Vampire Top 50, as voted for by SFX readers, that we published in the first special. Despite the usual evidence of fan-power in action in some of the positions, there's actually an impressive variety of vampires in the voting, from all periods of literary, film and TV history. Enjoy your browsing!
Undead in: Dracula 2000 (2000)
The movie was drivel; produced by Wes Craven, it’s either an attempt to be a Scream -style, post-modern re-invention of Dracula, or simply so bad it’s funny. But Gerard Butler’s cocksure, exquisitely-coiffured, oft-half-naked Dracula set many hearts a-fluttering. He even manages to make sniffing somehow deeply sensual and sexy.
Undead in: Blade (1998)
Deacon Frost was like a vampirised hopeful from The Apprentice . You just know if he wasn’t planning on becoming a vampire god, he’d have been conducting dodgy deals from his yatch via his BlackBerry. Not beloved of the vampire elite (well, he did kill off all the bigwigs in the House of Erebus), Frost was seen as an irritating wild card.
Undead in: Blade: The Series (2006)
Another stockbroker vampire from another chapter of the Blade saga, Van Sciver was by far the most interesting character in the small screen adventures of the Daywalker. Petulant, sadistic, slightly pervy and always immaculately dressed, British-born Van Sciver was determind the House of Chthon would reclaim former glories.
Undead in: Fright Night (1985)
Dandridge is a 1,000- year-old vampire who wants to settle down in a small US town and suck it dry. Unfortunately, he moves in next door to a pesky kid who just won’t stop trying to kill him. Sarandon is superb as the suburban bloodsucker; ordinary enough to slip under the radar, but charismatic, sexy and devious enough to get what he needs.
Undead in: Salem’s Lot (1979)
Television’s second scariest antiques dealer (after David Dickinson), Kurt Barlow moved his spooky shop to the small town Salem’s Lot with business partner Richard Straker. Their real business, though, was turning everybody into vampires. Barlow, clearly of Nosferatu descent, had such impressive fangs he could barely speak or shut his mouth, though he appeared to be telepathic and even telekinetic.
Undead in: Blood Ties (2007)
The illegitimate son of Henry VIII, Henry is a Renaissance vampire – an artist, writer and art connoisseur. By the 21st century he’s living in Canada, creating his own graphic novels and charming the sense out of a myopic private detective. He’s the eternal teenager, sure, but not a maudlin, tortured teen; rather the sickeningly cocksure public school charmer who gets all the girls.
Undead in: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
The vampire who sires Richie Gecko in a rabid bloodlust, Santanico Pandemonium is a vampire queen moonlighting as an erotic dancer at the Titty Twister nightclub, a favourite vampire haunt. The character also appeared in the Dusk Till Dawn prequel, The Hangman’s Daughter , played by Ara Celi.
Undead in: Blade 2 (2002)
Guillermo del Toro’s favourite actor, Ron ( Hellboy ) Perlman was almost destined to make an appearance in the Mexican director’s contribution to the vampire genre. Reinhardt, a member of the Bloodpack sent to help Blade, has a severe bad attitude problem, but then wouldn’t you if your new boss decided to control you by sticking a bomb on your neck?
Undead in: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Not sure quite how Gecko made it into this Top 50 – he must have the least amount of screentime of any of the vampires in this list. But you voted for him. Gecko’s a pretty damned evil and twisted, mean mother before he’s vampirsed, so perhaps it’s a good thing is unlife is cut short before he realises the carnage he’s capable of with his new powers. Worst vampire hair in the Top 50, too.
Undead in: True Blood (2009-present)
A1,000-plus-year-old Viking vampire, Eric’s the most powerful vampire in Area 5 in Louisiana. He holds court in the Fangtasia night club, a hotbed of vampires and fangbangers – humans who willingly give themselves up to the bloodsuckers. He’s a stickler for vampire tradition and daily conditioning (apparently). Cool, unflappable and beguilingly arrogant, he's become determined to snatch Sookie away from Vampire Bill Compton, by devious means, if necessary. In season two he had a severe haircut and wore a shellsuit at one point, but remained indescribably sexy.
Undead in: Dracula (1979)
Because of the bouffant hair, the bare chest and the laser light show when he seduces Mina Harker, Langella’s Count has been dismissed as Disco Dracula. Fair to an extent, but it’s not the whole story. Langella, who had played the Count off Broadway, refused to wear fangs or any other standard horror make-up, preferring to use charm and charisma as his weapons. One of the most overtly sexual interpretations of the role.
Undead in: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2002)
Buffy ’s first Big Bad was the leader of the vampire cult, the Order of Aurelius. He lurked in Sunnydale after a failed attempt to open the Hellmouth left him trapped in a mystical forcefield. Unlike other Buffy vampires, he never condescended to assuming a human form, preferring to look like he’d been in the bath for a few centuries. Sired Darla.
Undead in: Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Claudia was the child vampire forever doomed to remain in her immature body after being turned at the age of six. Well, six in the book; in the film she’s played (with stunning maturity) by the 12-year-old Kirsten Dunst, because the role was simply too demanding for a real six-year-old. Claudia becomes the ersatz daughter of Louis and Lestat, but grows increasingly frustrated at her inability to age. She blames Lestat for turning her and eventually tries to kill him, but fails. She runs off to Paris with Louis – bad move. There they meet the vampire Armand who kills Claudia for trying to bump off Lestat. Her death scene, as she shrivels under the rising sun, is disturbingly memorable.
Undead in: Daughters Of Darkness (1971)
The very definition of sensuous, Countess Bathory, as played by the impossibly elegant Lebanese actress Delphine Seyrig, is a vampiric Marlene Dietrich, all smouldering sexuality in feathers and sequins. When she and her “aide” cross paths with a newlywed couple in an off-season Belgian seaside hotel, Bathory becomes obsessed with the young bride. Is she really the descendent of a countess who bathed in the blood of virgins to maintain her beauty, or the actual countess herself? Propelled along by lesbian and homosexual undercurrents, this film is a typically edgy ’70s meditation on sexual domination, loosely based on Carmilla .
Undead in: Count Dracula (1977)
Probably the most faithful screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel was this 1977 BBC mini-series. In Count Dracula we saw scenes never filmed before, such as the Count scaling the castle walls (a superbly creepy and memorable image) and offering a baby for his female vampire groupies to feast upon. Such faithfulness also had its pitfalls – the mini-series was incredibly slow and talky. And 1970s production values (filmed exteriors, video-taped interiors) hardly helped the spooky atmosphere. Jourdan’s Count, though, owed less to Stoker and more to Lugosi: a louche, European prince, decadent, self-assured and proud; a supernatural Marquis de Sade who could explore whole new avenues of sexual perversity.
Undead in: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
What if the reason Max Schreck was so good in the silent version of Nosferatu was because he actually was a vampire? That’s the central conceit behind Shadow of the Vampire , a delightfully bizarre horror movie about the filming of Murnau’s classic, suggesting that the director made a deal with a real vampire to make his flick as authentic as possible. The trouble is, the other actors are spooked out by their weird-looking star, and the female lead doesn’t realise that she’s part of Schreck’s paycheck. Dafoe is downright freaky as the ancient vampire pretending to be a method actor who must only ever be seen in make-up.
Undead in: Let The Right One In (2008)
The fact that Eli (pronounced “Ellie” if you haven’t seen the film) has achieved such a creditable placing in this countdown despite the fact that so few people have seen this low-budget, Swedish movie, says a lot about the impact she makes on viewers. She’s quite an extraordinary young vamp, alternating between a little girl lost and a feral beast. Set in a working class community in the ’80s, the film is almost like a subtitled, supernatural version of Kes , as Eli befriends bullied schoolboy Oskar and brings him out of his shell, though perhaps not quite in the way his mother would approve of. Despite appearances, she’s actually one of the most ruthless vampires in this list. And she has a wonderfully grumbly tummy.
Undead (maybe) in: Martin (1977)
Some will no doubt object to Martin’s inclusion in this list, because it’s probable he’s not a vampire at all, just a bit of psycho with Renfield Syndrome – the belief that he is a vampire. He has no fangs, but uses razor blades to slice his victims; sun, garlic and crucifixes have as much effect on him as the next guy (unless the next guy is an albino devil worshipper with an onion allergy). Directed by George ( Dawn Of The Dead ) Romero, Martin is an uncomfortable film to watch, almost pseudo-documentary with social commentary. Central to it is a mesmerising performance from Amplas as a tragic misfit with an uncontrollable bloodlust.
Undead in: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1998-9)
Alternate universes are always a great opportunity for TV shows to have fun turning good characters into bad ones. Luckily, for Buffy ’s third season episode “The Wish” Alyson Hannigan didn’t have to wear a stick-on goatee as evil Willow (probably somebody’s fantasy, but nobody you’d actually want to meet). Instead, she acquired fangs, a tight-fitting goth wardrobe and an attitude. Oh, a whole new fanbase. Vampire Willow would return in “Doppelgangland” when she materialised in the “real” universe. Interestingly, considering later plot developments, when the real Willow met Vampire Willow she commented, “I think I’m kinda gay.”
Undead in: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2001), Angel (2001-4)
Harmony was one of a bitchy clique of valley girls at Sunnydale High before being vampirised in the battle to defeat Mayor Wilkins after he’d turned into a giant snake. Airheaded, spiteful and obsessed with unicorns, she then became Spike’s on/off lover (he was her “Blondie Bear”) before getting a job as Angel’s secretary when he took over the legal firm Wolfram & Hart. Age, death and the realisation that she’s a rubbish evil vampire mellowed her, but she never got the respect she craved from her bosses (it’s the helium voice, love) and ended up betraying Angel to the Senior Partners. A wife in search of a vampire footballer.
Undead in: Razor Blade Smile (1998)
The living (well, un-living) embodiment of sex and violence, Lilith Silver wipes her ass with pages from The Big Book Of Vampire Clichés . With a sartorial style somewhere between goth and hooker, a a coffin full of weapons and a hedonistic thirst for blood, there really was only one career option open for her: vampire assassin. She was vampirised in the Victorian era after a misunderstanding during a duel, but now that she’s undead she’s never felt more truly alive. She could clearly teach Selene a thing or two (how to smile would be a good start). Razor Blade Smile is unapologetic camp schlock – a bloody comedy with zero budget but a very enthusiastic cast and crew.
Undead in: The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Like Daughters Of Darkness , The Vampire Lovers was based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla , but this version was a more typically lurid Hammer take on the tale, with a period setting and heaving breasts. The most heaving of which belonged to Polish-born actress Ingrid Pitt, who also starred as Countess Dracula (1970). These two roles ensured that she will forever be remembered as one of British cinema’s foremost scream queens. But while the DNA of Hammer may be the dominant gene in the movie’s make-up, the dawn of the ’70s saw the company gleefully embracing extra gore, nudity and lesbian subtexts.
Undead in: The Hunger (1983)
Perhaps the best way to describe Deneuve’s performance of this vampire and former Egyptian queen is glacial. Her frostily aloof Miriam makes the most uptight of Hitchcock’s blonde ice queens look like a tipsy Joan Rivers. But beneath the padded-shoulder power-dressing of the ’80s you sense that there’s a nuclear sexuality always on the verge of orgasmic meltdown. Another bisexual bloodsucker, she’d spent centuries bestowing her gift of immortality on lovers (the latest being David Bowie) – but there’s a catch. After a couple of centuries they suddenly age rapidly, then become living corpses, unable to move yet still aware. Unkind critics suggested the movie had a similar effect on audiences.
Undead in: True Blood (2008-present)
Southern gentleman Bill Compton, vampirised in 1867, tries to maintain his manners even though he’s a bloodsucker. This task has been made easier of late thanks to the invention of a synthetic blood which means that vampires don’t have to chow down on humans. Trouble is, old school vamps think that drinking the stuff makes you a bit of a cissy. Bill, though, does get some “true” blood when his latest girlfriend, telepathic waitress Sookie, lets him snack on her. A poster boy for liberal vampirism, Bill has even been known to give speeches about his Civil War experiences to church groups.
Undead in: Dark Shadows (1967-1971)
NOTE: Also played by Ben Cross in a short-lived Dark Shadows revival series (1991)
Although Barnabas has never really troubled the zeitgeist in the UK so far, this may change if the rumoured Tim Burton/Johnny Depp big screen remake happens. In the US he began life as a 13-week gimmick in a sinking soap opera, designed to get the rating back up. This proved so popular, he’s now pretty much an American icon.
Undead in: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2000), Angel (2000-2004)
Vying for position as the breathiest-voiced female vampire of all time, Darla was a prostitute vampirised in 1609 (she was dying of syphilis at the time) by The Master. She sired Angel in 1753, and they remained a partnership for the next century and a half. In the late 1800s they were joined by Spike and Drusilla in their bloodreign of terror. After Angel regained his soul and became all mopey, the glory days were over. Darla tracked down Angel to Sunnydale in the 1990s, was killed, then resurrected, then became the mother of Angel’s son, Connor, before finally staking herself. It’s complicated, okay...?
Undead in: Interview With The Vampire (1994)
The Shelley to Lestat‘s Byron, Louis was the more, as Americans would say, conflicted of the pair. While Lestat was quite at home with all things vampiric with a joie de mort attitude, Louis was suffering existential angst, the poor moppet. In life, Louis was a French immigrant to the US whose family owned an indigo plantation. Remorseful over the fact he felt he had caused his brother’s death, he was susceptible to Lestat’s advances (Lestat fell in love with him instantly) and allowed himself to be vampirised. But if Lestat was looking for a soul mate he would be disappointed as Louis came to loathe what it meant to be a vampire.
Undead in: 30 Days Of Night (2007)
The antidote to all those moping, self-absorbed, cradle-snatching bloodsuckers, Marlow is a complete and utter bastard who revels in it. The leader of a pack of bestial vampires who invade an Alaskan town that experiences 30 days of night, he instructs his minions not to turn victims, but rather to cut off their heads. Sadistic, cunning and ruthless, he’s the chief strategist in his clan, and he doesn’t want fledgling vampires ruining his plans. Compellingly loathsome.
Undead in: Count Duckula (1988-1993)
As the opening credits inform us, “Castle Duckula – home for many centuries to a terrible dynasty of vicious vampire ducks. The counts of Duckula! Legend has it that these foul beings can be destroyed by a stake through the heart, or exposure to sunlight. This does not suffice, however, for they may be brought back to life, by means of a secret rite, that can be performed once a century when the moon is in the eighth house of Aquarius… The latest reincarnation did not run according to plan.”
Indeed, it didn’t. Duckula’s hapless Hen Nanny accidentally uses tomato ketchup instead of blood during the rite, and so the latest incarnation of the quacking Count is reborn… a vegetarian. Yep, he’d rather sink his beak into a carrot or a broccoli sandwich than a vein.
Count Duckula was a spin-off from Dangermouse , in which a vampire duck first made an appearance. But the Count encountered by the rodent superspy must have been a previous incarnation, as he was still out for blood.
The latest Duckula was a vain, fame-hungry misfit, who hated the traditional trappings of vampirism (especially his drafty castle). He had to avoid being killed by Van Goosewing – a vampire hunter who refused to believe that the latest Duckula was no longer a bloodsucking fiend – as well as zombies and mechanical werewolves.
Undead in: Being Human (2009-present)
Mitchell would like nothing better than to forget he’s a vampire, find a normal job and fit in with society. Handily, he’s the kind of vampire who can handle daylight with a bit of sunblock and some dark glasses. But his best friends are a werewolf and a ghost, which isn’t really the ideal way to convince the neighbours that there’s nothing odd about you. And then there was the fact that the vampire Mafia just won't leave him alone – must have something to do with the fact he used to be most bad-ass vampire on the planet before the love of a good woman changed his ways.
An Irish soldier turned during World War I, Mitchell is another in a long line in conflicted vampires (from the same lineage as Angel and Louis) but what sets him apart is a sense of optimism. While others mope, he smiles, ventures into the world and tries to make the best of things. Who else would even think about setting up a Vampires Anonymous support group to help ween them off of human blood?
Ultimately, though, it's Mitchell who falls off the wagon, big time, when events conspire to reignite his bloodlust and he slaughters a train carriage full of innocents. He manages to get his urges back under control but how will this lapse affect his future and his friends (when they find out)?
Oh, and ladies love his swarthy looks and sexy accent.
Undead in: Near Dark (1987)
Perhaps it was a no-brainer that the skeletal, haunted-looking Lance Henriksen would play a vampire at least once in his career, and as Jesse, the leader of the vampire pack in director Kathryn Bigelow’s horror western, he created a grisly, scuzzy, bad-ass vampire who sears himself into your memory.
He’s the bad guy, sure, casually killing a waitress with calm, cold efficiency and then holding a glass under her cut throat to collect the blood; at one point he lets a guy shoot him, then regurgitates the bullet just to freak him out, it seems. If he didn’t look so damned crusty, his attitude would almost make him sexy, in the way that mad, bad and dangerous to know bloodsuckers can be. You get the feeling he’s the kind of vampire Underworld ’s Viktor would be proud of.
But he has his pain. And that pain is Caleb (played by Heroes ’ Adrian Pasdar), a man recently vampirised by one of Jesse’s pack. The trouble is, Caleb is an Angel or Louis in the making – he doesn’t want to suck blood and be nasty. He wants to be a nice vampire. That doesn’t really suit Jesse’s lifestyle, and Caleb soon becomes a right pain in the neck – figuratively speaking. You know it’s going to end badly, and it does for Jesse who gets all fried by the rising sun.
Undead in: Sesame Street and related projects (1972-present)
Part vampire, part Rainman, Sesame Street ’s Count von Count was a compulsive obsessive, suffering from a complaint known as arithmomania – he just had to count things. Hell, he even admitted in song that if he were alone he’d count himself. Madness! Interestingly, one of the lesser known myths about vampires is that they are, in fact, obsessed with with counting, as Mulder demonstrates in the brilliant X-Files episode “Bad Blood” when he tries to distract a vampire using sunflower seeds.
Count von Count first appeared on Sesame Street in 1972 and is still a mainstay of the show today. We’re not sure how many episodes he’s appeared in, but we’re sure that he does. Performed by Jerry Nelson (once left hand of Rowlf the Dog), he was conceived by writer Norman Stiles. As vampires go, he’s pretty inoffensive, though he’s one of the few with less than 20/20 vision, favouring a monocle (“one lens, ha, ha, haaaaa!”). He has no aversion to sunlight, but has no reflection, and has never been known to suck blood. That might upset the kids. One of Sesame Street ’s most iconic characters, his catchphrase counting technique has been referenced in everything from The Descent , Buffy and Family Guy to the musical Avenue Q .
Undead in: Underworld (2003), Underworld: Evolution (2006), Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (2009)
Many vampires in this list may have secured their place thanks, in part, to the lust factor. But it’s difficult to believe Viktor ever seduced anyone without the power of vampiric hypnosis. That’s not to say certain women wouldn’t find Bill Nighy attractive, but even when we see Viktor in his early days (before centuries of vampirism and lack of sunlight turned him into Gollum’s slightly better looking brother) he was too much of a haughty, self-absorbed bastard to be sexy (unless you find Norman Tebbit a turn on).
Viktor, a Hungarian warlord, was sired by the original vampire, Marcus Corvinus, back in the 12th Century. Power hungry, he soon turned against Marcus (even later rewriting history to make himself appear the first vampire), then became one of three Vampire Elders. They would rule in rotation: while one was in power the other two would sleep. Not that this arrangement dissuaded Viktor from plotting and taking advantage of the vampire/werewolf war to further his own ends. This guy could have taught Machiavelli a thing or two. That didn’t stop him getting his splitting (literally) headache during a tussle with the first vampire/lycan hybrid, though.
Undead in: Moonlight (2007-8)
You can bet that if Josef Kostan had ended up the way he’d been envisioned for the pilot of Moonlight , he wouldn’t have been half as popular as he’s turned out. Originally the character – a 400-year-old vampire who dabbles in big business – was to be a more clichéd aged vampire played by an actor called Rade Serbedzija (you may recall him from Surface ). But among the many, many changes made between the pilot and the series was recasting Kostan. The role eventually went to Veronica Mars ’s considerably more youthful Jason Dohring (apparently he was the personal choice of the show’s executive producer, Joel Silver), which turned the character from a crusty Rupert Murdoch-style business magnate into a thrusting, sharp-suited young-gun with an insatiable appetite for blood, women and expensive luxuries. He also loves his gadgets and fully embraces the information age – you can bet that Kostan’s got Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The result was a louche, witty, energetic supporting character who often threatened to outshine the show’s star, Mick, whom he readily “re-turns” into a vampire at one point after Mick has a brief relapse into humanity. Shame the show was cancelled as a Josef spin-off series could have been great.
Undead in: Salem’s Lot (1979)
Danny Glick provided an image that freaked out an entire generation. It’s that image that has secured him such a high placing in this list. Ask any of the people who voted for him what they actually recall about Danny apart from that image and you’d probably get very few responses. But the vision of the recently-vampirised teen, floating in dry ice outside his old mate Mark Petrie’s bedroom window, scratching at the glass, pleading to be let in with a crazed look on his face… that they can all remember with chilling clarity.
The scene comes from the ’70s TV version of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot , the tale of a couple of vampire antique dealers moving to a small American town with the intention of turning everyone into vampires. David Soul starred as a writer (what else in a King story?) returning to the town he grew up in to discover that the inhabitants are undergoing mysterious changes. Danny Glick is vampirised by his own brother, Ralphie, one of the first victims of the new vampires in town. Danny then tries to turn Mark, but Mark is one of those typical Stephen King characters who knows his popular culture and has gained knowledge on how to cope with vampire attacks from the movies. One swift wave of a crucifix and Danny is beating a hasty retreat. But ten out of ten for effort.
Undead in: Being Human (2009-present)
Like Josef Kostan, Herrick underwent a major transformation from pilot to series, though if anything, the change was even more dramatic. In Being Human ’s pilot, the evil vampires were more traditional – a bunch of Blade -style bloodsuckers skulking in the shadows like some supernatural Mafia, plotting humanity’s downfall. Herrick, their leader – as played by Hustle ’s Adrian Lester – was your Anne Rice-type vampire, all regal superiority and flowery language. It was a decent enough interpretation but nothing new.
Then came the series, and the new Herrick was very, very different. The suave, sexy Herrick had become the ordinary Joe – a dumpy, balding copper you wouldn’t look twice at in the street. Series suicide, you might think. But no, it turned out to be a masterstroke. Having a guy who looked like your plumber as your vampire overlord was one of those moments of genius. It made him so much more dangerous. Jason Watkins’ performance was perfect, veering between avuncular cheeriness and chilling brutality. You found yourself in a world where your dad could believably turn out to be a bloodsucker. Herrick had some bloody good lines, too.
Undead in: The Twilight Saga (2008-2011)
Robert Pattinson trod dangerous ground when interviewed about his audition for the role of Cullen: “When you read the book, it’s like, ‘Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.’ I mean, every line is like that. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself. Plus, he’s a 108-year-old virgin so he’s obviously got some issues.”
It was a wonder that smitten Edward fans – who’d fallen in love with the chaste vampire through Stephenie Meyer’s books – didn’t hunt the actor down and lynch him. Luckily, he had one major weapon to win them over: Pattinson is every bit as beautiful as Edward is described in the books. All he had to do to was glower at the camera, and teen proto-goths everywhere were all a quiver. And hey, as an actor, it’s got to be good for ego being cast in a role which, by definition, means you must be a looker.
Maybe now that Pattinson is rich and famous for playing a character he doesn’t like, he’ll be filled with self-loathing – perfect for method-acting his way through the sequels.
Undead in: Dracula (1931), Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Bauhaus once sang “Bela Lugosi’s dead”. But he will be forever undead thanks to Dracula. He may have grown to loathe the role that typecast him as a horror icon (he soon found it impossible to get any other type of role), but it was the part that would seal his immortality. For many people, even those who don’t know his name, his Dracula is the quintessential Dracula – slicked back hair, the heavy accent, the slow, deliberate delivery of lines (“I nefer drink… viiiiinnnee…”), the long lingering, lustful stares.
It’s amazing he secured this immortality when you consider he only ever played the Count twice on screen, first in Tod Browning’s majestic 1931 Dracula , a film that inspired a long line of Universal horror films (the second time – in an Abbott and Costello comedy – is best left as a footnote in his career). He had played the role – to much acclaim – on Broadway, but had to petition the film’s producers hard to let him reprise it on the big screen; they went through a long list of other potentials before settling on the Hungarian-born thesp. Allegedly they only accepted him when he agreed to a wage less than that of many of his co-stars. His loss was our gain. A legend was born.
Undead in: Near Dark (1987)
Remember Begbie from
? The Scots psycho played by Robert Carlyle? Well, if he’d been turned into a vampire it’s doubtful even he would have turned into a more sadistic git than
’s Severen. The guy is the kind of complete nutter you’d expect in a Tarantino film, who not only kills, but taunts and toys with his victims beforehand, relishing every second of it.
The bit everybody remembers from the film sums him up better than anything. When he and his surrogate vampire family – Jesse, Mae and devil-child Caleb – enter a middle-of-nowhere bar and begin a grisly massacre of the clientele, Severen takes the honours in the gross-out stakes: first he breaks a man’s neck (bad enough but nothing on what’s coming next) and then, with his face covered in blood, he slices open the barman’s face with the spurs on his boots. And boy, does he look like he’s enjoying himself while he’s doing it. He’s not the kind of man you want to cheat at poker with.
For those of us who mainly remember Bill Paxton as the whiney Hudson in Aliens , it’s almost a case of culture shock. But there is one similarity; both suffer very nasty deaths, Severen coming off worse in an argument with a flaming lorry.
Undead in: Blade (1998), Blade II (2002), Blade Trinity (2004)
NOTE: Sticky Fingaz played the character on TV in Blade: The Series (2006), while JD Hall played him in an animated Spider-Man TV series (1996-7), but we don’t think anyone meant their vote to be for them
T echnically, Blade is only half vampire, but, hey, you voted for him so who are we to argue? The epitome of the strong, silent type, Blade’s never been a role that calls for Oscar-winning acting talent. It’s the ethos and imagery surrounding Blade that makes him so cool.
Blade emerged in issue 10 of Marvel’s Tomb Of Dracula comic in 1973, but the movies largely reinvented the character’s mythology. Played by Snipes, he’s a vampire hunter known as The Daywalker, the kind of man who can walk down a crowded street with a sword strapped to his back without any hassle, mainly because you wouldn’t want to piss him off. Instead of drinking blood he uses a serum to feed his hunger, his wardrobe has laid waste to whole herds of cattle, and his vocabulary stretches to about a dozen words, most of them banned before 9pm.
Amazingly for the TV series they found an actor even more wooden than Snipes, and wisely gave him about 20 lines over the entire series. Who cares? All we want Blade to do is kick ass. Stylishly.
Undead in: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Angel (2000-4)
Drusilla is often described as a Nancy Spungen to Spike’s Sid Vicious, a hedonistic pair of vampires living a rock’n’roll lifestyle of booze (well, blood) and sex. Amusingly, Juliet Landau was told when she was given the role that she could use either an American or a British accent and opted for a Cockney interpretation (channelling Dick Van Dyke) because that suited the whole Sid and Nancy vibe, ignoring the fact that Spungen was, in fact, American.
But Dru was more than a mere punk vampire. There was a whole other dimension to her; she was Buffy ’s Ophelia character. Sent mad by Angelus, who tortured and killed her entire family, she was cursed to spend her unlife unhinged when Angelus subsequently sired her. As a vampire she would forever be floating down a river of blood, distracted and babbling nonsense (“Run and catch, run and catch, the lamb is caught in the blackberry patch”). Yep, Dru was a certified nutjob, but hey, that just added to her mystique; witness the way she would squeal and giggle like a little girl while she gleefully tortured some poor victim.
The turned Drusilla had an incredible capacity for sadism. While the living Dru was a god-fearing psychic who was in line for sainthood (part of the reason why Angelus delighted in turning her), the undead Dru was as heartless and deadly as vampires get. Let’s not forget, she killed a Slayer – Kendra, the one who was called after Buffy died briefly at the end of season one. She hypnotised her then sliced open her throat with her fingernails. After being Spike’s girlfriend for the best part of a century, she dropped him after he sided with the Slayer to defeat Angelus, claiming that he had become soft. When Wolfram and Hart asked her to re-sire the resurrected (human) Darla, she really couldn’t understand why Darla didn’t embrace the opportunity.
So, with her Victorian-cum-goth sartorial sense, casual cruelty, beguiling speech patterns and unpredictable insanity, is it any wonder Drusilla has staked a claim in the top 10 of this list?
Undead in: Underworld (2003), Underworld: Evolution (2006), but sadly missing from much of Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (2009)
Of course Selene made it into the top 10 courtesy of her witty dialogue, multifaceted character, nuanced performance and daringly original new take on the femme fatale role.
Yeah, right. It has nothing to do with that shiny, perfectly formed ass at all, does it?
Well, maybe. Just a little bit. Let’s face it, Selene is PVC-clad sex on legs, and Underworld ’s creators would be hard-pressed to convince anyone that she was intended any other way. From the first shot, she’s one big cliché, standing on a ledge hundreds of feet in the air, her full-length leather coat billowing to reveal her figure-hugging costume beneath. A later tracking shot lovingly follows her into into a room at ass height. No attempt at subtlety there, oh no.
But Selene is more than just a cliché – she’s the pinnacle of the form. While Milla Jovovich in Ultraviolet and Angelina Jolie in the Lara Croft films try to pull off the gal-with-guns, kick-ass angel shtick (with varying degrees of success), Kate Beckinsale nails it so effortlessly, you know that she’s the yardstick by which all pretenders will be measured from here on in. The look is right. The attitude is right. The moves are right. The way she steps so casually off rooftops, plunges hundreds of feet, then lands with the grace of a cat is right. The ass is so very, very right. No wonder that she’s the top-rated female vampire in this list.
At the start of Underworld , Selene is a good little vampire, doing her masters’ bidding as a Death Dealer, making sure that those pesky werewolves are rounded up and shot. She’s a mistress of many weapons, ancient and modern, and many fighting styles. She’s clearly seen enough movies to know that you never look cooler than when you’re blasting away with two guns at the same time. And she doesn’t smile much, because that really doesn’t fit the persona.
Soon, though, she begins to realise that this vampire/lycan war isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems, and that the people she’s trusted, including Viktor, the vampire elder who sired her, may not be all they appear. Were her family really killed by werewolves? A chance meeting with a descendant of the original werewolf opens a whole can of worms, especially when her blood transforms him into a vampire/lycan hybrid.
Selene goes through a lot over the course of the first two Underworld movies, and is sorely missed in the third one – it’s like an Indiana Jones flick without Indy. Beckinsale, though, sadly seems reluctant to play the role again, which is shame, but hey, we’ve still got the DVDs and the pause button. For that ass. (And it’s comments like that which probably helped sway her decision.)
Undead in: Interview With The Vampire (1994)
The author of Interview With The Vampire , Anne Rice, wasn’t too chuffed when it was announced that Cocktail star Tom Cruise would be playing her bloodsucking anti-hero in Neil Jordan’s 1994 adaptation. It’s easy to see why. Back in 1994, little on the then biggest star on the planet’s CV (a range of Top Gun -type star vehicles and worthy Oscar-bait like Rain Man ) suggested he was the right man to play the morally flexible star of her Vampire Chronicles , Lestat de Lioncourt. As soon as Rice saw the movie, however, she was won over by Cruise’s performance, so much so that she felt compelled to take out full-page ads in US trade mag Variety extolling his virtues. Now that’s showing your appreciation!
Despite having some awkward prosthetic teeth rammed into his mouth and sporting long, flowing locks that wouldn’t look out of place in an ’80s heavy rock music video, Cruise exudes the star quality that’s made him a reliable box office banker for over 25 years. His Lestat is the sort of bad boy you love to hate, and a considerably more exciting focal point for the movie than Brad Pitt’s more traditionally heroic Louis. Indeed, the charismatic Lestat’s such a compelling guy that it’s easy to believe the bereaved, moping Louis would fall for his sales pitch and embrace eternal life as one of the undead.
Thanks to a few differences of opinion – Louis is reluctant to kill people to satiate his bloodlust, while Lestat’s happy to walk on the wild side – the duo become the quintessential vampire odd couple on the streets of New Orleans. It’s a case of opposites attracting; a double act that becomes mutually dependent, yet with each party rubbing the other up the wrong way – and although Lestat’s clearly the baddie of the pair, you can’t help rooting for him.
Even when Lestat does the dirty on Louis by transforming pre-teen Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) into a vampire to engineer a bizarre family unit that he hopes will keep his friend in town, you find yourself liking Lestat more. In fact, when Louis and Claudia turn on the man who sired them and leave him for dead, the film can’t really handle the loss of its most vibrant character, and trundles along without ever escaping the Cruise-shaped vampire’s enormous shadow.
Thankfully, this being the supernatural genre, Lestat was never likely to be truly dead (come on, you’ve got to think sequels!), and his reappearance at the end of the movie, feasting on Christian Slater’s journalist, is a genuine fists-in-the-air moment. The fact that he likes The Rolling Stones proves that Lestat really is a vampire of taste.
Although Cruise has never played Lestat again, the character returned courtesy of Irish actor Stuart Townsend (the guy Viggo Mortensen replaced as Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy) in the 2002 flop Queen of the Damned . Alas, Townsend only received two votes in our poll and was some way off appearing the top 50.
Undead in: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Perhaps Gary Oldman’s greatest achievement in playing Dracula is distracting you from how rubbish Keanu Reeves’s British accent is in the same film. Then again it would take a seasoned old ham of Anthony Hopkins’s stature to deliver lines like, “The bloody wolves chased me through the blue inferno!” with any degree of conviction… oh hang on, Hopkins is in the film, and he’s rubbish too.
Let’s be honest – Oldman carries this movie. And he carries it like Asterix dragging a pissed Obelix back from the tavern. His Dracula is a tour de force of nature, a mesmerising presence amongst the theatricality of Coppola’s vision. This is also one of the most faithful screen versions of the Count, emphasising his shape-shifting abilities (He’s a bat! He’s a wolf! He’s Willy Wonka!), and introducing him as an old man who then grows younger, just like in the book.
Coppola also has fun with Dracula’s shadow, an evil shape with a life of its own that nearly manages to upstage Oldman at times. But Oldman emerges triumphant; no matter whether he’s under layers of ageing make-up with the Sydney Opera House on his head or strutting about in a top hat and blue sunglasses, he’s a proud, menacing, hypnotic figure, with a bewildering range of unsettling, otherworldly gestures and glances. The moment when he surreptitiously licks Harker’s bloody shaving knife then shudders with orgasmic delight is every bit as unnerving as Hannibal Lecter’s fava bean speech.
Perhaps Coppola’s decision to emphasise Dracula as a lonely, romantic figure just desperate to find true love, ultimately backfires, as Oldman has to spend a third of the movie acting the love sick puppy (just hypnotise the wench and have your wicked way with her!). But when Oldman is cut loose as a scary, spooky, blustering bloodsucker, he’s magnificent, creating a big screen monster of frightening intensity and intimidating presence; a monster you truly do believe would take pleasure in killing you in any number of cruel and unusual ways.
Undead in: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)
The first screen Dracula wasn’t called Dracula for copyright-skirting reasons (which ultimately didn’t stop a court case to get the film trashed). When legendary German expressionist director FW Murnau decided to adapt the tale, he thought that he could avoid all that royalties nonsense by renaming the characters, and moving all the locations of the film to Germany. Bram Stoker’s widow, Florence, thought otherwise, and the courts agreed with her. All negatives of the film were ordered to be destroyed. Luckily one print survived in London, and so this absolute classic wasn’t lost in the mists of time.
This means that we can still enjoy Max Schreck’s extraordinary performance as the eponymous Nosferatu, Count Orlok. In contrast to the usual expansive performance of the silent actors around him, Schreck – a renowned stage actor – is a study in stillness and understatement. Often he merely strikes a pose and keeps it for entire shots. Even when he’s moving about – such as the scenes of his arrival in the city of Wisborg, scurrying along the street with his coffin tucked under his arm – only his legs seem to move. His upper body, meanwhile, remains inert, like some character from a cheap, arthouse Czechoslovakian animation film.
Then there’s the make-up, so utterly convincing; surprisingly so considering the primitive state of prosthetics back in 1922. It’s quite easy to believe – as the film Shadow of the Vampire postulates – that Murnau actually hired a real vampire to play the part. From the bulbous bald head, pointed ears and front-tooth fangs to his outsized, claw-nailed hands, Schreck’s Nosferatu is at once a noble-looking, yet feral figure.
Although the Lugosi Dracula would become the mainstream vampire blueprint for decades, somehow this more disturbing vision remained imprinted on a subconscious level of the zeitgeist, re-emerging in the ’70s for
and even lampooned on BBC comedy
The Fast Show
. It’s an amazing piece of cultural penetration for a film so few have actually ever seen.
The film’s most memorable images combine the Count’s striking silhouette with Murnau’s expressionist photography. Even shots of him merely standing in archways have a powerful impact, while a scene with Orlok standing on the deck of the ship, framed by rigging, makes him look for all the world like a spindly spider at the centre of a web. The film’s most celebrated – and imitated – moment, though, occurs near the very end, as he ascends a flight of stairs to the room where Ellen ( Nosferatu ’s Mina character) awaits. All you see are the shadows on the wall; it even appears that his silhouetted hand turns the door knob. Finally, the shadow of his claw creeps up Ellen’s nightdress and clasps her heart as she writhes in agony.
It’s just a shame that he doesn’t wear a watch, because he forgets what the time is and is destroyed by the rising sun. Daft sod.
Undead in: The Lost Boys (1987)
You know what the problem is with living in Santa Carla? All the damn vampires. But these were vampires like nothing ever seen on screen before. Director Joel Schumacher may not have made many fans by turning Tim Burton’s gothic Batman series of films into a DayGlo festival of camp, but you have to give him credit: he created the cult of teen vampires in The Lost Boys .
In David, he crafted an icon whose influence fed through into modern vampire mythology. It’s not just the bleached blond hair that David and Spike have in common: the rebel without a cause attitude, the leather coat, the punk/rock sensibilities, the hedonistic lifestyle, the motorbike – all these things have become synonymous with “bad” teen vampires, and they all had their genesis in David.
But it might have all been very different. As originally conceived, the Lost Boys in the film were going to be much more like their Peter Pan namesakes. The film was going to be a Goonies -style romp with little kid blood-suckers and lots of slapstick. Schumacher, though, had a much darker vision for the film, and thought it would be far more interesting to have a bunch of teenage vampires.
You can’t help think that, for all his sins against Batman, in this, Schumacher’s thinking was spot on. He captured the imagination of the new MTV generation with a pounding punk and rock soundtrack, not to mention montages of stripey-stockinged, dyed-haired, pierced and tattooed ’80s teen misfits looking moody and rebellious on street corners.
The film was an instant cult hit with the audience it was aimed at; teens loved it. They especially loved David. Back then, Kiefer Sutherland was just Donald’s son. After The Lost Boys he would be a star in his own right, and deservedly so. With no blueprint to fall back on, he carved out the role of the cocky, thrill-seeking, motorbike-riding, teen vampire, relishing in his vampiric powers as a way of extending his teenage tearaway years into eternity.
Watch his sadistic delight as he uses his powers of suggestion to trick Santa Carla newcomer Michael into drinking blood (thus turning him); first David makes him think he’s eating maggots instead of rice, then worms instead of noodles. By the time Michael’s offered blood to drink, he’s thinking, “I know their game… this ain’t blood, it’s wine.” Bad move… David later freaks Michael out by getting his gang to hurl themselves from a railway bridge in one of the film’s most memorable images. And let’s not forget, the vampires in The Lost Boys are some of the few screen vampires who actually fly. That’s cool in itself. And David is obsessed with cool.
Yet, like all bullies, he’s doesn’t like it when people fight back. As well as being one of the few screen vampires who flies, he’s also one of the few that cries. When he’s staked at the end, a tear rolls down his cheek; a cheek which for the rest of the film has been covered with stubble, but suddenly, in death, goes all smooth. In that final moment, he really does become a little, lost boy.
Undead in: Moonlight (2007-8)
There was some serious block voting going on when it came to this guy, but, to be fair, fans of all shows were equally entitled to block vote. Who are we to censure votes just because Moonlight fans got their act together and Blood Ties fans didn’t? Besides, think through the logic: if fans are avid enough to want to mobilise a voting campaign, what does that say about the guy they’re voting for? That he’s popular, basically. Ipso facto , he’s earned his place in the top 10, fair and square (though we’re glad he didn’t beat Christopher Lee).
Mick St John is private investigator in modern-day Los Angeles who also just happens to be a vampire. (Hey, maybe he should form some kind of union with Angel; the Vampire Private Investigators Regulatory Executive – or VamPIRE.) He was sired around 60 years ago by his wife, Coraline, on his wedding day, which is one Hell of a way of consummating a marriage. But he’s not really comfortable with the traditional vampire lifestyle and refuses to hunt women, children or innocents, and rejects the idea of treating humanity as just a quick snack.
After his disastrous nuptials he’s understandably not keen on pursuing any romantic avenues for a while, but things change when he “bumps into” internet reporter Beth Turner. Bumps into in inverted commas, because he’s actually been stalking her since she was five, when he rescued her from his ex-wife… but let’s not go there. It’s all a bit creepy.
Why’s he so popular? The looks, the charm, the conflicted nature. He’s Edward Cullen for the mature woman, though a lot more eloquent (then again, there are sea sponges more eloquent than Edward Cullen). It’s like all the things that make vampires sexy have been distilled into one character. Which reminds us of another character… called Angel. Is it any coincidence that Angel co-creator David Greenwalt (in that he both co-created the show Angel and indeed the character Angel back in the early days of Buffy ) was also one of the original showrunners on Moonlight ? Short answer – no.
Undead in: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Angel (1999-2004)
The thing that’s easy to forget about Angel is just how funny he could be. Maybe not always intentionally, to be sure (and no, that’s not a reference to David Boreanaz’s dodgy Oirish accent in the flashbacks to his pre-vampire days as Liam). The popular image of Angel is that of the moping, lovestruck, shadow-lurking vampire of the early days of Buffy (he was the the virtual blueprint for Edward Cullen) or the grumpy, agonised, redemption-seeking square-peg-in-a-round-hole misfit of his time in Los Angeles (a vampire in the sunshine city, a typically Joss Whedon conceit). And he was both of these. And probably would have been fondly remembered even if that was all there was to him.
But there was another side to Angel; a wonderfully appealing, self-effacing humour, helped no end by Boreanaz’s ability to look like a slapped puppy. He was a vampire, for Christ’s sake – he should be big and hard and manly. And Angel could be. But he could also look sulky, pathetic, in need of a hug; and when he was in one of these moods, he usually ended up the target of ridicule from his friends. He was also a rubbish singer and dancer – which may sound like a facile comment, but his amusing awkwardness at such times spoke volumes about who he was.
Plot-wise, few vampires have been so well served. A vampire with a soul; that’s the kind of dichotomy any actor would love to explore, especially with that added proviso about “true happiness will turn him evil”. But, of course, he did find true happiness, and his soul was whipped away from him; Angelus was reborn and Boreanaz clearly had a whale of a time playing him (the scene where he sucks the blood of a smoker then exhales her smoke is one of the best vampire moments ever). Regaining his soul, he goes to LA, away from Buffy and temptation, sets up a detective agency, journeys to another dimension, comes back, becomes a dad, becomes boss at a demon legal firm and watches loads of friends die. But it’s all okay, because at the very end, he’s still doing what he wants to do most: the right thing.
Undead in: Dracula (1958), Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966), Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968), Count Dracula (1970), Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970), One More Time (1970), Scars Of Dracula (1970), Dracula AD 1972 (1972), The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973), Dracula And Son (1976)
There’s one reason why Christopher Lee might not actually have made a great Dracula: his teeth. Look when you can at Lee’s bottom teeth – they’re not in a great state and haven’t been for many years. Yet this is a man who became the definitive screen Dracula and the most recognisable bloodsucker in town – the head honcho of the undead, if you like. Put that down to being the quintessential English gentleman – but with something of the night about him. And pure, unadulterated quality.
Bela Lugosi may have been Hollywood’s Dracula but his performance wasn’t one for the ages – his Drac was clearly hooked on ham as well as blood. Lee’s is the sturdier performance. 1958’s Dracula , the first of Lee’s six Hammer films as the Count, is probably the best. Although there was an unfortunate on-set incident when Lee fell into a grave while carrying an actress around, on screen he exemplified a monster who was quite capable of seducing beautiful ladies – which many others in the role looked like they’d struggle to – followed by biting a chunk out of their necks.
Even when his enthusiasm for the role waned towards the end, with the likes of The Satanic Rites Of Dracula , he still put in the icy, classy performance that his professionalism demanded. That he could command so much attention while saying so little in the role is significant. There is certainly no actor who could die so many times and do it so well – in so many different and gory ways! But when you’re Dracula and you meet a different sort of grisly end at each movie’s climax, then you need to be versatile. Lee had versatility – along with a thousand other qualities as well – making him the silver screen’s king of the vampires.
Undead in: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Angel (1999-2004)
The old adage appears to be true – we all love a bad boy. Born of posh stock in 18th Century London (we can assume his mockney Guy Ritchie-style accent was an affectation he adopted later – which might also explain why it occasionally wobbled slightly), Spike made his first appearance in Sunnydale in season two. He quickly made himself as much loved among the fans as he was (initially) hated by the Slayer and her Scoobies.
So what makes him so popular – other than cheekbones sharp enough to cut cheese on? An antihero in the true sense of the word, Spike is morally ambiguous and ready to fight pretty much anyone, for fun. But underneath it all, he loves deeply and earnestly in a way that remains achingly human. Although, ironically, his personality remains pretty much the same, whether he has a soul or not – in stark (and more entertaining) contrast to Angel.
He’s not as broody as most of the other vamps, with a quick sarcastic wit and a barrage of pop culture references for every occasion. He’s funny and, frankly, the kind of person it’d be a laugh to have a beer and play a few hands of kitten poker with, even if you couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t try to kill you later. He’s also the only vamp on our list who’s got away with using the word “wanker” on US network TV. Yeah, it’s not big or clever, but you couldn’t imagine Dracula getting away with that.