Monday, March 23, 2009

The Fang Gang: Greatest On-Screen Vampires

10. Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt) in The Vampire Lovers- Pitt's seductive portrayal of the classic vampire was mesmerizing, and became one of the greatest female vampires ever to grace the silver screen. She was powerful, beautiful, and deadly- a woman you would drool over, but then check under your bed to make sure she wasn't actually there. Carmilla here is a classic, elegant monster and represents all that was great about Hammer Studios in one of its best films.

9. Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) in Fright Night- Not one of the more well known, and not actually the film's main vampire, but Evil Ed was a character any horror fan could relate to. He couldn't talk to girls, didn't have many friends, nor much of a life outside of monster movies. And when his best friend claims his neighbor is a vampire, Evil refuses to believe right up until he's bitten himself. And he becomes what we all secretly dread: the fanboy unleashed. The vampire fan becomes the vampire, and even though his screen time is limited, Stephen Geoffreys gives a classic horror performance as the ghoulishly entertaining Evil Ed.

8. David (Kiefer Sutherland) in The Lost Boys- The Lost Boys (much like Fright Night before it) brought the traditional vampire myth out of the dark ages and into the mullet-headed, strobe-lit 1980's. David is the leader of a pack of punkish vampires trying to lure in Michael, a newcomer to the town of Santa Carla (the apparent murder capitol of the world). The seductive edge of Dracula is gone and we have a more tough, intimidating vampire, Sutherland's scariest performance since his bully in Stand By Me. David and his vampires are so tough, in fact, that it takes BOTH Coreys (Haim and Feldman) to help put them down.

7. Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) in Interview With the Vampire- The film is, in my opinion, more than a little superior to the novel on which it is based. The cast works well together, Neil Jordan is the perfect director for the material, and Anne Rice's script doesn't subject us to her prose. The scariest and most intriguing part of the novel is also luckily adapted almost intact. That would be Dunst's child-vampire Claudia. A woman eternally trapped in a child's body, Claudia's inner conflict is fascinating and she is chilling to watch through every moment of her screen time.

6. Count Dracula (Frank Langella) in Dracula (1979)- This is, to me, classic Dracula and one of the best films ever based on the character. Langella's performance here is intimidating, seductive, he provides monsters with an idol. He is powerful and gets any woman he desires. The women want him, and the men want to be him, because here in this film, he's essentially the James Bond of vampires. No widow's peak, nor accent, Langella steps in and makes the role entirely his own.

5. Severin (Bill Paxton) in Near Dark- Sorry, folks. But this list wouldn't be complete without a throwback to my personal favorite vampire film. Here, the vampires are a family, out west, almost empathetic until Paxton's big scene. They walk into a bar and the charismatic Severin starts fucking with the bartender, obviously picking a fight. He walks on the bar, crushing everyone's drinks under his heel, and when the bartender decides to make a move, Severin slits his throat with a swift kick (as there is a blade attatched to the heel of his boot). The character is a dick, but he's memorable, and plays well as the id of the family.

4. Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) in Dracula (1931)- Sure, the film and this character bear little resemblance to the novel on which it's based. But when people think of Dracula, the biggest name in horror, Lugosi's face is the first that comes to mind. Even if he's not entirely Stoker's Count, he plays the role with an elegance and a spooky charm that has become classic. There's barely a single visual effect throughout the film, Lugosi relies entirely on his acting to convey the horror, and for the most part it works.

3. Spike (James Marsters) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1998-2003)- Arguably one of the most well-written TV dramas ever, Buffy had many memorable characters. But none of them, when it came down to it, were quite as entertaining on a weekly basis (nor did any of them under go such a remarkable transformation from season to season) as this punk British vampire. Spike was one of the most perceptive, charming, tough and humorous characters in the show's history, and played off of every single character in a way none of the others cast members could. Pity plans for a spin-off fell through, because if there's one character who could likely never stop developing, Spike is certainly it.

2. Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) in Horror of Dracula (1958)- Many people will tell you that Sean Connery IS James Bond. Many will tell you Michael Keaton (or, sigh, Adam West) IS Batman. More than a few will say Boris Karloff IS Frankenstein ('cause they can't name anyone else). And that is why I'm here to tell you that Christopher Lee IS Dracula. He's imposing, menacing, with one of the most powerful presences in film history. There's a charm, but it's dangerous. He is an elegant monster, and a frightening personification of the id at the same time. When he wants something, he will let nothing stand in the way of his getting it. The image of Lee with blazing red eyes and blood running from his mouth, a look like a rabid animal, is one of the most haunting images in horror history and it remains chilling to this day.

1. Count Orlock (Max Schreck) in Nosferatu (1922)- Sometimes the first is the best. While there were vampire films (a few) before Nosferatu, it was truly the first of its kind. It began the age of film vampires, something that has only continued to grow into today. Schreck's demonic Count is still a haunting image after close to a century, and that is the statement of a powerful character. Even today, this silent shocker still haunts, and that is all due to Max Schreck as the looming, rat-like Count Orlock. He's one of the most famous visuals in film history, the most frightening vampire ever to appear on film, and after all this time, it's likely that he will remain such for generations to come.

1 comment:

  1. Spike kicks so much freaking ass. 'Nuff said.