Best screen vampires

Another day, another list … this one of the Ten Best Screen Vampires at the Guardian was winning me hands down until the very end, where once again the confusion about popular equating to good kicked in. Honestly, if you want a vampire struggling with their nature and trying to practise restraint, wouldn’t you go for one that actually makes you feel the true weight of that struggle rather than just mooching about – at best a cad, at worst a dirty old man? Like, say, Louis in Interview, or eponymous Angel, or even Nick Knight (probably more the TV show than the movie)? Still, nine out of 10 ain’t bad (even if I’d probably have plumbed for Kirsten Dunst’s Claudia in Interview as my child representative).

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More bloody vampires

Marianne de Pierres is scoping for readers’ (and viewers’) favourite vampires at her blog, while Nicole Adams has assembled a dubious top 14 vampire stories at hers. Good to see Dracula and Nosferatu made the Phlebotomy cut, despite their lack of supplementary cross-media tie-ins that seem to inform the rest of the selection. Nothing like a list to get tongues wagging, eh?

To whit, I’ve already listed my favourite vampire movies, so, riffing off MdP, here’s my pick of the screen vampires:

Bela Lugosi’s Dracula

Max Shreck’s Orlok

Klaus Kinski’s Orlok

Gary Oldman’s Dracula

Christopher Lee’s Dracula

Ingrid Pitt’s Carmilla

Near Dark’s vampire gang

Buffy’s Drusilla (and Spike, and Darla)

Catherine Deneuve’s Miriam

Willem Dafoe’s Shreck

Tom Cruise’s Lestat

Kirsten Dunst’s Claudia

Udo Keir’s Dracula

That’s 15 and quite a mouthful. I wonder if Kiefer Sutherland and David Boreanaz are unjustly omitted? And you know better than to mention Edward here, right?

So what is it about these screen portrayals that makes them stand out for me? Let’s see. Udo’s a maniac, Cruise excelled where no one expected him to. Shreck is impossible to forget and both Kinski and Dafoe paid amazing homage (Kinski in Vampire in Venice was also divine). Lugosi and Lee are likewise iconic. Near Dark is gritty and nihilistic. Dunst, Oldman, Deneuve and Pitt all offer nuances of characterisation you just don’t often get in a screen vampire. Buffy’s bunch are simply damn good fun, each in their own way. If there’s a theme running through these portrayals, it might be one of dealing with immortality – there’s a loneliness to these vampires, an otherness, that strikes deeper than the usual predator of the night depiction. They might be sexy, zany, insane, downright nasty, but all seem to suffer from the common malaise of being more-or-less alone in their timelessness. Maybe that’s part of why their performance lingers long after the credits have ended.

  • I’ll be rabbitting on about the evolution of vampires in literature and screen at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club’s mini-con on May 22. More details when they’re available.