Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Five Kinds of Vampires

It's October, Halloween is nigh, and everyone's doing spooky blog posts. You don't get much spookier than vampires, which for my money are the top monster movie villains of all time. According to Wikipedia -- and I'm not 100% certain of it myself, but it sounds cool -- Dracula has been the subject of more films than any other fictional character.

Bram Stoker tapped into something primal about sex, death and immortality when he wrote 'Dracula' way back in the day, and ever since then vampires have been the go-to for grim and gory and Gothic grandeur. But say you need some blood sucked somewhere -- what kind of vampire might suit your vamping needs? In my exhaustive study of the vampyr mythos (I watched every episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" after all), here's my thoughts on the Five Kinds of Vampires, each of which blends into each other a bit -- kind of like mixing bloodlines, I suppose. Ew!

The Lugosi

PhotobucketSeen in: "Dracula," duh.
Characteristics: You think of vampires, you think of Bela Lugosi, and his "I vant to suck your blood" performance in 1931's "Dracula." Black cape, formal wear, thick accent, spooky stare, it's all here. While seen today his turn verges on parody, in it are the bones of horror. As a movie, it's actually not quite as good as a lot of its successors or other Universal monster movies of the time, I think, but still worth seeing.
Place in vampire history: Where it all began. He's been imitated many times, including such worthies as Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman, but Lugosi deserves his place in coffin lore for his groundbreaking, hugely influential portrayal. Nearly every other type of vampire takes a bit of Lugosi and builds on it.
See also: The Shadow

The Aristocrat

PhotobucketSeen in: Any book by Anne Rice, Christopher Lee's many "Dracula" movies, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" by Coppola, "Fright Night," "Underworld," "Dark Shadows"
Characteristics: A direct descendant of The Lugosi, but with added sultry. The aristocrat can either be a fancy-pants European sort, or perhaps in the American version, more likely a glorified bad boy outsider with a nice leather jacket. You wouldn't want to go on a date with them, but with a kind of sexual allure all the same. (And for the record it might be heresy, I really think Tom Cruise did quite a nice job as the Vampire Lestat, myself.)
Place in vampire history: Until "Buffy" came along and raised the prospect of actually dating a vampire, the Aristocrat was the most popular of its kind.
See also: The Sexy Beast

The Sexy Beast

PhotobucketSeen in: "Buffy/Angel," "True Blood," "The Lost Boys," "The Hunger", and sort of, in "Twilight"
Characteristics: He's hot, he's dangerous, he's dead.
Place in vampire history: Right now, vampires couldn't be sexier. And while they're still killers, they're pretty hot it seems -- I'd say "Buffy" was the modern instigator of this old trend, with Buffy and her vamp boyfriends Spike and Angel doing all the brooding and such. Sex and vampires have been entwined from the start, of course, but it's only more recently that it seems you can have long-term relationships with them. The fantastic TV series "True Blood" is perhaps the most interesting current take on this. On the other hand the wuss Edward from "Twilight" is a dampened-down tween version of the beast, Mildly Threatening Sparkly Beast.

The Shadow

PhotobucketSeen in: "Nosferatu," "Let The Right One In," "Near Dark," "Salem's Lot."
Characteristics: As insubstantial as smoke but as deadly as a nightmare, the Shadow is the vampire you're not really sure exists until it grabs you. It either is silent and horrifying, such as Max Schreck's terrifyingly iconic turn in the 1922 film, or perhaps appears to be a normal if slightly "off" person at first, like in the great recent Swedish film "Let the Right One In." This one is closest to the mythological version of the vampire that Stoker drew on for his defining novel.
Place in vampire history: Schreck's hugely creepy performance still stands up nearly 100 years on, and is actually considered by many to be even more definitive than Lugosi's. And as I wrote a while back "Let The Right One In" is basically "Twilight" done right. Not as common these days as other types of vampires, the Shadow is tremendously effective.
See also: The Abomination

The Abomination

PhotobucketSeen in: "30 Days of Night," "Blade," "From Dusk Till Dawn," "I Am Legend."
Characteristics: These vampires are nowhere near human. Slobbering, blood-drenched ghouls, with stretchy jaws and an infinite abyss of razor teeth, they're probably the most "modern" interpretation of vamps. But while they're menacing and very gory, they kind of lack the human mystery and romance that make vampires what they are over the years. Nobody would want to date them. Good for a scare, though.
Place in vampire history: For folks who like their blood suckers bloody, but less iconic than others.

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