Spooky Greetings, Mortals! Welcome to our annual 31 Days Of Horror fright-fest. We kick off the spooky season with a team effort in which we put a simple question to the team.
Who is your favourite screen vampire?
And of course, every single one, without exception said Dracula. This led to a rowdy “discussion” over whose take was the best incarnation (it’s 1979’s Frank Langella, obviously, Ed.) and we had to step in to separate them, to stop the hair pulling and eye-poking and other semi-violent antics. Once things had calmed down, we crafted our question far more sensitively to avoid a repeat of such violent nonsense, and this led to a far more civilised debate.
Who is your favourite screen vampire who isn’t Dracula?
Here are the results of that question, as various members of the WGN team new and old (Less of the old, Ed.), and some of our lovely guest posters (both past and future) put forward their case for why their favourite Non-Dracula Vampire is the best bloodsucker…
Louis Thelier’s Choice – Viago (What We Do In The Shadows)
This is Viago, from What We Do In The Shadows. Look at him. Loot at that immaculate necktie. Look at the velvet waistcoat and the ostentatious jacket. Look at the perfectly coiffed hair and the blood in a suitably elegant glass. Viago is not just a vampire: he is truly a dandy in every sense of the word and a sweet boy who wants nothing but to rekindle a long lost romance. Sure, he might let his housemates murder innocents and trick them into eating “pasghetti”, and occasionally hypnotise police officers, but his undead heart is clearly made of gold. Ish. Aside from being the all-around Best Boy, and clearly the best non-Dracula vamp, Viago is played by Taika Waititi, the film’s brilliant director (you may have seen his small, independent movie Thor: Ragnarok), and Taika just does such a great job playing a slightly naive, sweet, mortally challenged character. Honestly, you could do so much worse if you were forced to share a flat with an undead creature of the night.
Paul Childs’ Choice – Jerry Dandridge (Fright Night)
Have you ever been annoyed by loud noises or mysterious smells coming from next door? Well, worry not if suave Jerry Dandridge moves into your street with his impressive collection of chunky knitwear. Dandridge is every bit as good-looking and charming as you’d hope for in a new neighbour. He keeps himself to himself and tidies up his mess. Despite his old fashioned manners, he’s not averse to a spot of dancing at the local discotheque where I hear he’s quite the mover (and sports a fantastic line in low-neckline sweaters). A hit with both suburban housewives and teenage girls, he’s romantic at heart who dreams of nothing but finding his one true love to spend the rest of his (very long) life with.
And if you’re very lucky, you might find that handsome devil knocking at your door asking to be invited in for a bite…
Andrew Lyall’s Choice – Radu (Subspecies)
If you’ve ever wondered what Nosferatu’s Count Orlok would have been like if he’d gotten into The Sisters of Mercy or had an emo phase and started obsessing over My Chemical Romance, then Radu Vladislas if the vamp for you. While all the others pose and preen (I’m looking at you, Lestat) Radu has lived the goth/alternative/emo lifestyle for centuries. He spends ages (literally) moping about in his castle, wishing his parents and brother were dead, mooning after girls he can’t have, not washing his hair. Like a gothic soap opera, the Subspecies series of films follows the trials and tribulations of Radu and his attempts to harness the power of the Bloodstone. His heritage is clearly that of the spidery rat-like Orlok (the OG of cinematic vampires), but his legacy is you and I.
He is everyone who used to stare at their shoes while they danced to Bauhaus; everyone whose first instinct upon wrapping a blanket over their shoulders is to say, “I vant to drink your blood!”; everyone who thinks ‘The Lost Boys’ is an aspirational lifestyle movie. And the reason Radu deserves to be the vampire totem for generations is that he’s a bit naff; and if we’re being completely honest, if we had ever managed to become vampires ourselves, we wouldn’t be cool and sexy like Jerry Dandridge, we’d all be just a bit naff, just like Radu.
Rob Mclaughlin’s Choice – Count Duckula (Danger Mouse/Duckula)
Vampires are often represented in ‘children’s entertainment’ as comedy characters with Drac from ‘Hotel Transylvania’ (2012) who or course should not be confused with Drac from the Groovie Goolies (1970) or as a superhero Drak Jr in the 80s cartoon Drak Pack (1981) as a perfect example of how Stoker’s character has become a family favourite.
And while Drac, Mavis and co are fantastic, the best comedic kids’ vampire is, of course, found in the heart of Transylvania, in the Vampire Hall of Fame (yeah!). There’s not a vampire zanier than Duckula!
The good Count, who came to us courtesy of Cosgrove Hall was not the first but the third anthropomorphic ducks presented in animated form with the original vampire-duck called Duckula first appearing in an obscure comic called Quack way in 1975. This was followed by another aquatic bird in one series of animation entitled Quacula (1979) from Filmation and finally the rock and roll veggie vampire (and or course Igor and Nanny) making their own series debut in 1988 after appearing in Danger Mouse way back in 1981 and lasting for 4 seasons and 65 episodes.
While Duckula has also appeared in the new version of Danger Mouse it is 80s cartoon that most people remember fondly with David Jason providing the voice of the character and thousands of kids (including myself) sitting in front of CITV with cheese on toast tea and a cup of weak lemon drink to giggle away at the fame-hungry Count in his vast castle, Igor and the over-bearing Nanny.
The Duckula family motto which appeared repeatedly throughout the cartoon is ‘Per Ardua ad Sanguina’ (Work hard for blood) something the foppish and spoilt Duckula is shown repeatedly not to do.
CJ Dee’s Choice – Lestat (Interview With The Vampire/Queen of the Damned)
Lestat de Lioncourt, specifically the portrayals in Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned, is pure vampire perfection. Why? To me, a vampire is a supernatural being who embodies danger, decadence and sexuality with tragic undertones. In both portrayals, Lestat is all of these personified. Count them off with me. Dangerous? Oh, my word, yes. Lestat leaves mountains of bodies in his wake. Decadent? Absolutely. From fawning around the last couple of centuries with Louis to becoming a rock god in more modern times, Lestat is deliciously decadent. Sexual? While not explicitly shown, Lestat oozes arrogant sexuality. Tragedy? All of his evil acts aside, Lestat is a lonely character. This last point is what makes Lestat such a beautiful character to watch. He does unspeakably evil things in the same way a child lashes out because they don’t understand their feelings. Through the desperate attempts to make his own family over the years, Lestat is fuelled by a loneliness that most of us — not living for more than a century give or take — can never hope to understand.
Howard David Ingham’s Choice – Eli (Let The Right One In)
Eli (as portrayed by Lina Leandersson in Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Let the Right One In) seems so innocent and so angelic, such a perfect partner for poor, strange, bullied Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant). She becomes his friend, and later his protector. But of course, when Oskar, falling in love with her, asks her if she wants to go steady, Eli says “I’m not a girl.” We understand it to mean that she’s a vampire, centuries-old but stuck in the form of a child, but there’s something else there, a history that we’re teased with but never told fully—a Fabergé egg, a glimpse of some scars. In the novel on which the film is based, that’s spelled out in detail, but the film just gives us exactly enough to understand that she is trans. She’s still a vampire, though, and the genius of Eli as a character is that the revelation of her gender is entirely independent of the uncanny, ravening horror she supplies. There is no vampire as unsettling, and none so heartbreaking.
Aaron Nash’s Choice – Deacon Frost (Blade)
Deacon Frost, the main antagonist of Marvel’s Blade (as portrayed by Stephen Dorff) is, at first glance a rather unthreatening individual. In fact, he’d look more at home in a tech start-up company. But behind the handsome, icy cool exterior hides a vicious, deliberate vampire who aims to become a god. Although mainly getting his lackeys to do most of the dirty work around the city he does go toe to toe with Blade in an awesome battle. I love the fact he’s embraced his vampirism but he doesn’t go around unnecessarily flaunting it. Frost is also one of the few vampires I can remember who fights the ‘Not Being Able To Go Out In Daylight’ with sunblock. He looks cool, acts cool, and is one hell of a threat.
Liam Matheson’s Choice – Severen (Near Dark)
Bill Paxton has played many roles, almost exclusively, characters that have a heart of gold. No matter who he is, he is simply Bill Paxton. Near Dark allowed him to be the opposite, Severen is twisted, vile and terrifying. Part of an old-time posse in a modern age, he takes pleasure in the torture of humans before he feeds, his only complaint “I hate it when they ain’t been shaved!” There is no better vampire movie than Near Dark and there is no better vampire than Paxton’s Severen.
Jane Roberts’ Choice – Klaus and Elijah Mikaelson (The Originals)
The Originals, the grown-up, fit as a fiddle cousin to The Vampire Diaries, brings the steaming hot brothers Klaus and Elijah Mikaelson to the Vampire Gallery of Lust. Klaus, the dishevelled bad boy, all tattered t-shirts and wicked smile, a monster in blue jeans but loyal to the molten core. The sober Elijah, a vision in a well-fitting suit, urbane and controlled, hiding an inner berserker. No wonder the gorgeous Hayley ripped the shirts off both of them, nibbling their salient parts with her elongated canines. How to choose between chaos and calm? Fierce and thoughtful? For me, they remain the playful playboys of New Orleans, steeped in magic and whiskey and never-ending feuds. A Mikaelson for all moods.
Rebecca Aulburn’s Choice – Harmony Kendall (Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel)
Harmony was never the sharpest fork in the cutlery drawer, but she was a learner. Every time she was smacked down, she got up again and got out her unicorns. She appeared at the start and end of the Buffyverse – outlasting Spike, Anya, Druscilla and even Dracula. (And that turncoat Cordelia) She was staked but got better. She has two episodes named after her. She killed a slayer and another vampire and then got the Harmony Rules which stopped slayers and vampires trying to dust each other. She totally got interviewed by all the famous hosts. And she even got to be a Vampire Queen in the 23rd century. It’s, like, how could you not think she’s better than some other Vamp who didn’t even get on Dancing with the Stars.
“I’m powerful, and I’m beautiful and I don’t need you to complete me.”
Rob de Koeijer’s Choice – The Master (The Strain)
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s take on vampires with their The Strain trilogy of novels, published between 2009 and 2011 and adapted into a comic and a TV series, is as much an original take on the subject matter as currently the most haunting. While “The Master” checks off a number of standardised vampire lore traits, what makes him maybe more terrible than the others on this list is his titular strain. The true look of The Master is not his Nosferatu’s Count Orlok-like visage, but rather a parasitic worm. This worm spawns strains that burrow into a human host and starts the transformation into, depending on The Master’s plans, a zombie-like to an autonomous vampire. The story starts with a “dead” Boeing 777 landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. A CDC rapid-response team that handles biological threats is dispatched to find all but four passengers dead. With them not deemed a threat for public health after testing, they are released into the populous, only for the strain to then take hold of them and start the spread of the vampiric virus through New York City. While the CDC team battles to fight the spreading virus, they are opposed by denial, politics, corporate interests and officials only acting when it’s too late. Sound familiar?
Huge thanks to everyone for their brilliant suggestions and impassioned defences, and especially to our guest posters who will be joining us again for more frightening fun later in the month:
- Howard David Ingham is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide To Folk Horror. A follow up on Cult Cinema is due out soon. Follow Howard on Twitter (@HowTheWoodMoves) and visit their website Room 207 Press for more information
- Andrew Lyall is the creator of the YouTube channel Grumpy Andrew’s Horror House. His first short story, Crowthorne, was published just today (1st October 2020) in Local Haunts, a charity anthology written by horror YouTubers, and which you can buy here. Follow Andrew on Twitter (@GrumpyAndrew).
- CJ Dee joined us in July for a look at Beetlejuice and will be back in a few weeks to look at The Evil Dead. She runs and writes for pop-culture website Gotham City Times. Follow CJ Dee on Twitter (@Kinestra).
And join us in welcoming Liam Matheson to the family as he makes his WGN debut in this piece.