Friday 23 August 2019

As vampire series 'The Strain' kicks off tonight, we chart the top 10 thirsty bloodsuckers of all time

Claudia from Interview With A Vampire (Kirsten Dunst).
Claudia from Interview With A Vampire (Kirsten Dunst).

Ed Power

Vampires are everywhere nowadays – on TV, lining our bookshelves, glaring at us from movie posters. However, the 21st century blood slurper is a curiously defanged creature, often portrayed as a glum dreamboat urgently requiring a hug.

Fearing vampires have become rather too cuddly, director Guillermo Del Toro has created new television series The Strain. Here the vampires are icky and awful, with barbed tentacles and all the elusive glamour of a cadaver left to moulder in the rain. With the show debuting next week, here is our countdown of the ten best screen vampires.

 

Nosferatu (Max Schreck).

Nosferatu (Max Schreck).

FW Murnau's 1922 classic may be enjoyed both as masterpiece of German expressionism and a film about a bald man with long fingernails climbing through your bedroom window. Lifting its story and structure shamelessly from Bram Stoker's Dracula, the movie was actually banned in Britain after the author's late widow threatened to sue. Almost a century on, Schreck's ghoulish blood-drinker remains uncannily chilling: there is something primal in the unease he evokes as he schleps back and forth, a cloud of dread in human form.

 

Dracula (Bela Lugosi).

Dracula (Bela Lugosi).
 

How much ham would you like with your goosebumps? Lugosi's ripe, ribald Dracula (from the 1931 movie of the same name) is hard to take seriously as a screen monster – he is, instead, an icon of hokum. By the time he portrayed the notorious Count on screen, Hungarian-born Lugosi was already versed in the part, having won acclaim for his Dracula on Broadway. Sadly, the role ultimately became something of an albatross and Lugosi's career foundered. It may have pleased him to know that, for all the struggles that followed, thanks to Dracula his place in movie history was assured.

 

Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen).

Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen).
 

Long, long before her Oscar win for the Hurt Locker made her a rallying point for women in the movie industry, Katherine Bigelow specialized in low-rent genre pics, of which 1987's Near Dark is considered a classic. Chronicling a family of "white thrash" vampires traversing America, it featured a career-best turn from Lance Henriksen, as clan leader Jesse Hooker. Unlike the majority of screen vampires, Henriksen's performance was absolute free of knowingness or irony. There was no winking at the audience – you really did believe Hooker was the sort of monster who could start the day with a tankard of human blood.

 

Blade (Wesley Snipes).

Blade (Wesley Snipes).
 

Technically, Blade is half-vampire. But in the three big-screen adaptations of the popular comics he is 100 per cent bad-ass. Vampire movies can sink into self-serious moochiness – or, worse, stilted costume drama. No danger of that when Blade's in town. Seeking revenge against the 'pure blood' vampires who killed his mother, Snipes is a whirlwind of flapping cloaks and glinting steel. In his second outing, directed by Strain creator Del Toro, he is up against Luke Goss, formerly of Bros and horribly persuasive as a vampire king with scary extendable jaws.

 

Claudia from Interview With A Vampire (Kirsten Dunst).

Claudia from Interview With A Vampire (Kirsten Dunst).
 

Shackled by the double-whammy miscasting of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as moody creatures of the night (both thoroughly out-acted by their wigs), Neil Jordan's adaptation of Anne Rice was nonetheless worth sitting through for 11 year old Kirsten Dunst as a child vampire who cannot age. "I want some more," she says, following her first taste of blood – the most chilling line in a movie otherwise churning with costumed silliness .

 

Count Von Count (Himself).

vamp count von count.jpg
Count Von Count (Himself).
 

In the seventies, Sesame Street's resident numerologist was that bit scarier than today – routinely sending 'victims' into a trance with his counting. However, it was feared this might be off-putting to children, so the Count was stripped of his supernatural powers. Nonetheless, he remains one of the best things about Sesame Street – if you grew up in the seventies or eighties, chances are hear his voice in your head whenever you count to ten (mw ha-ha-ha!).

 

Dracula (Gary Oldman).

Dracula (Gary Oldman).
 

Touted as a 'grown-up' vampire flick, in reality Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula was no less ridiculous than its predecessors. Granted, lots of money had clearly been thrown at the project – but how of much of that went towards securing the services of the atrociously miscast Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder? The saving grace was Oldman, a mix of coiled, primal menace and gothic creepiness. Faithful to Stoker, he captured some of the unease readers must have experienced when Dracula was published in 1897.

 

Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
 

The cliche of the brooding boy-vampire is so thoroughly overcooked that it is difficult to take the original of the species seriously. But have no doubt, it was an archetype that R-Patz, with his vast wedge-like head and weepy gaze, created. Later franchises – The Vampire Diaries, True Blood etc – would double down on the formula. However, Pattinson's Cullen was the first of the breed – for that reason, his sad-puppy likeness is likely stare down from teenage bedrooms for decades to come.

 

Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek).

Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek).
 

She's on screen only a few minutes – nonetheless, Hayek is by far the most memorable character in From Dusk Till Dawn, a black comedy directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino. It is her bar-room dance that marks the film's handbreak-turn from road movie to splatter-iffic horror. In that one, fleeting scene, Hayek carves for herself a central place in vampire lore.

 

Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan).

vamp eleanor webb.jpg
Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan).
 

Another Neil Jordan movie, another creepy kid… this time played by rising Irish star Saoirse Ronan. In Jordan's Byzantium, Ronan and Gemma Arterton are a mother and daughter vampire team who, far-fetched though it sounds, run a hotel together. The movie creaks in places – however, as an immortal teenager, Ronan is perfectly chilling.

 

The Strain starts Wednesday, September 17 on Watch.

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