Monday, October 17, 2011

Rate the Vampires

I read "Dracula" for the first time for a book club I'm doing at work. Strangely enough, I never read it before. I've read a hundred different abridged versions of it and seen even more of the movies, so I thought I knew the basic story.

Except the basic story is pretty different from the original. First of all, Dracula drops out after page 50 or so and it shifts to Lucy and Mina and their suitors, like someone snuck a copy of "Pride and Prejudice" into my vampire book. Dracula's death is strange, too. It's the last page and they just behead him and that's pretty much it. And Dracula has a mustache? Come on.

So I decided to rate the movie vampires. I was going to just rate the Draculas, but I expanded it a bit to create a completely arbitrary guide to movie vampires, just what the world has been crying out for.

Some of these I've seen recently in my run up to Halloween watching, some I haven't seen in years, but since this is the internet, I still feel that my halfway remembered version of a movie is absolutely correct.

Nosferatu (1922) and (1972)
The first time I saw the original I was at my Great Uncle Norwood and Aunt Tiny's house. Uncle Norwood was watching it on the TV in the Florida Room. I was about 7 and wasn't allowed to see it, which made me want to watch all the more. I read all sorts of books on monsters and ghosts and whatnot, so I figured I was old enough to watch some ancient black and white movie. I caught a glimpse of Nosferatu creeping up the stairs with his long claws and rat face and immediately started bawling. Sometimes the adults are right. Rewatched recently as a grown up, Nosferatu is still creepy and manages to create an overall sense of fear and unease. Sure, other German stuff at the time was more visually arresting with all those crazy angles, but man, that makeup job on Nosferatu is still aces.
Rating: 5 bats

Warner Herzog's remake with Klaus Kinski already has 3 points to recommend it. Klaus Kinski, Warner Herzog, and Nosferatu. From what I remember, this Nosferatu is more closely linked with the plague, but Kinski's Nosferatu is strangely able to become a sympathetic character.
Rating: 5 bats

Dracula (1931)
Dracula has it's problems. It's really stagey and you can see how movies were still trying to work out a style away from the florid silent tropes. There's a couple characters who either don't register at all or who spend way too much time on the screen. But when Bela Lugosi gets a scene, you're riveted. With his Hungarian accent and courtly manners that seem just a touch off, you can totally see how the Count was droppin' panties and stabbin' jugulars all across Europe. While nowhere near as scary as Nosferatu, Lugosi so completely owned the role that to this day if you grab someone at random and ask them to give a vampire, they're gonna do Bela Lugosi.
Rating: 4 bats as a whole, 5 bats for Lugosi

Christopher Lee's Hammer Draculas (1958 - 1974)

Christopher Lee's Dracula combined both the earlier approaches. In the beginning he could be smooth, but once he saw an unprotected neck or someone finally figured out he was a vampire, he'd become a feral, hissing fiend with the strength to toss people around his castle. You know what you're getting into in each movie; there's gonna be a visitor going to Draculaland who gets warned off by the natives, Van Helsing shows up, a bunch of pretty ladies in low cut gowns vampire around, there are some debates about science and religion where someone says, "Vampires? Why it's the 19th (or 20th) century," Dracula is eventually killed and then resurrected in the next movie. That's not to say that's a bad thing, even the ones where Dracula is running around in mod London are worth watching, and with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, the Dracula movies finally have someone equal to the Count on screen.
Rating: oh what the hell. 4 bats

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
I remembered not liking this one when I saw it in the theater, but I've warmed to it a bit more from constant rotation on TV. The Vlad the Impaler stuff is pretty cool, and Dracula as an old man is interesting, but seeing him walking around London with long hair and Lennon glasses and a wispy beard and mustache just doesn't jibe with my idea of a Dracula. Plus, this started the trend of vampires who whine about how terrible it is to be a vampire. Or maybe that was Lost Boys. It also loses a bat for there being no gratuitous Winona Ryder nudity.
Rating: 3 bats

Interview with a Vampire (1994)
This started the transformation of vampires from courtly Europeans or hissing beasts into college sophomores after a bad breakup, only with more frilly clothes and an urge to theatrically exclaim every emotion they are feeling. Really, how terrible is it to be a vampire? You get to sleep in cool old castles, turn into a bat, seduce ladies and you even get a cool-ass cape. If I were a vampire, you'd never hear me complaining about it.
Rating: 2 bats

Twilight (2008)
Obviously, I'm completely the wrong market for this, but come on. Vampires that don't turn into bats? That hang out in the daytime and don't drink blood? That go to school?
Rating: 1 bat, and that's generous.

The winner, and still champion


Patrick Hughes said...

Did you actually watch a Twilight?

scott said...

I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might make me look like a puss.

Keith said...

Don't forget Redneck Bill Paxton vampire from Near Dark, probably my all time favorite.