Before The Dawn
Before The Dawn – A Vampire Count Down
In 1927 a chap named Bela Lugosi donned a black cloak in a Broadway production of Dracula. It was just a costume, and the show was just a pay check. It would be hard to believe that Lugosi realised just how iconic a roll he was playing at the time. Bela Lugosi portrayal of the Dark Prince was so exemplary, that even today 88 years later, when we picture Dracula, what we picture in our heads is his performance.
Some would argue that Christopher Lee’s Dracula is the archetypal Vampire Lord, and I would not correct them. I agree that Lee’s performance is probably one of my favourites. During his stint at Hammer, he played Dracular 8 times, so of course he is the first person you think of. But his look and sensual performance came from Lugosi’s character. Lee refined it and of course brought it in to a new era of colour cinema, at the hight of Hammers Fame!
Lee brought the character to life (or death so to speak) showing us a the monster that Dracula really is. And for many of us, Lee is Dracula.
Apart from Dracula films, such as the 1992 film Bram Stokers Dracula, or 1922’s Nosferatu, there’s a large choice of vampire films to choose from. They may be less Iconic than the Count, but they are just as interesting, maybe even a little bit sexier, scarier and down right nastier than old Mr widows peak! And that’s what we are looking at today. The ones that deserve just as much pomp and ceremony as Dracula, but are often over looked. Prepare yourself for the Vampire “Count” Down!
Warnings for #SPOILERS#.
Salem’s Lot (1979) – Mr Barlow
The skulking blue-headed Mr Barlow in Tobe Hoopers adaptation of Salem’s Lot is defiantly one of the more horrific vampires i’ve seen. Interestingly enough, in Stephen Kings book, Mr Barlow had more in common with Dracula than we saw in the film. Being a seductive, articulate and powerful man rather than some zombie like parasite as portrayed on screen. Rutger Hauer managed to show some of these more charming characteristics in his performance of Barlow, in the 2004 remake. Though it’s the baldy blue whom truly terrified us way back in the late 70’s.
The Mysterious Reggie Nalder took on Kurt Barlow back in 1979, in the two part TV miniseries. Whilst all we got was a bunch of jump scare from him, his terrifying make up and nasty ass eyes kept many of us awake at nights. You can see where they tried to create something new from old, they copied Nosferatu’s bald headed, crooked teethed look, whilst managing to make him look terrifying and different at the same time. Barlow’s one scary blue-ass vamp! And whilst Salem’s Lot had a huge cast of vampires, and each one was just as scary as the next, Barlow stole the show and made me near pee myself every-time he appeared on screen. Just look into those yes and tell me you would not shit yourself if he came out from under your bed at night!
The Hunger (1983) – Miriam Blaylock
With a slightly slower pace and a completely different angle on the vampire mythos, The Hunger is the most Art House styled film on the list. Starring Catherine Deneuve as Miriam an ancient Egyptian vampire who survives off the blood of her lovers. In return for this, they get to live forever. David Bowie‘s powerful turn as John Blaylock, Miriam’s current squeeze, is as refreshing as they come. His slow transformation, not just in age but in mentality, is shocking as it is sad. But whilst John is a sympathetic character it’s Miriam who heads up my list. As an ageless seductress, her unending search for “the one” brings her from heartache to heartache. Whilst she must drink to be immortal, her real search is for love, Making Miriam the most unique vampire. The slow paced camera work and gently music help to lull you in to false sense of security, because this film is brutal and harder hitting then any of the other films listed. Yes it is a slow moving film and not as gory as some, but it is a great film.
It’s a beautiful film to watch and Miriam’s tragic story of life love and loss firmly places her in my list, as one of the most soul shattering vampire films out there.
Fright Night (1985) – Amy
Out of all of the Vampire films out there, Fright Night was one of my favotite. I guess that’s because it tell the story of boy next door turn vampire slayer, and I wanted to be that Kid! Vampire slaying looked so frigging cool. The films dark visuals and broody score move this film along like an episode of Scooby Doo. Who’s chasing who? It’s a really great vampire film, with all the classic elements that go with one. Crosses, Garlic, holy water, stakes, reflections, werewolves, bats..ect
Whilst Chris Sarandon‘s Jerry Dandrige is the main bad guy, his full vampire Face was kind lame. Yes, as a kid it freaked me out, but watching it now, it sucks..really really bad! And as you know, a vampires “Scary Face” is very important. Don’t get me wrong, Jerry was a great character, he was suave and sophisticated, the ultimate ladies man vampire! . But he just wasn’t that Scary. Even Stephen Geoffreys Evil Ed had a better Scary face than poor old Jerry. Even when Jerry is skulking around in the shadows hunting Charlie and Amy, he just failed to be that menancing. Evil Ed, had that great werewolf transformation, and he’s just freaky looking anyhow. But Fright Nights most messed up vampire face has to be Amy’s. Her stretched mouth and exposed teeth are crazy, and enough to give anyone a fright. Did you ever notice how Amy’s hair gets longer and ginger as she becomes a vampire? For Me, Amy is truly an iconic and terrifying vampire! Her Mouthy performance was enough for the producers to stick her face on the cover of the film, and on the sequals box too even though she was not in it. Amy….your Ugly girl!
Vamp (1986) – Katrina
Whilst not the most amazing performance , I have to include Grace Jones , for her turn as the head Vampire in the 1986 “Vamp”. One cant help but see how this black comedy, heavily influenced “From Dusk till Dawn” . From the Setting of a Strip Club, to the sexy dance/performance put on by the leading ladies in each respective film. Vamp tells the story of two fraternity pledges looking to find a stripper at the aptly named “After Dark ” Club, which just so happens to be home to a group of stripper vampires. Compared to Dusk Till Dawns explosive and bloody feasting, I kinda like the idea of a backwater little dive, where the vampires quietly feed upon the unwanted and the lonely. It makes it more intimate, maybe even a little more dirty!
Grace’s character Katrina, is a crazy, dominating mute, with a real blood lust. I could not imagine anyone better for this role, as Grace’s crazy side explodes on screen. Just looking into those crazy starring eyes, you know that there’s something wrong there. Whilst she does manage to squeeze some sex appeal out (not literally..that’s just nasty!), the sight of her wiggling her painted butt about , like some crazy pre 2000’s twerking, is enough to put anyone off their dinner. Two words for you Grace..Thigh Master!
Katrina’s crazy vampire transformation is pretty graphic though, switching from “sexy fun time” to “holy fucking shit”, in a matter of seconds. Her animalistic attack is wild and bloody, and probably one the best things in this film. Well , apart from the little flying girl vampire, she’s hilarious!
Katrina’s a sexy , silent foe, but just as wild and deadly as a lion. Just don’t get into bed with this little minx, she’ll steal your heart….literally!
Lost Boys (1987) – David
The Lost Boys is not a hard hitting horror. It’s more of a romantic, thriller / comedy with a choice selection of gore thrown in for good measure. The film Reinvented the vampire myth by introducing Vampirism, convincingly, in to a modern setting. Something which I found that the film “Near dark ” tried to do, but failed, in the very same year of 1987. Still, Lost Boys was one of my favorite Vampire films as a youngster and a great example of Vampires done properly.
Kiefer Sutherland’s David from Lost Boys is probably one of my favorite Vampire characters from the 80’s. Sutherland managed to create this charismatic, seductive but also threatening young man, on the edge of wild. David is dark and mysterious character. The antagonistic leader of the Lost Boys, sits a fine line between good and evil. In one hand he’s calm and kind, and in the other, he is persuasive and sadistic. I’ve always believed that a good vampire has to have this dual personalty. They are killers, but they once were human too. Sutherland manages to pull this off perfectly. He’s the bad boy you love to hate. And he looks damn good doing it too.
I always saw David as a sympathetic character, along with the other Lost boys. These young Men have been led down a dark path, one in which the adolescence prevents them from seeing just what they have become. For them, all the partying and all the killing are one in the same. They have never learnt responsibility or humility
The Lost Boy’s deaths are tragic and explosively gory. I find it no coincidence that David’s death scene is bathed in a bright white light, whilst mood music plays over the top. His death is supposed to be tragic, because he never was the bad guy! Just another pawn in a bigger game.
According to the comic Lost Boys: Reign of the Frogs, David did not die, as the antler horns missed his heart. This could explain why he did not explode like the others….
Let the Right One In (2008) – Eli
Set in a working-class area of Stockholm, Let The Right One in is the story of Oskar, a shy 12-year-old boy and his new friend Eli, who is a century old vampire in the body of a young child. This element of vampirism was explored briefly in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire, an old soul trapped in a young body. Whilst Interview touched upon it, Let The Right One in takes it a step further. Eli is a 300 year old (boy/girl?) vampire, trapped in the body of a child. She relies upon her human ward Håkan to provide blood. Håkan kills and drains victims to prevent any new vampires from being made, as they would if Eli had bitten them directly.
Eli is a complex character, whom’s life is one condemned to the lonely shadows. Whilst she realises the necessity of her lifestyle, she still strives for friendship and maybe even love. She may be centuries old, but in body and mind she is still a child. A child haunted by a dark past of death and remorse.
Eli shows compassion and love toward both Håkan and Oskar, whom she grooms as Håkan’s Replacement. However, it’s also clear that she needs a human guardian, not for survival, but for protection. Whilst she looks like a meek helpless child, Eli’s thirst drives her into a blood thirsty creature without remorse or thought. Without Håkan or Oskar’s protection, her future would in deed be bleak.
Eli will never be happy, and her thirst will never be sated. Her Vampirism is a curse, making Eli, a deadly but sorrowful creature! And the saddest part about it is that she does not realise how terrible her life actually is, she is just a kid.
Thirst (2009) – Sang-hyun
Thirst is a South Korean film by the Director of Old Boy, Park Chan-wook. The film tells the story of a Catholic priest, who is turning into a vampire after a blood transfusion. Poor Sang-hyun choose the one day when a vampire came to give blood. Now cursed with a a blood lust and immortality , he turns to Tae-ju, his best friends wife for sympathy.
It’s not long before Sang-hyun kills his friend and turns Tae-ju into his vampire companion. With a new leash of life Tae-ju becomes a blood crazy brutal killer. Whilst Sang-Hyun reluctantly excepts his gift, Tae-Ju embraces it, killing indiscriminately and enjoying the power it brings.
Sang-hyun is an everyday day guy turned vampire. He struggles with the moral side of killing, especially being a priest (or ex priest). He struggles to justify the killing and only turns Tae-Ju Because he loves her. However, love does not conquer all ! Tae-ju’s blood lust plays on Sang-hyun’s conscious , to the point where he decided that they are better off dead.
What makes Sang-Hyun different from our other vampires on this list, is that he does not enjoy it, nor does he ever really fully embrace it. He looks for comfort, but find only pain and guilt. Sang-Hyun hangs on to his humanity right up and until the end.
The Vampires Kiss (1988) – Peter Loew
The Vampires kiss stars Nicolas Cage in his most crazies rolls ever as Peter Loew the publishing executive turned vampire! If you have never seen Vampires Kiss, you need stop what you are doing and go watch it now! It’s simply the most bizarre film, and that’s what makes it great. Peter Loew is just completely insane crazy. You See, Peter THINKS he’s a vampire, but your never really too sure if he is or not. And it’s this concept that makes the film a joy to watch. Peter runs around shouting and hissing at people on the street, wearing a pair of plastic vampire teeth and generally being an ass to everyone . But the film takes a dark turn as he takes his fantasies to the extreme and he tries to indulge his vampire lusts. Its dark, funny and Cage is hilarious.
Peter makes my list because he’s the craziest and most entertaining vampire out there. If you were looking for a fun adult vampire movie, then The Vampires Kiss is the one for you.
Did your favorite vampire make my list? Let me know on twitter or facebook!
If you walk into a costume store today and looked at a Vampire costume, you’ll see the familiar cape and suit once worn on stage way back in 1927. Such is Lugosi’s legacy! Bloody Marvellous!
Subplots that rock…