I Was A Teenage Vampire Lover

Published on September 29th, 2009 in: Halloween, Horror, Issues, Movies |

By Noreen Sobczyk

Nope, it’s not coming to a drive-in near you. Nor is it a juicy tell-all about my steamy copulations with the undead. And truth be told, this one sided love affair lasted well beyond my teens. Yes, it’s true: I’m a vamp-a-holic.

Some people go through a phase where they idolize a rock star. Some become interested in a genre of art and learn its history. Me, I had it bad for the bloodsuckers. It started when I saw a BBC mini series called Count Dracula as a kid, which had me transfixed. I read a few Anne Rice novels, and some Poppy Z. Brite.

Yet when I saw a film called The Hunger my addiction to vampires on television and in film really began. Then my dalliance became a full on obsession (to often hilarious, velvet-clad results). This one-sided romance extended to my music, make-up, and choice of room decor. My paychecks went to purchasing shelves of vampire memorabilia and novels and viewing vampire films.

Like many addicts, I occasionally relapse. So I’ll share a few memories of fondly-remembered vampire loves past, and dish dirt on some of the stinkers.

Angel, 1999 – 2004

Vamps On TV

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

This show took place where the 1992 film of the same name left off, and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, one of the most kick ass female leading characters of all time. Women are featured in this series as smart, sexy, strong, fully developed characters who often are flawed, but also save the world. While it’s debatable that the series may have started a bit rocky, it definitely became multi-dimensional over time. The fight scenes and plot twists are enough to capture the action lover, but there is more substance for those who care to take the full ride through seven seasons.

There are many rich characters and sub-plots. The geeky Willow blossomed; the snarky and evil Spike evolved. The show is serious, but often didn’t take itself too seriously. That tricky balancing act was pulled off with panache by Joss Whedon, and other writers. The show also featured non-vampire foes, and I’ll argue that the fairy tale influenced “Hush,” with hardly any dialogue, was not only seriously creepy, but one of the most interesting and creative episodes on television.

Angel (1999-2004)

Angel followed the exploits of Buffy’s true love. It’s about a vampire with a soul who fights to save the world from vampires and other powers of destruction. The show tread upon some fairly dark territory. Spike joined the fold as the ridiculously hot “punk rock” vampire, and became a much needed comic foil to Angel’s serious demeanor. And the vapid Cordelia from Buffy grew emotionally and became an integral part to each episode’s mission with visions of the future.

Angel and Buffy The Vampire Slayer are classic television which bear repeated viewings, and seem to become more relevant as opposed to less, with the passing of time. They make the lack of interesting and complex roles for women on network television more apparent.

So beloved are these shows, that even after cancellation, the plots of both continued with graphic novels written by Whedon and others to keep the story and characters alive. College courses are taught based upon Buffy, and there are discussion groups across the globe that meet to speak about the show’s metaphors. Sing alongs happen during showings of Buffy‘s musical episode “Once More, With Feeling” at cult movie houses.

Count Dracula (1977)

This is an excellent adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel which retains the spirit and story line of the original while also veering slightly into romantic territory. All of the basic characters are present, but this version has Mina and Lucy as sisters, with Lucy engaged to American Quincy Holmwood. And for once the bad accent shoe is on the other foot, Holmwood’s southern drawl is pathetic. Though the special effects are dated, the acting is superb. Louis Jourdan plays Count Dracula without a trace of camp. And Jack Shepard does a superb job playing Renfield. If you can get your hands on this version, give it a chance. One can definitely see that it heavily influenced Francis Ford Coppola’s story line and vision when he made Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

salem’s lot
Salem’s Lot, 1979

Salem’s Lot (1979)

This is a faithful retelling of the Stephen King novel about a cursed house. It’s directed by Tobe Hooper, with David Soul and Lance Kerwin playing the heroes. That casting is either a blessing or a curse, but it was nominated for several Emmy Awards. Kerwin delivers the line “I can’t” in a way which must be heard to be believed. Also not to be missed is the awkward North Eastern accent in the line ” I fell asleep on Harmony Hill. Didn’t wake up until morning,” delivered by prolific TV actor Geoffrey Lewis.

This was a well-done made-for-television movie that likely stuck in the memory cells of all who saw it. The story is compelling, and the effects hold up pretty well. It has plenty of suspense and its fair share of chills. Especially memorable is the image of the recently undead Danny Glick hovering outside hero Mark’s (Kerwin) room, and scratching on the window pane, still one of the most frightening looking creatures in vampire film history. A 2004 remake starred Rob Lowe, but despite its improved production value, the original is the version to see. (And make sure you see the full-length, not the shorter, edited version.)

dark shadows
Dark Shadows, 1966

True Blood ( 2008 – current)

Aww sookie sookie now. This HBO series is based upon The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. The show is interesting, and has cliff hangers and surprises, but often seems to suffer from not knowing if it wants to be campy or entirely serious. It also tries terribly hard to be shockingly sexual, which appears to be a heavy-handed attempt to show that even humans are animals. Yet the characters are so varied and interesting that these flaws can be forgiven.

The main character Sookie Stackhouse is a psychic who falls in love with a vampire named Bill. Bill’s fellow vampires have come out of the shadows, so to speak, and no longer hide their existence. The show uses this as a metaphor for religious intolerance in its varying degrees. Some residents of the fictional town Bon Temps wish they would stick to their own kind, and other extremists wish them dead. Some vampires choose to drink the newly marketed synthetic blood, True Blood, while others prefer to live as they always have and prey upon humans. The show drives home the point that sometimes the most sinister monsters are human beings.

Kindred: The Embrace (1996)

This was a short lived series based upon the White Wolf role playing game, which did not age well (if it ever worked at all) and is worth viewing only as a lark.

Nick Knight a.k.a. Nick Knight—Der Vampircop (1989)

A pilot/made-for-TV movie wherein Rick Springfield plays an undead cop named Nick Knight, a tortured soul who is trying to kick his blood addiction. Eighties music blares, so it’s a lot like a vampire Miami Vice. The dialogue is pretty weak, or hilarious, depending upon your frame of mind when you undertake viewing. This is one of those DVDs that’s definitely worth renting if you feel like inviting a few friends over to giggle. This show was the basis for the television series Forever Night.

Dark Shadows (1966)

A campy television soap opera with characters from the occult, chiefly the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins, as played by Johnathan Frid. Incidentally, it is rumored that Johnny Depp is planning a film remake of this cult classic show.

Dark Shadows (1991)

A prime time modern version of the soap opera Dark Shadows, wherein the Barnabas Collins character returns, and governess Victoria Winters comes to Collinwood for more Gothic shenanigans.

Vampires On The Silver Screen

coppola dracula
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

This film brings out the lust and romance allegedly present in this book from the repressed Victorian era. It references Vlad Tepes as well, who influenced and inspired the Stoker novel, but was never included in the actual book. It tells the love story of both Mina and Jonathan and Mina and the mysterious Prince Vlad.

Yes, everything you’ve heard about the acting and accent of Keanu Reeves in this film is true. And Winona Ryder’s questionable accent and acting don’t fare much better. But, part of the fun of the film is picking your favorite clunky moments. Additionally, the striking visuals in the film, notably the juxtaposition of modern techniques contrasting with archaic film techniques (most of which haven’t been used since this film) are engaging. In fact, the effects garnered the film an Oscar.

Francis Ford Coppola indulged himself in excess to the viewer’s benefit. The transition shots are clever. The rape/seduction/attack of Lucy by the wolf beast is pretty sexy, and her costume is gorgeous. In fact, all the costumes in film are stunning and Eiko Ishioka, the costume designer, won an Oscar for her creations. The score by Wojciech Kilar is undeniably intense, while the sound effects are effective and creepy, especially in the scene where Lucy Westenra returns to her crypt in her oddly reptilian wedding dress-cum-burial gown with her “dinner” (an unfortunate young child) as strains of Diamanda Galas can be heard.

The movie is a must-see for many reasons, even if the camp factor is chief among them. Tom Waits appears as a humorous and intense Renfield in an outrageous straight jacket, who, while offering maggots and other delights, delivers the line “Would you care for a hors d’oeuvre, Dr. Seward, or a canape?” before being offed by his unseen master, Dracula. Gary Oldman gives a fine performance, albeit sometimes over the top. And we are treated to various incarnations of Prince Vlad, including a young seductive, irresistible man about town; a frightening bat/hell spawn; and an old man with a bun on his head that looks like a giant white ass. The bonus features on the limited edition DVD, particularly those detailing the old film techniques utilized, are worth the purchase price.

Dracula (1931)

Bela Lugosi reprised the role he made famous on stage and set the standard for vampires for years to come with his sophistication and continental flair in this retelling of themes from the Bram Stoker novel, complete with Van Helsing, Lucy, Mina, and Jonathan, although the count was clearly different (and less repulsive) than in Bram Stoker’s novel. This was the first film based on Stoker’s Dracula which was officially approved by the widow Stoker.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

This movie was directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino (who also has a starring role). It features Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and cameos by George Romero and well-known Romero associate and effects artist, Tom Savini. It’s two films for the price of one, starting off as a bank heist thriller and turning into a campy horror action film when the band of misfits stop at a dive biker bar for a quick drink. Of course this biker bar is not what it appears to be as the employees “vamp out” on the patrons.

Cheech Marin, as the club’s barker, delivers that infamous dialogue about a woman’s lady parts which is probably the most times the word “pussy” has been uttered in a non pornographic film. Salma Hayek plays a modern Salome, dancing in a velvet bikini in a way that even gave me a hard-on. As Seth Gecko, George Clooney delivers the bad-ass line, “Fight now, cry later.”

Dracula 2000 (2000)

To borrow the classic two-line review of the fictional Spinal Tap album Shark Sandwich: Shit sandwich. With all of the money spent on special effects, one would think it would at least hold the viewer’s attention, but it fails on every level. It’s an updated, overblown story about Van Helsing saving the day, but the audience has no reason to care whether he succeeds or fails. Yawn.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

This is a slapstick vaudevillian frolic with the duo Lou Abbott and Bud Costello. They are the comedic foils to classic horror characters Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. play the straight men to Abbott and Costello’s buffoonery. It’s good clean fun for the whole family.

the hunger
The Hunger, 1983

The Hunger (1983)

This film is based upon the Whitley Streiber novel of the same name. It opens with Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy looking sexy and scowling in a cage while the fashionable couple John and Miriam, played by David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, look for lovers (victims) in a New York City night club. A rapidly aging John seeks blood disease expert Sarah (played by Susan Sarandon). She puts him off, thinking him insane, until she notices he’s turned into an elderly man within hours and decides to investigate further. Soon the surprisingly youthful looking Miriam becomes interested in other talents from Sarah.

The film was made at a time when AIDS was first brought to the forefront of the world’s collective psyche and awareness, and it parallels the disease with vampirism. It also has an incredibly erotic scene involving Deneuve and Sarandon and a pesky wine stained shirt that simply must be removed. Cue music from Delibes’ Lakmé, and some hot woman-on-woman love. The music in the film is sublime, and the soundtrack is worth purchasing if only for the unique and exquisite performance of the flower duet/aria which is otherwise unavailable on CD. It’s an interesting film, and a twist on the usual vampire fare, posing the question of how much one person may be willing to make others suffer in order to avoid a life of loneliness.

Bordello of Blood a.k.a. Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996)

At best a camp event, and at worst a mess. Corey Feldman and Dennis Miller star in this tale about a whorehouse populated by bloodsuckers. It’s Tales From the Crypt. It’s exactly what you expect, but with more boobies. So, go for it armed with that knowledge.

langella dracula
Dracula, 1979

Dracula (1979)

All of the usual characters from the Stoker novel are present in another retelling of the themes of the classic Dracula, but here he seduces women with his irresistible gaze. Frank Langella plays Dracula, furthering the idea of the vampire as desirable. Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasance also appear, and the acting is quite solid.

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Brad Pitt plays Louis, the sensitive vampire, and is delicious eye candy you’ll hungrily devour if you’re a red-blooded female. The controversial casting of Tom Cruise as the manipulative Lestat (over which the novel’s writer, Anne Rice, threw a famously retracted hissy fit), is still a mystery to many, but he does a very good job and despite his terrible accent, and inability to speak clearly with fangs in his mouth, doesn’t ruin the film. He eventually becomes a sympathetic character, which seems an impossible feat early on. It’s well acted by all of the main characters, gorgeous to look at, sufficiently romantic, and angst-filled.

Kirsten Dunst does well as the eternal child Claudia, although when she rebels against her “parents” Louis and Lestat, she comes off like Shirley Temple throwing a temper tantrum. Cruise plays the child’s twisted father figure, adding humor to the film. The movie conveys some remote sense of what it must be like for the characters to live for centuries, whether they excel at evil debauchery (Lestat), or torture themselves endlessly (Louis).

Queen of the Damned (2002)

Aaliyah is pretty sexy, even though she can’t quite get the hang of speaking clearly with fangs in her mouth, and her accent brings copious ridiculousness to the table. The film was a rush job which slapped together a couple of Anne Rice novels and resulted, quite honestly, in a cinematic mess. It’s eye candy, and little more, but many people count it among their favorite vampire films. Jonathan Davis of Korn gives voice to the immortal and infinitely intellectually superior Lestat. Let’s repeat that for emphasis: Jonathan Davis of Korn is the voice of Lestat. Really? Really.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)

If you like your comedy Naked Gun style, then this Leslie Nielsen vehicle is for you. It was directed and written by by Mel Brooks, who also plays Renfield. But by this point, Brooks had already jumped the shark.

Thirty Days Of Night (2007)

Taken at face value, it’s a tense, horrific thrill ride and if horror fans revisit this film years from now, they’ll find a solid and entertaining effort. It’s a gory, but unique and entertaining, thriller about an Alaskan town overrun by vampires during thirty days of darkness and is based on the graphic novel of the same name. Perhaps horror fanatics and fans of director David Slade’s lower budget Hard Candy had unrealistic expectations for the film , but it delivers. The vampires are not sympathetic characters—or frankly, characters at all—but they needn’t be: they’re killing machines. The subplot of a husband and wife reunion could have been left out of the mix, because frankly, it adds nothing to what should have been left a straight-up horror film. Incidentally, David Slade has been tapped to direct The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

The Vampyre (1932)

An artsy film about a nightmare, consisting mainly of shrouded imagery. It’s hailed as a classic of symbolism, but mostly consists of a lot of digging. It works well as short film clips in smaller doses. The Skinny Puppy video, “Dig It,” appears to have patterned itself after this film.

Martin, 1977

Martin (1977)

This is a sadly under-appreciated vampire film which brings a modern flair to the vampire mythology. It tells the tale of an alienated teen, Martin, and his utter conviction that he is a vampire. He lives with a crotchety relative, and drinks blood (but he has no fangs). It’s a low budget affair, but the interesting plot revolving around superstitions, religion, teen angst, and coming-of-age provides more than enough fodder to hold an audience’s attention. Horror legends Tom Savini and George Romero (who wrote and directed the movie) also appear.

To Die For a.k.a. Bram Stoker’s To Die For or Dracula: The Love Story to Die For (1988)

It has more titles than merits, really. This is a cheesy romantic B-movie that features the alluring Vlad Tepes seeking to purchase a home from a real estate agent named Kate, who eventually becomes the heroine and love interest. This movie is worth mentioning because it features made-for-TV movie veteran Scott Jacoby (The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Bad Ronald). Soap opera hunk Steve Bond, of General Hospital and 1970s TV and movie fame, also stars. The movie features the ever quotable line, “Love me Vlad, please love me.” It’s worth it for the reasons mentioned, and if they need explaining to you, then it’s not worth your time.

let the right one in
Let The Right One In, 2008

Let the Right One In (2008)

Unfortunately, this gem of a (Swedish) film, based upon the book by by John Ajvide Lindqvist and Ebba Segerberg, was largely overlooked by American audiences. Perhaps it received poor word of mouth due to the arguably slow pace, and lack of action sequences. The film tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a lonely, unpopular, adolescent boy and a young (in appearance) female vampire. It’s really a tale of alienation, and feeling like a freak as one attempts to find comfort in their own skin. The major theme is isolation, as both characters search for a friend or soul mate. Ultimately, this is also a tale of revenge. Sadly, the DVD version, released in 2009, features markedly different subtitles than the subtitles originally shown in theaters. Fans complained loudly enough so that future pressings of the DVDs will include the original theatrical subtitles.

Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

Yeah, the movie for which Nicholas Cage ate a roach. The kind with legs, not the kind that makes you want to eat Cheetos. Has he been bitten by a vampire (Jennifer Beals), or is he merely insane and experiencing vivid hallucinations? It’s good fun trying to figure it out in this comedic drama.

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

An excellent vampire film that is technically about the making of a vampire film. It’s a creative and humorous affair, dramatizing the (fictional) events that occurred on set during the filming of the original Nosferatu (1922). In this film, the actor who plays Nosferatu seems to be taking his role in a deadly serious fashion. Method acting indeed! This is a film which people who don’t normally like vampire films can enjoy. It stars John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Carey Elwes, Eddie Izzard, and and Udo Kier. Yes, that’s really the cast. Now shame on you: go rent it.

Fright Night (1985)

Okay, so it’s not cinematic brilliance, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Charlie is pretty sure his neighbor is a vampire. This possibility becomes actual truth when his neighbor, Dandridge, enters Charlie’s room and threatens his life. Charlie’s love interest, Amy, is turned from a chaste damsel in distress to a murderous femme fatale. Clearly that’s taking it too far, so revenge must be had. Roddy McDowell (Planet of the Apes) is great as a fictional schlock TV vampire hunter named Peter Vincent who suddenly finds himself hunting actual vampires when Charlie enlists his assistance in the quest to kill Dandridge. They’re hapless heroes and the we root for them all the way through to the end.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)

Another Rocky Horror? A campy laugh riot? Crap? My verdict is the latter. It’s allegedly a comedy. It’s one of those bad-on-purpose, “nudge nudge, wink wink,” films. Bad is good when it’s not done on purpose. Don’t these people know anything? Couldn’t someone have told them before they wasted their time? Hopefully you won’t waste yours.

near dark
Near Dark, 1987

Near Dark (1987)

One of the best, but most overlooked vampire films, likely due to the fact that it was released around the same time as the blockbuster success The Lost Boys. A guy falls in love with a girl who is part of a nomadic gang of sadistic, car thieving vampires. The film is violent and makes no effort to portray the vampires as sympathetic characters. Bill Paxton (Chet from Weird Science) is absolutely brutal as gang leader Severin. Joshua John Miller (the younger brother from the classic film Over the Edge) plays the “family’s” young vampire “son.” Once you’ve seen the bar scene, you won’t forget it.

nosferatu 1922
Nosferatu, 1922

Nosferatu (1922)

This silent German film, directed by F.W. Murnau, is considered by many critics to be the finest vampire film of all time. It follows much of the same plot as the Stoker book and Florence Stoker, wife of Bram Stoker, attempted to have all copies eradicated from existence. Orlok is far from the attractive leading man later accepted in popular culture. As Orlok, Max Schreck strikes a chilling pose with his pointy ears and teeth, mangled hands, and lanky frame, and along with his long, buttoned coat, he creates the perfect image for a vampire costume. Once you’ve seen the movie, that image will remain with you.

Nosferatu (1979)

Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog, the demented, dynamic duo, join forces in this modern remake of the silent original. The film is beautifully shot, and features fine acting by Kinski, whose movements are slow and deliberate. The beautiful Isabelle Adjani plays his victim. This is not an action-packed thriller by any means, but it is a fine artistic expression of the classic vampire tale. In 1984, the restored version played at the Berlin Film Festival along with a live score performed by an orchestra.

Tale of A Vampire (1992)

This vampire film truly is a romance. The very hot Julian Sands plays Alex, the main character, and a vampire. Like Twilight‘s Edward Cullen, and Louis in Interview With The Vampire, he only drinks the blood of animals. He leads a solitary existence and visits the library each night where he meets Anne who eventually wants to be “turned” by Alex. She is in danger, but so, too, is Alex. A mysterious stranger from Alex’s past arrives to warn Anne of Alex’s true nature. This is a unique twist on the standard vampire story.

The Lost Boys (1987)

This classic ’80s film combines horror and comedy and features good looking vampires, many mullets, and a ridiculously buff and shirtless, tanned saxophone player as a nameless wharf musician (standing in for The Call’s front man). When they hit hard times, the close knit Emerson family moves to Santa Carla (“murder capital of the world”), so they can live with Grandpa. Woody Allen alum Dianne Weist plays the mother of the film’s heroes, brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim). This film was one of the notorious pairings of “the two Coreys” as Corey Feldman plays comic book obsessed, vampire hunter Edgar Frog.

As vampire and damsel in distress, Jamie Gertz tries to be sexy in a modern hippy dippy way. She is set to devour Michael as her first kill. But it’s Mom Emerson who is actually the target of the “head vampire” played by Edward Herrmann.,

There are many cringeworthy moments due to ridiculous eighties fashion, mostly worn by Corey Haim. For some inexplicable reason, when staked, one of the vampires oozes glitter in a scene that highlights the silliness of the film’s hair styling choices. There is also much cheesy yet incredibly quotable dialogue. But, despite its flaws, this is among the best vampire films ever made. It’s full of action, develops the main characters enough that you root for them, and is entertaining from beginning to end.

Vamp (1986)

Your basic ’80s romp about some young guys looking for a hot stripper. We think it’s all about the boobies until the plot thickens, and their quest finds them in the lair of Grace Jones who leads a coven of vampires. It’s entertaining, but not to be taken seriously.

nosferatu 1979
Nosferatu, 1979

Honorable Mentions:

Andy Warhol’s Dracula a.k.a. Blood for Dracula (1974)

Two things: Udo Kier, and “wirgins.”

Blacula (1972)

It was inevitable that “Blaxsploitation” films got a hold of vampires. . . or was it? The facial hair alone is worth the price of admission, if it’s free on cable.

This is a far from exhaustive list. Much like relationships, there is much to say about some vampire films, while the less said about others the better. Perhaps you’ll share your thoughts about some of the vamps I may have omitted, and whether or not closet vampire obsessives should add them to their must-see-movies list.

Look for actors Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, and Tim Thomerson from Near Dark to reunite at the Flashback Weekend Chicago Horror Convention, scheduled for October 23-25, 2009 at the Wyndham O’Hare, in Rosemont, IL. Mercedes McNab (who played minor character Harmony in both Buffy and Angel), will also be making an appearance there.

One Response to “I Was A Teenage Vampire Lover”

  1. Gerald Fnord:
    July 18th, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    A fine list, but what about Hammer Films’ movies? Standouts are “Horror of Dracula”, “Scars of Dracula”, and for a {Christopher Lee}-free change-of-pace, “Brides of Dracula”, if only for 0.) pretty girls in profusion and 1.) the scene in which a mad servant plays midwife to a vampire’s first rise.

Leave a Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.