“Is this your wife? What a lovely throat.” -Graf Orlock, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922) Vampires, oh how they’ve changed through the years. Unfortunately, it seems that somewhere along the line the vamps lost their…their GRRR!
And I’m not just talking about the Twilight vampires; although they are certainly guilty, they are just the newest non-threatening vampires. With the big finale of the Twilight saga on the horizon, we’ll certainly be getting our fill of the Cullens, the Volturi and their ilk. We need to get back to the understanding of this fact…vampires eat people.
However, with the R-rated Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (review) hitting theatres, there is hope. It’s time to turn the scalpel toward some impressive vamps in the past so we give a Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel to Vampires That Were Actually Scary.
Now, before the waves of disagreeing comments come crashing upon my shores, these are only some of the MANY scary vampires from the history of horror. These bloodsuckers are just a few that stood out for having the ability to scare the holy shit out of me.
My biggest vampire cringe moment happened during Fright Night, and as memorable as Amy and Jerry Dandridge were, it was actually Evil Ed (played by Stephen Geoffreys) that did me in. One particular moment stands out more than the rest with Evil Ed, and that is when Charley Brewster goes into his mother’s room to check on her. We, as innocent viewers, think it’s simply Mrs. Brewster in the bed, until the shape moves and we realize instead it’s the vampiric Evil Ed. Goosebumps, get to goosing!
In reflecting on scary vampire moments, the next one that jumps immediately to mind is quite different than the rambunctious and energetic Evil Ed. It was instead this vampire’s unnerving stillness that made him so terrifying. The 1979 mini-series Salem’s Lot had an iconic vampire in Kurt Barlow (played by Reggie Nalder), and he definitely had some scary moments. But he wasn’t the vamp that stuck with me. Young Danny Glick (played by Brad Savage) tapping on the outside of his brother’s bedroom window, also scary, but not the one either. The Salem’s Lot vampire that really brought the fear was Mike Ryerson (played by Geoffrey Lewis). And all he had to do was sit in a rocking chair and slowly, slowly… ever so slowly… rock back and forth into our nightmares.
Of course we could not have a list of scary vampires without including the first one to grace the silver screen. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror was basically a retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, changed just a bit because the studio could not get the rights to the book. (Although apparently it wasn’t changed enough as Stoker’s estate did win a copyright infringement lawsuit against Nosferatu in which the judge ordered all copies of the film destroyed. Fortunately it had already been distributed far and wide and Nosferatu lived on to haunt audiences for nearly a century now). What made this film so memorable, of course, was the performance of Max Schreck as the vampire, Count Orlock. Even watching this film 90 years after it was released, viewers are chilled by Schreck’s unique performance. You can imagine how it was received when it was initially released on an unsuspecting audience in 1922! When an actor (Schreck) is so creepy that his performance is celebrated 80 years later by a film which suggested he was an actual vampire and it’s almost believable (you remember Shadow of the Vampire), you know he did an amazing job!
Other scary vamps…How about “The Hammer” Fred Williamson as Frost in From Dusk Till Dawn. Sure Tom Savini, Danny Trejo, Salma Hayek and Quentin Tarantino all made kick-ass vampires, but there was something about Frost and his huge gaping mouth-hole that made him simply heinous. Coming away from the film, the image of this stunning monstrosity was what stuck with me…oh, that and Cheech Marin as Chet Pussy giving the rundown as to just what type of pussy you could get at the Titty Twister. “…We got hot pussy, cold pussy, we got wet pussy, we got…smelly pussy…
Michael H. Moss played one helluva vampire in the underrated film The Night Flier, adapted from a Stephen King short story. Creatively named Dwight Renfield, this grotesque vamp ended up leaving an insane trail of gore behind him as he traveled from one tiny airport to the next in a black Skymaster plane. It’s an interesting variation from the traditional vamp into a bat transformation as well. Renfield flies, but he’s engine propelled.
And as for unrelenting brutality (not to mention one of my favorite story concepts ever…vampires in Alaska, where the night lasts a looong time – brilliant!), 30 Days of Night brings us a seriously bloodthirsty brood! Although he played a great role, I felt Danny Huston as the lead vamp, Marlow, looked a tiny bit Forrest Gumpish, but overall the gang of vampires were incredible! 30 Days of Night represented scary vampires with a fury in this incredibly bloody and brutal film.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my “True Blood” vampires (the new season is off to a good start!), but we have to remember that people represent food for vamps! When was the last time you wanted to screw your dinner before eating it? Okay, Sookie is pretty scrumptious…but I’m getting off topic here. From The Count on Sesame Street to Edward Cullen to Eric Northman, we’ve gotten away from the animalistic, uncontrollable, grotesque vampires that actually inspire fear. So, with big hopes for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, we give a big Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel to Vampires That Were Actually Scary!
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