Friday, October 29, 2010

My Top Five Vampires

In keeping with the Halloween spirit (no pun intended), I set out to compile a list of my favorite literary vampires. Along the way, I found that vampires tend to make more of an impression on the screen than on the page. Thus, only one of my Top 5 never escaped the pages of his novels, and two are solely film creations.

In any case, we have an ongoing fascination with these kings and queens of the undead, and some portrayals have been quite remarkable. Over the years writers and filmmakers have expanded, altered, and sometimes completely butchered (yes, I mean you, Stephenie Meyer) the vampire legend, but the following stand out for me.

1. Dracula. There's no way to do a list like this without the granddaddy of all vampires at the top. Bram Stoker's novel still stands as both a literary masterpiece and the finest depiction of the cursed Count. Many have tried to capture the essence of this character on-screen, from Gary Oldman's fine performance in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) to George Hamilton in the dreadful Love at First Bite (1979). In the end however, the original is still the best.

2. Selene (Underworld and Underworld:Evolution). Kate Beckinsale's portrayal of a werewolf-hunting death dealer made a whole generation of men rethink the notion that vampires aren't sexy. With a black Lycra bodysuit, blazing pistols, and just enough fangs to be menacing, Selene holds her own with any male vampire around. Her battle with both werewolves and rogue vampires adds an interesting twist to the typical vampire tale.

3. Lestat (Interview with the Vampire). One of the few Tom Cruise roles I actually liked; his film portrayal of Anne Rice's anti-hero was impressive, even to Rice, who initially did not agree with the casting choice. In the novel, Lestat is scary and sad at the same time, not easy for someone with Cruise's limited range. He also gives us the first real portrayal of a homosexual vampire; if you didn't see the attraction between Lestat and Louis (Brad Pitt), you weren't paying much attention.

4. Felix Gomez. Mario Acevedo's vampire-turned-private investigator may not be widely known, but with several novels out in the series, that will change. The titles alone are worth the price of the books: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Blood Suckers, Jailbait Zombies, etc. Felix is an Iraq war vet (as is Acevedo) who was turned into the undead by an Iraqi vampire. Now he uses his supernatural powers to solve crimes, all the while agonizing over his reluctance to feed on humans. He's a hard case with a heart; think Spenser with fangs.

5. Santanico Pandemonium (From Dusk Till Dawn). Only Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino could create a smokin' hot lead singer of a Tejano rock band of vampires and then talk Salma Hayek into taking the role. And Santanico's last name is well deserved: all hell breaks loose at the end of her song, with the band fanging the customers while Pandemonium sets her sights on making Seth (George Clooney) her undead slave. Forget Ali-Frazier; Selene and Santanico in a bare-knuckle fight would break all pay-per-view records.

And yes, I purposely left off anything remotely related to the Twilight series. As Bram Stoker would tell you, vampires don’t sparkle in the sunlight; they burst into flames and burn to a crisp.

Happy Halloween.

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