Friday, June 18, 2010

Which Screen Vampire is Best

There is a good deal of controversy on which of the modern era film vampires are the best, or the most cool as it were. Let us discuss this and attempt to lay this issue to rest once and for all.
I truly doubt that we will come to any agreeable conclusion however. I am sure there will be no consensus. but we must try.

The "Twilight" series of movies are pretty good with beautiful scenery, cinematography, and soundtrack. The story lines are fairly compelling and they are just plain good movies. The Cullen family of vampires are good looking, intelligent and dangerous - as vampires must be, but there is an issue that may keep them from earning the title of best film vampires. The are just not evil. In addition to the above characteristics a vampire must above all be vicious and evil. The Cullen's do not fit the bill unfortunately. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), the male lead, is just not evil and in fact seems to have a problem with the creature that he is. There is self loathing and a disturbing "human conscience" apparent that detracts somewhat from the film. One exception is the "hunter" James, played to perfection by the young actor Cam Gigandet. His character is evil, vicious and frighteningly malicious. The way a vampire should be. These vampires score high on looks and intelligence but low on the fear factor. One good thing about these movies though is that there are werewolves running about which brings up a very important question. Would you rather be a werewolf or a vampire? A question to explore another time perhaps.

The HBO series "True Blood" is also a very good set of films. Most of the vampires are as vicious and evil as they should be. Perhaps the best the best may be the vampire Eric played to perfection by Alexander Skarsgard. He is good looking, although he looked better with long hair, vicious, utterly without conscience, and exceptionally intelligent. Kristin Bauer does an excellent job with her character, the vampire Pam. A bit player Zeljko Ivanek, plays "The Magister," a vampire that is truly frightening. These characters are so compellingly evil that one gets the feeling that if they were real creatures, they would need to be exterminated with extreme prejudice. Now with that being said, there is a flaw. The Vampire Bill in the series has the same type of self loathing that is noticed in the Edward Cullen character in "Twilight." Now Bill, in an earlier incarnation, was as vicious and evil as they come. We are treated to this in some of his memories that are vicious to the extreme. His current lack of sociopathology however is unbecoming a vampire. The vampires in this series score extremely high on looks, intelligence and viciousness but Vampire Bill's soft side does bring them down somewhat. One thing that is interesting in these films is that the people of northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas tend to call them "vampurs." I like that. Are these the best screen vampires? A case can certainly be made.

The film "An Interview with the Vampire," based on the Anne Rice novel by the same name is an excellent movie. It has an all star cast including Tom Cruise (Lestat) Brad Pitt (Louis), Kirsten Dunst (Claudia), and Antonio Banderas (Armand). These vampires are intelligent to the point of being intellectual (with the exception of Lestat), beautiful, and vicious in the cases of Lestat and the Machiavellian Claudia. Louis, however is lacking the evil gene apparently. There is something missing there that works in the film, but is disturbing none the less. It is hard to pinpoint Armand. Is he hiding his vicious nature in order to win the affection of Louis (that is what it is, let us be honest)? One gets the impression that he is indeed holding back. A clue to his evil nature is in the fact that he allowed the "background" vampires to kill Claudia and her new immortal "mother." (The "mother" was made by Louis much to his agony. Pathetic attitude for a perfect predator don't you think?) Another clue to Armand's true nature is that he let Louis burn the other vampires "alive" without warning them. Intuitive Louis knows this and leaves Armand, at the alter if you will. This film could not have been more gay, but that beside the point. The question is are these vampires the best in the modern film era? A case can be made for this, but also a case can certainly be made to the contrary. These vampires score medium to high on intelligence, high on good looks and the fear factor is moderate to high.

"Dracula (1992) is another vampire story with an all star cast. The extremely talented and also highly under rated Gary Oldman plays the role of Dracula. Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Carey Elwes, and Winona Ryder round out the best known players. The only vampire in the film is of course Oldman (Dracula) and he is an extremely talented actor. (One of his best films was "State of Grace" with Sean Penn, Ed Harris and a then up and coming John C Reilly). Of course Anthony Hopkins is a preeminent actor and Winona Ryder and Carey Elwes can hold there own. Now Keanu Reeves does a commendable job with his part as it is mostly done in a monotone. Any part with more emotion or realism than that certainly stretches Reeves' ability. He near ruined the otherwise exceptional "Devil's Advocate." Be that as it may, the film is quite good and well worth watching. But that is not the question is it? The answer to the real question is hard to gauge. Oldman does a wonderful job with his part, but his character has some human emotion that of course works in the movie, but is still unbecoming a vampire. There is no doubt that he is vicious and evil but his infatuation with Winona Ryder is somehow "unvampirelike." This vampire scores high on the looks (at least in the young Dracula incarnation), and intelligence but falls off somewhat on the vicious scale. However a case can still be made for Dracula being the best film vampire.

A while back there was a Will Smith film called "I Am Legend" This was a very good movie and "vampires" were in abundance. Now the problem is that these are not classic vampires. In the Anne Rice novel "An Interview with the Vampire" there were some vampire like creatures that Louis and Claudia encountered in eastern Europe in their quest to find "others of their kind." This was not part of the movie but in Rice's novel only. These were not true vampires but something related that were more akin to zombie's. Sort of a vampire/zombie combination if you will. The vampires in the Will Smith film were of this type it seems. Funny thing about this though, some of these vampire/zombie creatures have a distinct likeness to Handsome Henry Waxman(D-CA.). Now that is indeed disturbing.

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