'Fright Night,' 'Twilight' and 'Nosferatu': The Evolution of Film Vampires
12:11 PM PDT 8/17/2011 by Sophie Schillaci, Emily Blank, THR Staff
From scary to sexy, bloodsuckers have taken many forms in Hollywood over the years. In addition to Robert Pattinson and Colin Farrell, vampires have been brought to life by some of the industry's biggest names, including Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Stuart Townsend and Gary Oldman.
F.W. Murnau’s silent film starred Max Schreck as Count Orlok. The project was an unauthorized adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel — Stoker’s widow refused to give up rights to the book -- and therefore details like character names and locations were changed for what is now considered a cinematic classic and the inspiration for many versions that followed. Roger Ebert wrote, “Nosferatu remains effective: it doesn’t scare us, but it haunts us. It shows not that vampires can jump out of shadows, but that evil can grow there, nourished on death.” Gary Oldman, who played Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film, said Nosferatu influenced his portrayal of the character, saying the film was “wonderful; it’s still scary, it’s spooky.”
'The Hunger' (1983)
David Bowie starred opposite Catherine Deneuve as a vampire couple in Tony Scott's adaptation of Whitney Strieber's novel. The 1983 British film also featured Susan Sarandon as a doctor specializing in sleep and aging research, whom John (Bowie) turns to for help after being betrayed by his wife. Sarah eventually becomes romantically involved with John's wife Miriam (Deneuve), and is bitten in the process. The film earned $5,979,292 at the box office.
Photo by: Columbia Pictures
'Fright Night' (1985)
Director Tom Holland's horror flick stars William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, a teenager who discovers his neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire after observing a coffin being carried into the house and Jerry biting the neck of a young girl. After his girlfriend (Amanda Bearse) and friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) refuse to believe him, Charley seeks out the help of a vampire killer (Roddy McDowall). The movie, which raked in $24.9 million at the domestic box office, spawned a sequel that also starred McDowall and Ragsdale. A remake starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin hits theaters Friday.
'Bram Stoker's Dracula' (1992)
The Dracula of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film comes in many shapes and sizes: he’s long-haired and hip with John Lennon glasses; a creepy, powder-faced man with an elaborate hairdo; a wolf, mist, and even a lizard. Played by Gary Oldman, this Dracula turns into vampire after cursing god after his wife’s (Winona Ryder) suicide. Coppola gave Oldman a casket as a gift during the film’s production, which the actor said put him “in a strange place” while portraying the character. Oldman, interviewed for the British TV special In Search of Dracula, also said of the movie’s source material, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula is sort of all moist and wet, you know hot. It’s horny stuff.” Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins and Sadie Frost co-star.
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1992)
The 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer sparked a (more popular) TV show of the same name in 1997, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. In Buffy, vampires are such a force to be reckoned with that the powers that be select one female slayer to keep them at bay with her heightened awareness and ability to turn gymnastics into a lethal martial art. Sure, the vamps can still rock a leather jacket and throw off the hunk vibe, but they’re still killers at the core. A good slayer, no matter how cute and perky, still needs to keep her guard up. The original film starred Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland and Paul Reubens.
'Interview with the Vampire' (1994)
Tom Cruise first embodied the role of Lestat (later portrayed by Stuart Townsend in Queen of the Damned) from the Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles. The cast also includes Brad Pitt and a young Kirsten Dunst, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In the film, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Pitt) tells his life story to a San Francisco Reporter (Christian Slater), including how he and Claudia (Dunst) were transformed from human to vampire by Lestat (Cruise), whom they eventually attempt to kill. The 1994 flick brought in $223,664,608 at the box office.
Action hero Wesley Snipes starred in this 1998 superhero version of a vampire tale. Blade, a half-vampire, half-mortal man is made protector of the human race and tasked with slaying evil vampires. The film was so popular it spanned two sequels Blade II (2002) and Blade: Trinity (2004), both also starring Snipes. Kris Kristofferson also appeared in all three of the action vamp films. The New Line Cinema series earned $415,098,928 at the box office.
'Queen of the Damned' (2002)
In this 2002 adaptation of Anne Rice's novel, Stuart Townsend and Aaliyah amp up the sex appeal while attempting to maintain the creepiness necessary to remain frightening. The blood sucking was not enough to satisfy true horror seekers, as the film earned a critics' score of 17% on RottenTomatoes. Aaliyah, in her first leading role, died tragically in a plane crash during the film's production. It was released 6-months after her death and dedicated to her memory. Queen of the Damned brought in $30,336,800 at the domestic box office and $15,142,310 foreign.
'Shadow of the Vampire' (2000)
This 2000 film centers on the making of another vampire movie from 1922, Nosferatu and its real life star, Max Schreck. In Shadow, directed by E. Elias Merhige, actor Willem Dafoe was nominated for the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Schreck. “He embodies the Schreck of Nosferatu so uncannily that when real scenes from the silent classic are slipped into the frame, we don't notice a difference,” wrote Roger Ebert in his review. John Malkovich’s plays Nosferatu’s impassioned director, F.W. Murnau.
Kate Beckinsale worked under the direction of her future husband Len Wiseman in this first installment of the action franchise that pits vampires against werewolfs. She plays werewolf hunter Selene. Leather trenchcoats and electronica are the hallmarks of this film series that while never a critical hit, made plenty of the cash at the box office. Underworld grossed $95.7 mil dollars worldwide; 2006’s Underworld: Evolution made $111.3 million globally; and 2009’s Underworld: Rise of the Lycans took in $91.4 million across the globe. A fourth Underworld movie is set for a Jan. 2012 release.
'30 Days of Night' (2007)
Based on the comic book series of the same name by Ben Templesmith, 30 Days of Night -- led by Josh Hartnett and directed by David Slade -- revolved around an Alaskan town filled with vampires as it enters into a 30-day polar night. In an interview prior to production, Slade set out to make "a scary vampire film," which he believed there weren't "many of" with the plan to make 30 Days of Night more "visceral than viscous." Made on a budget of $30 million, the horror film grossed $75.5 million during its box office run after it was released Oct. 19, 2007. In its opening weekend, it claimed the top spot, earning $16 million. The film spawned a direct-to-DVD sequel, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, released on Oct. 5, 2010.
Photo by: Summit Entertainment
'The Twilight Saga' (2008)
In The Twilight Saga, based on Stephenie Meyes bestselling book series, vampires are sort of ripped from their history of being bloodthirsty predators. They’re still gorgeous, but they want to nuzzle your neck, not bite it. The Cullens are a band of vamps that are trying to pass through the years unnoticed by living among humans, but not drinking our blood. And the vampires that do follow their natural urges? They are both the enemy and ruining a perfectly romantic evening. Also, let us not forget that the sun doesn't make their skin burn. It makes it shimmer. With two films still to come in the five part series, the franchise has already raked in an astonishing $1,792,300,241 at the box office and stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner.
'Let Me In' (2010)
The 2010 American remake of the Swedish film (2008's Let the Right One In), Let Me In, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival before opening wide in North America in early October. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz, the horror-romance film centers on a young boy (Smit-McPhee) who befriends a vampire (Moretz) in New Mexico during the 1980s. Critically acclaimed, Let Me In earned $24 million in box office revenue, half of which was from the the U.S. and Canada. The New York Times' A.O. Scott praised director Matt Reeves' feature, saying, "It is at once artful and unpretentious, more interested in intimacy and implication than in easy scares of slick effects." But not everyone was pleased with the U.S. version, with one reviewer saying the movie is "a direct remake of the 2008 film."
Photo by: Lorey Sebastian/DreamWorks
'Fright Night' (2011)
In DreamWorks' remake of the 1985 original, Anton Yelchin takes on the role of the high school student who discovers that his new neighbor is a vampire, played by Colin Farrell. Unable to convince anyone that he's telling the truth about his neighbor, he must find a way to get rid of the monster himself. Craig Gillespie directed the movie, which also stars Toni Collette and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. The movie, which opens Friday, also will be released in 3D.