Thursday, October 7, 2010

10 FAVORITES (5) - Halloween PART I: Vampires

It is the month of October and October is the month of Halloween. In honor of the beloved holiday, I am devoting the entire month's worth of 10 FAVORITES to all things Halloween! Each week, I will give you my list of favorite vampires, witches, magical creatures and (to top the month off) candy. So for the first Halloween list, I decided to pick the most popular monster in media history. Vampires are everywhere: In movies, television, books and even stage. But who are the best vampires in the lexicon of pop culture. Well, as it is a matter of subjectivity, everybody has their personal favorites, including a media critic like myself. So here they are:


Edward Cullen, The Twilight Saga
I'm gonna go ahead and put this out there. I have not seen nor read any part of The Twilight Saga. I have managed to avoid the popular franchise since the very first of Stephanie Meyer's books came out. And before the cries of "FOUL!" come forth, I am offering this proverbial olive branch and recognizing the influence and power this particular character has had on our culture. Now, this may not be good enough for the Twi-hards out there, but seeing as how I have never read the books or seen the movies, it would not be fair of me to put this character above the ones I am familiar with. So Honorable Mention will have to do...for now.

Bela Lugosi's version of Count Dracula, Dracula
You may be wondering why Count Dracula is so low on this list. Do not fret! Mr. Lugosi's interpretation is not the only one that makes this list. And the only reason this iconic edition of Bram Stoker's infamous character is only #10 is because the 1931 film is hard to watch for some people. For die-hard cinema fanatics, it is an absolute treat. But for those who don't watch a lot of classic 1930's B&W films, it is jarring and a little bit dated. But Lugosi's version is the icon we ALL are familiar.

Barnabas Collins, Dark Shadows
This show was one of the most intriguing soap operas in TV history. The character of Barnabas, the 175-year-old vampire, first appeared in the show's second year (played by Canadian actor Jonathan Frid). The series then took on a massive cult status that still survives to this very day, prompting a new film version of the show starring Johnny Depp as Collins to be released in 2011. We shall see Depp's new take on the role in the coming year, but Frid's version is highly memorable (and obviously influenced by Lugosi's Dracula).

Nosferatu, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
Director F. W. Marnau's 1922 silent classic is the first time the vampire myth was ever brought to the screen. Allegedly, the director was so dedicated to telling the story that his title character was purportedly played by a real vampire (Max Schreck).

Bill Compton, True Blood
The Vampire of the Bayou! In a world where Vampires and other creatures roam the Louisiana landscape alongside humans, Bill Compton, a vampire who tries to live a normal life, falls in love with spunky psychic Sookie Stackhouse. The gory and sexy HBO series has been a cable favorite since its debut in 2008 and Bill and Sookie have become one of TV's favorite couples (played by real-life married couple Stephen Moyer and Oscar-winner Anna Paquin).

Count Chocula, Count Chocula Cereal
First introduced in 1971 (alongside the strawberry flavored Frankenberry cereal), Count Chocula was the mascot for the self-titled cereal made up of chocolate flavored corn flakes and marshmallows. The mascot (very highly influenced by Bela Lugosi) would appear in commercials with the tagline "I vant to eat your cereal!" until the commercials stopped airing in the early 2000's. The cereal can still be found on grocery store shelves these days, though mostly around Halloween as the character (along with his Frankenberry and Boo Berry companions) and his cereal sell best at this time.

Angel, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer AND Angel
This vampire was so awesome as a male lead (sort of) on one show that he spawned a whole series unto himself. Joss Whedon's Buffy and Angel both have a huge cult following and actor David Boreanaz (now the star FOX's hit Bones) has a large part to do with that. His steely, cool demeanor and his brooding presence made the character a fascinating and complex bad boy.

Lestat de Lioncourt, Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles
Anne Rice's sensual and bold character first appeared in her breakthrough novel Interview With the Vampire (1976). His enigmatic character and passionate presence is not to be denied. Almost a decade later, Rice followed her successful novel with Lestat's biography, The Vampire Lestat, which (in my opinion) was not as good as her first novel, but you could see she was trying to give the character a rich background. The character has been the definition of the modern view of classic vampires, especially the interpretation in the 1994 film version of Rice's first book, where Lestat is played by Tom Cruise (in one of his most intriguing performances).

Blade, The Blade Comic Books
The vampire hunter who is a vampire himself is one the coolest comic book characters ever. Whether it is through his touching and heartbreaking origin story (which is really too complicated to go into detail here) or his butt-kicking action-packed movie moments (where the character is perfectly played by Wesley Snipes), Blade is one of Marvel Comics most powerful and most underrated characters.

Count Von Count, Sesame Street
Too many people, this one doesn't "count" as a real vampire. And to be fair, they might be right. I mean, we never see him devour human flesh or suck human blood. The only vice this beloved character has is his obsessive need to count!. But all of that aside, he was the first vampire-like character most of us (as kids) ever came across. Like Barnabas Collins and Count Chocula above, his creation was highly inspired by Bela Lugosi's interpretation of Count Dracula and we all just love him for it. Here, let's count together!

Gary Oldman's version of Count Dracula, Bram Stoker's Dracula
It's pretty obvious that Bram Stoker's character is the most important and most fascinating vampire in media history. For me, Gary Oldman (now famous for being part of the Harry Potter franchise and Christopher Nolan's Batman reboot) gave the most complex and the most powerful performance as Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola's stylish, sexy and bloody 1992 film version of Stoker's novel. Oldman's performance is full of villainy and blood-curdling revenge but also filled with pain and suffering that we, the audience, see why Winona Ryder's Mina Murray falls for the charming stranger she knows as Prince Vlad.

So there you have it, the 10 FAVORITE Vampires from pop culture. Next week's Halloween 10 FAVORITES will cover the powerful sorcerers that make us shiver. It's the 10 FAVORITE Witches and Wizards for next week's installment.


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