Vampire films

Vampire films have been a staple since the era of silent films, so much so that the depiction of vampires in popular culture is strongly based upon their depiction in films throughout the years. The most popular cinematic adaptation of vampire fiction has been from Bram Stoker's Dracula, with over 170 versions to date. Running a distant second are adaptations of "Carmilla" by Sheridan Le Fanu. By 2005, Dracula had been the subject of more films than any other fictional character, save for Sherlock Holmes.

As folklore, vampires are defined by their need to feed on blood and on their manipulative nature; this theme has been held in common throughout the many adaptations.[1] Although vampires are usually associated with the horror (and sometimes zombie genre), vampire films may also fall into the drama, action, science fiction, romance, comedy or fantasy genres, amongst others.


Early cinematic vampires in other such films as The Vampire (1913), directed by Robert G. Vignola, were not undead bloodsucking fiends, but 'vamps'. Such femme fatales were inspired by a poem by Rudyard Kipling called "The Vampire", composed in 1897. This poem was written as kind of commentary on a painting of a female vampire by Philip Burne-Jones exhibited in the same year. Lyrics from Kipling's poem: A fool there was ... , describing a seduced man, were used as the title of the film A Fool There Was (1915) starring Theda Bara as the 'vamp' in question and the poem was used in the publicity for the film.[2]

An authentic supernatural vampire features in the landmark Nosferatu (1922 Germany, directed by F. W. Murnau) starring Max Schreck as the hideous Count Orlok. This was an unlicensed version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, based so closely on the novel that the estate sued and won, with all copies ordered to be destroyed. It would be painstakingly restored in 1994 by a team of European scholars from the five surviving prints that had escaped destruction. The destruction of the vampire, in the closing sequence of the film, by sunlight rather than the traditional stake through the heart proved very influential on later films and became an accepted part of vampire lore.[3]

The next classic treatment of the vampire legend was an adaptation of the stage play based on Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, Universal's Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. Lugosi's performance was so popular that his Hungarian accent and sweeping gestures became characteristics now commonly associated with Dracula.[4] Five years after the release of the film, Universal released Dracula's Daughter (1936), a direct sequel that starts immediately after the end of the first film. A second sequel, Son of Dracula starring Lon Chaney Jr., followed in 1943. Despite his apparent death in the 1931 film, the Count returned to life in three more Universal films of the mid-1940s: House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945)—both starring John Carradine—and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). While Lugosi had played a vampire in two other films during the 1930s and 1940s, it was only in this final film that he played Count Dracula on-screen for the second (and last) time.

Dracula was reincarnated for a new generation in the Hammer Films series starring Christopher Lee as the Count. In the first of these films Dracula (1958) the spectacular death of the title character through being exposed to the sun reinforced this part of vampire lore, first established in Nosferatu, and made it virtually axiomatic in succeeding films.[3] Lee returned as Dracula in all but two of the seven sequels. A more faithful adaptation of Stoker's novel appeared as Dracula (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, though also identifying Count Dracula with the notorious medieval Balkan ruler Vlad III the Impaler.[5]

A distinct subgenre of vampire films, ultimately inspired by Le Fanu's "Carmilla", explored the topic of the lesbian vampire. Although implied in Dracula's Daughter, the first openly lesbian vampire was in Blood and Roses (1960) by Roger Vadim. More explicit lesbian content was provided in Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy. The first of these, The Vampire Lovers (1970), starring Ingrid Pitt and Madeline Smith, was a relatively straightforward re-telling of LeFanu's novella, but with more overt violence and sexuality. Later films in this subgenre such as Vampyres (1974) became even more explicit in their depiction of sex, nudity and violence.

Beginning with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) the vampire has often been the subject of comedy. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) by Roman Polanski was a notable parody of the genre. Other comedic treatments, of variable quality, include Vampira (1974) featuring David Niven as a lovelorn Dracula, Love at First Bite (1979) featuring George Hamilton, My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1988), Innocent Blood (1992), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), directed by Mel Brooks with Leslie Nielsen, and, more recently, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's mockumentary take on the subject, What We Do in the Shadows (2014).

Another development in some vampire films has been a change from supernatural horror to science fictional explanations of vampirism. The Last Man on Earth (1964, directed by Sidney Salkow), The Omega Man (1971 US, directed by Boris Sagal) and two other films were all based on Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend. They explain the condition as having a natural cause. Vampirism is explained as a kind of virus in David Cronenberg's Rabid (1976) and Red-Blooded American Girl (1990) directed by David Blyth, as well as in the Blade trilogy to a limited extent.

Race has been another theme, as exemplified by the blaxploitation picture Blacula (1972) and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream.

Though always a representation of passion and desire, since the time of Béla Lugosi's Dracula (1931) the vampire, male or female, has usually been portrayed as an alluring sex symbol. Christopher Lee, Delphine Seyrig, Frank Langella and Lauren Hutton are just a few examples of actors who brought great sex appeal into their portrayal of the vampire. Latterly, the implicit sexual themes of vampire film have become much more overt, culminating in such films as Gayracula (1983) and The Vampire of Budapest (1995), two pornographic all-male vampire films, and Lust for Dracula (2005), a softcore pornography all-lesbian adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel.

There is, however, a very small subgenre, pioneered in Murnau's seminal Nosferatu (1922) in which the portrayal of the vampire is similar to the hideous creature of European folklore. Max Schreck's portrayal of this role in Murnau's film was copied by Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog's remake Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). In Shadow of the Vampire (2000) (directed by E. Elias Merhige) Willem Dafoe plays Max Schreck, himself, though portrayed here as an actual vampire. Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979) notably depicts vampires as terrifying, simple-minded creatures, without eroticism, and with the only desire to feed on the blood of others. The main vampire in the Subspecies films, Radu, also exhibits similar aesthetic influences, such as long fingers and nails and generally grotesque facial features. This type of vampire is also featured in the film 30 Days of Night.

A major character in most vampire films is the vampire hunter, of which Stoker's Abraham Van Helsing is a prototype. However, killing vampires has changed. Where Van Helsing relied on a stake through the heart, in Vampires (1998), directed by John Carpenter, Jack Crow (James Woods) has a heavily armed squad of vampire hunters and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992, directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui), writer Joss Whedon (who created TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spin-off Angel) attached the Slayer, Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson in the film, Sarah Michelle Gellar in the TV series), to a network of Watchers and mystically endowed her with superhuman powers.

Dracula in films and his legacy

By far, the most well-known and popular vampire in the films is Count Dracula. A large number of films have been filmed over the years depicting the evil Count, some of which are ranked among the greatest depictions of vampires on film. Dracula has over 170 film representations to date, making him the most frequently portrayed character in horror films; also he has the highest number of film appearances overall, surpassed only by Sherlock Holmes.[6][7]

Dracula 1958 c
Christopher Lee portrayed Dracula in nine films

Vampire television series

Live action

One of the first television series with a vampire as a main character was the 1964 comedy series The Munsters. Lily Munster and Grandpa (also known as Vladimir Dracula, Count of Transylvania) are vampires.

The Munsters was followed in 1966 by the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, in which the vampire Barnabas Collins became a main character.

In 1985 The Little Vampire was a television series made for children. It tells the adventures of the vampire child Rüdiger and his human friend Anton.

Forever Knight (1992–1996) was the first vampire detective story, later followed by many similar series like Angel, Moonlight, Blood Ties and Vampire Prosecutor.

In 1997 the teenage vampire series Buffy the Vampire Slayer became popular around the world. Buffy is a teenage girl who finds out that she is a vampire slayer. She also finds herself drawn to a vampire.

True Blood (2008) centers on the adventures of the telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, who falls in love with a vampire. In the same year BBC Three series Being Human became popular in Britain. It features an unconventional trio of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who are sharing a flat in Bristol.

In 2009 The Vampire Diaries told the story of the school girl Elena Gilbert, who falls in love with vampire Stefan Salvatore, but finds herself also drawn to Stefan's brother Damon Salvatore.

The Strain (2014) is based on the novel of the same name by Guillermo del Toro.


One of the first animated vampire series was the 1989 series Count Duckula, a parody of Dracula. In 1985, the anime film adaptation of the inaugural Vampire Hunter D novel was released direct-to-video and became popular in both Japan and the United States, prompting an adaptation of the third novel into the also direct to video film Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust in 2000. The two films and the novels they are based on revolve around the eponymous D, a vampire hunter who is the apparent half-vampire/half-human son of Dracula who battles vampires in the year AD 12,090. In 1997 the anime series Vampire Princess Miyu became popular in Japan, many other anime followed. Later in 2012, Hotel Transylvania was released, followed by a sequel in 2015, Hotel Transylvania 2 and in 2018 by Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.

Another Japanese anime series, Rosario + Vampire, portrays one of the leading female characters, Moka Akashiya, as a vampire, whose demonic powers are sealed inside her with a rosary seal around her neck. The series portrays other kinds of fictional monsters as well, including a witch and a snowwoman.

Vampire web series

From 2001 onward vampire web series became popular around the world. One of the first web series was the 2001 series The Hunted. It is about a group of vampire slayers who have been bitten by vampires (but not yet turned into vampires) and try to fight the bloodsucking vampires. The Hunted was followed by 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails (2007) and 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust (2008) who were based on the films 30 Days of Night and 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. In 2009 the MTV online series Valemont follows Maggie Gracen, who decides to infiltrate Valemont University, because her brother Eric has vanished. She soon finds out that the University is full of vampires. The 2009 web series I Heart Vampires focuses on two teenage vampire fans, who find out that vampires are more than real. In 2011 the Being Human spin-off Becoming Human was released online. It is about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who go to a school together and try to solve a murder. The 2014 vampire series Carmilla features a retelling of the story of the vampire Carmilla Karnstein, who attends a university in the modern day and falls in love with a human girl.

See also


  1. ^ "vampire n." The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Twelfth edition . Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. York University. 23 October 2011
  2. ^ Per the Oxford English Dictionary, vamp is originally English, used first by G. K. Chesterton, but popularized in the American silent film The Vamp, starring Enid Bennett
  3. ^ a b Auerbach, Nina; Stoker, Bram (1997) [1897]. "Vampires in the Light". Dracula. New York City: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 389–404. ASIN B00IGYODVY.
  4. ^ Butler, Erik (2010). Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film: Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732–1933. Rochester, New York: Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 978-1571135339.
  5. ^ Bartlett, Wayne; Idriceanu, Flavia (2005). Legends of Blood: The Vampire in History and Myth. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 42. ISBN 978-0275992927.
  6. ^ "Find - IMDb".
  7. ^ "Find - IMDb".

Further reading

  • Hudson, Dale. (2017) Vampires, Race, and Transnational Hollywoods. Edinburgh University Press. Website with info and clips.
  • Gelder, Ken. (2012) New Vampire Cinema. British Film Institute.
  • Weinstock, Jeffrey. (2012) The Vampire Film. Wallflower Press.
  • Alain Silver and James Ursini (2010) The Vampire Film (4th edition) ISBN 0-87910-380-9
  • Picart, Caroline Joan and John Edgar Browning, eds. (2009) Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race, and Culture. Scarecrow Press.
  • Abbott, Stacey. (2007) Celluloid Vampires: Life after Death in the Modern World. University of Texas Press.
  • Freeland, Cynthia A. (2000) The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror. Westview Press.
  • Melton, J. Gordon. (1999) The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Visible Ink Press.
  • Holte, James Craig. (1997) Dracula in the Dark: The Dracula Film Adaptations. Greenwood Press.
  • Melton, J. Gordon. (1997) Videohound’s Vampire on Video. Visible Ink Press.
  • Auerbach, Nina. (1995) Our Vampires, Ourselves. University of Chicago Press.
  • Gelder, Ken. (1994) Reading the Vampire. Routledge.
  • Leatherdale, C. (1993) Dracula: The Novel and the Legend. Desert Island Books.
  • Christopher Frayling (1992) Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (1992) ISBN 0-571-16792-6

External links

Billy the Kid Versus Dracula

Billy the Kid Versus Dracula is a 1966 American low-budget horror-Western film directed by William Beaudine. It was released theatrically as part of a double feature along with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. Both films were shot in eight days at Corriganville Movie Ranch and at Paramount Studios in mid-1965; both were the final feature films of director William Beaudine. The film revolves around Billy the Kid (played by stuntman Chuck Courtney) trying to save his fiancée from Dracula (John Carradine) (though the name "Dracula" is never mentioned in this film). The films were produced by television producer Carroll Case for Joseph E. Levine.

Blood of the Tribades

Blood of the Tribades is a 2016 horror film directed by Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein. The script, style, and look are heavily influenced by 1970s Euro lesbian vampire films. The film is distributed in North America on VOD and DVD/blu-ray by Launch Over and VHS by SRS Media.

Dracula's Dog

Dracula's Dog (U.K. title: Zoltan...Hound of Dracula) is a 1978 American horror film starring Michael Pataki and José Ferrer. It revolves around a dog who is turned into a vampire by a member of the Dracula family, who is also a vampire.The film was based on the novel Hounds of Dracula (1977) by Ken Johnson, which was retitled Dracula's Dog upon the film's release. In the U.K., the book was titled Dracula's Dog only.

Germán Robles

Germán Horacio Robles (March 20, 1929 – November 21, 2015) was a Spanish Mexican theater, film, television and voice actor who came to Mexico when he was 17, after Spain’s civil war.

In Mexican cinema, he is best known for his amazing characterization of vampires in many cult movies, especially in El Vampiro. He is said to have influenced Christopher Lee’s performance in his vampire films. Another well known performance is his dubbing the voice of KITT in the Latin American broadcast of Knight Rider.

Hammer Film Productions

Hammer Film Productions is a British film production company based in London. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of gothic horror films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Many of these involved classic horror characters such as Baron Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and The Mummy, which Hammer re-introduced to audiences by filming them in vivid colour for the first time. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies, as well as, in later years, television series. During their most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was, in part, due to their partnerships with American studios Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, American International Pictures and Seven Arts Productions.

During the late 1960s and 1970s the saturation of the horror film market by competitors and the loss of American funding forced changes to the previously lucrative Hammer formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s. In 2000, the studio was bought by a consortium including advertising executive and art collector Charles Saatchi and publishing millionaires Neil Mendoza and William Sieghart. The company announced plans to begin making films again after this, but none were produced.

In May 2007, the company was sold again, this time to a consortium headed by Dutch media tycoon John de Mol, who announced plans to spend some $50m (£25m) on new horror films. The new owners also acquired the Hammer group's film library, consisting of 295 pictures. Simon Oakes, who took over as CEO of Hammer, said, "Hammer is a great British brand — we intend to take it back into production and develop its global potential. The brand is still alive but no one has invested in it for a long time." Since then it has produced several films, including Let Me In (2010), The Resident (2011), The Woman in Black (2012) and The Quiet Ones (2014).

Jiangshi fiction

Jiangshi fiction or goeng-si fiction in Cantonese, is a literary and cinematic genre of horror based on the jiangshi of Chinese folklore, a reanimated corpse controlled by Taoist priests that resembles the zombies and vampires of Western fiction. The genre first appeared in the literature of the Qing Dynasty and the jiangshi film (simplified Chinese: 僵尸片; traditional Chinese: 殭屍片; pinyin: Jiāngshīpiàn) is a staple of the modern Hong Kong film industry. Hong Kong jiangshi films like Mr. Vampire and Encounters of the Spooky Kind follow a formula of mixing horror with comedy and kung fu.

Kaj Steveman

Kaj Steveman (born 1968 in Stockholm) is a Swedish visual effects supervisor. He was the Founder and head of Fido Film, one of Sweden's most prominent special effects studios and is most known for his acclaimed work on the Swedish vampire films Let the Right One In and Frostbite. He was also visual effects supervisor for Underworld: Awakening and Storm and worked as assistant director in the cult film Evil Ed. He worked as a make-up artist on The Hunters.

Kaj left Fido November 2014. In February 2015 he founded the new, modern VFX studio FABLEfx Still focusing on organic effects like CG animals and creatures. This still in combination with practical effects

As there were no special effects schools in Sweden during Kaj Steveman's youth, he had to learn most of his craft by himself, looking it up on the internet and ordering instructions film from America.

Lesbian vampire

Lesbian vampirism is a trope in 20th-century exploitation film and literature that has its roots in Joseph Sheridan le Fanu's novella Carmilla (1872) about the love of a female vampire (the title character) for a young woman (the narrator):

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, 'You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever'. (Carmilla, Chapter 4).

This was a way to hint at or titillate with the taboo idea of lesbianism in a fantasy context outside the heavily censored realm of social realism. Also, the conventions of the vampire genre—specifically, the mind control exhibited in many such films—allow for a kind of forced seduction of presumably heterosexual women or girls by lesbian vampires.


Malenka, the Vampire's Niece (also referred to as Malenka la vampire, Malenka: la nipote del vampiro, Malenka: la sobrina del vampiro, The Vampire Girl and Fangs of the Living Dead) is a 1969 Spanish-Italian horror film that was written and directed by Spanish director Amando de Ossorio; it was his first horror film.One of the first vampire films from Spain, it was inspired by similarly themed Italian and British vampire films that were being released during the same time period, such as Dance of the Vampires. It has been credited as being "the 1969 picture that hammered the final nail into the cinematic coffin of the bomb-shelter-era bombshell Anita Ekberg", as well as being "one of the most original gothic examples of Spanish horror".

My Life as a Bat

“My Life as a Bat” is a 1,433 word short story first appearing in a collection of 27 short stories and prose poems by Canadian author Margaret Atwood titled Good Bones, published in 1992. The story is written in 1st Person point of view from the perspective of an unnamed, ungendered narrator who claims to have lived a previous life as a bat and to have been reincarnated as a human. It is organized into five titled subsections, each introducing a new topic, considered from the alternating points of view of the narrator as a human and as their former bat self, “a point of view at once soothingly familiar” because bats are a widely known animal “and freakishly alien” because they are so often viewed as darkly mysterious, even frightening. The story’s primary subject is the atypical perspective that humans, not bats, are frightening, a “[wry] revising [of] cultural myths.

The Devil's Wedding Night

The Devil's Wedding Night (Italian: Il plenilunio delle vergini, lit. 'Full Moon of the Virgins') is a 1973 Italian horror film.

The Karnstein Trilogy

The Karnstein Trilogy of vampire films were produced by Hammer Films, and were notable at the time for being somewhat daring in explicitly depicting lesbian themes. All three films were scripted by Tudor Gates. They are related by vampires of the noble Karnstein family, and their seat Castle Karnstein near the town of Karnstein in Styria, Austria. The films in the trilogy are:

The Vampire Lovers (1970), featuring Polish born actress Ingrid Pitt as the lesbian vampire Mircalla Karnstein. The film was based on the 1872 novella Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; the name Mircalla is an anagram of Carmilla.

Lust for a Vampire (1971), featuring Danish born actress Yutte Stensgaard as Mircalla. The film is a loose sequel to The Vampire Lovers, with a revived Countess Mircalla seducing and murdering her way through an exclusive girls' school.

Twins of Evil (1971) features Damien Thomas as Mircalla's descendant, the evil Count Karnstein. Mircalla herself, played by German actress Katya Wyeth, appears only briefly. The plot revolves around two sisters Maria and Frieda Gellhorn (played by twin Playboy Playmates Mary Collinson and Madeleine Collinson). It is often considered a prequel as it appears to be set earlier in time than the other two films: the film depicts the Karnstein family as living and the set design and costumes give the film a 17th-century look and feel.A planned fourth film in the series, variously announced as Vampire Virgins and Vampire Hunters, never went beyond the early draft stage. However, the 1974 film Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter features a female vampire from the Karnstein family, and is sometimes considered part of the same continuity, albeit set in England rather than Central Europe.

The biology of the vampires in Hammer's Karnstein films is different from that of the Dracula series, as the Karnstein vampires can walk about in daylight and are immune to fire. Some of this is retained in the 1972 Hammer film Vampire Circus.

The Pocket Essentials

The Pocket Essentials is a series of small, A6 sized books on various subjects. The publisher is also known as Pocket Essentials. Each book is written by a different author. The books have been credited with being full of rare information, though there are no pictures.

The Ungroundable

"The Ungroundable" is the 14th and final episode of the 12th season of the animated series South Park, and the 181st episode of the series overall. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 19, 2008. This is the last episode of South Park to be broadcast in 480i standard definition. The episode spoofs vampire films including the Twilight craze and The Lost Boys, where Butters believes that he sees vampires in the school.

The Vampire Doll

The Vampire Doll (幽霊屋敷の恐怖 血を吸う人形, Chi o suu ningyo) is a 1970 Japanese horror film directed by Michio Yamamoto.

Thirst (1979 film)

Thirst is a 1979 Australian horror film directed by Rod Hardy and starring Chantal Contouri and Max Phipps and British actor David Hemmings. It has been described as a blend of vampire and science fiction genres, influenced by the 1973 film Soylent Green as well as drawing on the vampire folklore of Elizabeth Báthory – one of several vampire films in the 1970s to do so.

Vampires in popular culture

Vampires in popular culture includes vampire ballet, films, literature, music, opera, theatre, paintings and video games.

By style
By theme
By movement
or period
By demographic groups
By format,
or production

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