Vampires are big business. In the world of books and films little else seems to have as enduring an appeal as those sharp-toothed undead lotharios.
Although the idea of the vampire stretches way back into societal folklore, it was in 1897, when Bram Stoker wrote his gothic novel Dracula, that the notion of the vampire as an aristocratic count, whose modus operandi is all sex and immortality, became the mainstay of the genre for almost a century. The Irish are proud to lay claim to this modern understanding of the vampire (I grew up not far from where Stoker wrote the infamous novel), hosting an annual Bram Stoker Festival and celebrating the novel in 2009 as part of Dublin Libraries One City One Book Scheme (which celebrates one book associated with the city every year in April to encourage people to get out and read). Stoker’s legacy can still be seen today, as the recent movie Dracula Untold will attest.
Of course the notion of the vampire has moved beyond the Christopher Lee Hammer Horror trope and has spawned some great stories in re-working the genre. Below are list of some of my favourite vampire stories that I would encourage you to seek out this Halloween.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The quintisessential vampire novel, it is, like Frankenstein, often left unread and the deeper themes often get lost. This gothic novel is far darker and meaningful than the people waving their capes and saying “I want to drink your blood” in poorly conceived East European accents, would attest.
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Recently subject to a movie adaptation staring Will Smith, this book (written in 1954) is one of the early takes on vampirism as pandemic and one of the first novels in the zombie genre. I really like this one because it is both vampire, zombie, horror and sci-fi all together but somehow it works.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
I like this one because it tackles the story from the vampire’s perspective. It is not about the vampire as monster so much as it is a coming of age tale – the vampire as adolescent who must learn what it means to be one and to deal with the responsibility (and the horror) of immortality. Also, Anne Rice’s take on the child vampire is truly terrifying.
Salams Lot by Stephen King.
I must confess to not having read this one (it sits on the TBR section of my shelf) but I couldn’t write up a top list of vampire stories without it.
This is probably the most political take on the vampire story, dealing with the issues of drought and the economics of scarcity. It’s clever because it asks what would life be like if vampires were the norm rather than the exception.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Yes, Keanu Reeves’ accent is terrible and yes it’s a hammy as hell, but there is something incredibly sexy about Gary Oldman’s take on Dracula. It’s stylish, and over the top and a joy to watch with some great performances.
Let the Right One In (2008)
It was nly a matter of time really before the recent boom in Scandavian storytelling producing a vampire story of it’s own and I’m so glad they did. Set in Sweden, this horror movie (based on the novel with the same name) tells the story of a 12 year old boy who befriends a vampire child.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Probably my favourite vampire film, this one tells a fictionalised account of the making of FW Murnau’s Nosferatu. The story revolves around Murnau’s the character actor Max Schreck, hired to play Count Orlock, whom it turns out is actually a vampire. It is a movie about ambition, loss and the power of filmmaking and not in anyway a horror or vampire movie in the traditional sense but it is all the better for this.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
This is what you get when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino decide to make a vampire movie. Sheer bloody brilliance.
28 Days Later (2002)
A movie that stems from the same place as I Am Legend, it is a far better take on the vampire as zombie pandemic story than the Will Smith vehicle.