Vampires and Everything That Makes A Bloodsucker Scary

When putting together a list of the scariest vampires from throughout the history of modern cinema, one has to take into account what truly makes these vampiric foes the stuff of nightmares, what it is that makes this legend live on for as long as the soulless beasts themselves, and what it is that separates the truly despicable creatures from a long lineup of the most villainous of monsters.

Is it the form they take, the way they use their powers, or their ability to make others do their bidding? This is why I came here to sort out this murderous row of fiendish bloodsuckers once and for all, to see what incarnation of these immortals is the most horrifying, and what is it that makes them this way. The list I have assembled represents each and every aspect of the vampire lore and what makes this creature so terrifying. So read on, and watch those necks because this list is going to suck in the worst way possible.

Marlow: 30 Days of Night (2007)

Marlow bears his teeth, face splattered with blood and his gaze is turned to the night sky

When doing an article about the scariest vampires that Hollywood has to offer, I felt there was no better place to start than 30 Days of Night. Not only are the vampires the source of the terror in this piece, but so is the remoteness of the location that they have infested with their vampiric presence. The town of Barrow provides nothing more than a smorgasbord for the pack of undead that has come to pay them a visit. For 30 days of darkness, they will seek out and feast on all of the inhabitants that call the small snowed-in town their home.

The premise is as genius as the monstrosities are vicious, and it really makes for the most unsettling of circumstances, which are made all the more frightening by the animalistic nature of the vampires themselves. None of the vampires are more animalistic than their leader Marlow, who is played to petrifying perfection by Danny Huston. The vampires of 30 Days of Night are not looking to catch you in their thrall or to seduce you; they are a pack of ravenous monsters that enjoy nothing but the hunt. They can not be dealt with or bartered with because they deal only in suffering and bloodshed.

Marlow leads them like an alpha leading his pack, communicating through clicks and shrieks, which shows us exactly how different they are from you and me. Make no mistake about it—these creatures are the predators, and we are their prey. They hunt in packs and kill at the will of their master. Their teeth are sharpened, and their nails are long like claws. Their eyes are dead like those of a shark just waiting to strike. Marlow and his pack are the epitome of the demon within, making them a truly terrifying manifestation of the vampire mythos.

Count Dracula: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Count Dracula in human form, dressed in victorian clothing, a top hat and dark blue sunglasses

Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Count Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula is legendary. The way he manifested the iconic tormented prince is not just campy splendor for all to see, but it also manages to be a terrifying turn from the creme de la creme of all character actors. Oldman is a chameleon and loves to embody the characters he plays, and this is no different. As I mentioned, at times, Dracula can feel a little campy, but Oldman’s Count feels like a ferocious force of nature, an inescapable one at that—one that can take many forms and can kill you in many ways.

No matter the shape he takes, Count Dracula is always menacing, lurking in the dark, ready to pounce on his next victim, but it is not just the shadows where this Count resides. This vampire wears many faces, and each one is as deadly as the last. Oldman’s Count is not just a threat in his most demonic of forms. No, on the contrary, in his human form he is every bit as deadly, if not more so in many ways. He uses this form to go undetected, to disarm the ones he looks to seduce and turn. As I said, he wears many faces, and the way he uses each is uniquely terrifying.

Out of all the choices I make on this list, Oldman’s portrayal of Count Dracula is probably the most faithful interpretation of the lore that began with him in the first place. The Romanian prince and the Transylvania of it all are known around the world, and the way Oldman brings him and the way he inhabits his deathly surroundings to life is the stuff of nightmares. It may well be the greatest interpretation of the origins of the vampire folklore.

Lestat: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Lestat shows his teeth in delight, his gaze fixed upon someone out of shot

In the role of Lestat, Tom Cruise put in one of his all-time best and most layered performances. Aside from the odd flurry like in Michael Mann’s Collateral, Cruise has come to be known for his over the top action hero antics, putting life and limb on the line in the Mission Impossible franchise. But in this Neil Jordan directed piece, Cruise shows his full array of acting skills. He brings Lestat to life with incredible glee, with every pore just oozing with cold-blooded arrogance.

Cruise chews up the scenery every moment he is on screen, but do not be fooled by his long blonde hair or quaffed appearance. Lestat is a monster, as adept at tormenting the mind as he is at torturing the body. He is a predator that loves the thrill of the hunt—the higher the stakes, the better. Because of his appearance, he can walk in many circles of life, making him a truly deadly killer. The fact that he is from a bygone era cloaked his shadowy movements even more in darkness. This concealment allows him to move easily from victim to victim, killing them on a whim.

Lestat’s ability to kill is not his greatest weapon. It is his ability to survive that makes him such a deadly foe: poison him, slit his throat, throw him in a swamp, or even set him ablaze, and Lestat clings on to life—or afterlife in this case—to a level that even a cockroach would be proud of. Except, the only difference is this cockroach is always there in the shadows, lurking, just waiting to strike, and he can wait there for millennia. When you drop your guard is when he sinks his teeth in. He is the representation of both sides of the vampire legend. He is the seducer and can capture you in his thrall, but his exterior is just a thin mask waiting to slip to reveal the true monster within.

Jared Nomak: Blade II (2002)

Jared Nomak stands in front of a wall covered in grafitti with a menacing look on his monsterous face

I, like many, was initially surprised when the one-time pop-star Luke Goss was cast by visionary director Guillermo del Toro as the antagonist for Blade II. When the finished product came to theatres, everyone had to take a step back and watch the incredibly layered and tormented performance Goss gave us in his portrayal of Jared Nomak. The ousted prince was cast aside by his father/creator vampire master Eli Damaskinos—a clear nod to the classic Nosferatu—and is set on gaining his revenge for the ones who brought him into being.

Nomak is a single-minded apex predator that is a slave to his need to feed, but that is not what makes him so scary. It is the way he turns his victims that makes him scary. Nomak’s victims are like addicted vampires—they need their fix, and they hunt indiscriminately. Humans or vampires, it doesn’t matter. Everything is on the Reaper’s menu. The way he profligates his numbers so quickly is uncannily similar to an outbreak of contagion on a massive scale. Nomak is the purest personification of the vampire pathogen, and the disease that infests them comes to life in the most horrifying ways.

Jared Nomak is the next evolutionary step for not just the species but also the mythos. He hunts the hunters, filling them with the same dread that they fill us with. He is the savage side of the vampire boiled down to its most primal, a killing machine almost without equal. Nomak is the one who gives nightmares to the nightmarish creatures, the monster that even monsters fear—a cold, callous, calculating creature that even haunts the ones that haunt our nightmares.

Jerry Dandridge: Fright Night (2011)

Jerry pins Charley to a car by the neck as his other hand is set alight by a cross

The reason Jerry Dandridge is so scary is the fact that on the surface he looks as normal as you or me—just a lot more dark and broody. It is this perceived normality that makes him such a dangerous killer. Jerry is like the serial killer that lived on your block all your life and you never knew until they started to exhume the bodies. To paraphrase Fright Night (2011) itself, he is the shark from Jaws. Do not be fooled by his suave exterior, underneath he is every bit the killer as the aforementioned man-eater from Spielberg’s classic.

There are two opposing sides to Jerry, andColin Farell plays both to perfection. The first side is that he has the ability to operate within the normal population and is more than happy to go about his killing. The other side to Jerry is that when he feels under threat, he will stop at nothing to kill you and everyone you care about without so much as a second thought. He is never afraid to take the nuclear option to instill fear into his victims, and that unpredictably paired with his never-ending persistence makes him a deadly adversary.

When Jerry puts a marker on you, he will hunt you until you’re dead or he is dust. There are no half measures with him. As I mentioned before, he is as equally adept at operating in the shadows as he is murdering in full view of the world. Just like the Tremor brothers from Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces, he will go megaton at the drop of hat, and the only thing you can do is try to get out of the blast radius before you to become part of the fallout.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, folks. That’s my list of the scariest vampires. I know some of you may disagree with this lineup of bloodsuckers I have assembled, and I would love to hear from you in the comments section. It was harder than I thought to fill every space on this list because I really wanted to encapsulate every aspect of the rich pathos that lays behind the legend of Nosferatu and all that it entails.

It is not just Hollywood that has a deep history and love affair with vampire lore. It is a mythos that belongs to the world as a whole, and maybe someday I will come back and list my favorite vampires from the world of cinema. It should be interesting to see how they stack up against these macabre monstrosities. If you all have any suggestions, don’t be shy. Maybe together we can discover the true meaning of what it takes to make cinema’s scariest vampires.

Looking for more on vampire tales? We’ve got you:
“Mercy Brown and the Vampires of New England”

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Written by Vincent Greene

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