Ever since their popularization in Bram Stoker’s Dracula back in 1897, the concept of the vampire has been a major force in mass media. Much of this is owed to 1922’s Nosferatu, an unofficial take on Stoker’s work which showed just how much the formula could work in movie form.
With such a longstanding horror history, we wanted to look at the most popular examples of vampires in film, television, and gaming. What is it exactly which has created the vampire’s undying legacy?
Film and television
The most popular and obvious example when it comes to vampires in movies arises from the legacy as set by Christopher Lee’s Dracula. Starting with Horror of Dracula in 1958, Lee went on to play Dracula a total of ten times throughout his career. While he would go on to lament the typecast, there is no doubt that his remains the most well-regarded portrayal in cinema.
As with Nosferatu before it, this line of Hammer Horror films played on both the horror and romantic elements. Over time, other genres of film would find themselves more involved in the mythos.
In the more recent age, these film and television adaptions changed to adopt comedic aspects of vampirism. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring Sarah Michelle Geller, was an immensely popular television series following the adventures of a teenage vampire slayer, effectively merging horror, action, and drama. In fact, the monsters, vampires, and villains of the series are still considered to be some of the most disturbing in modern television history. The film series, Blade, was similar in this regard, with a more action-heavy bend that resulted in it becoming a cult-classic piece of vampiric cinema.
Most recently, the movie and television series What We Do In The Shadows has adopted a humorous and satirical take on the idea to great success. Both were written and directed by Flight of the Conchords creators, Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement, and ingeniously combined The Office-style mockumentary humour with vampiric history and lore.
The very first vampire video game is not one which is easy to pin down. From what our research tells us, the earliest effort was a game named The Count, a text-based narrative adventure developed and published by Adventure International in 1979. This game had players sent on a mission to defeat Count Dracula by the local villagers and was well received in the then-small video gaming market.
The best-known portrayal of vampires in video games has undoubtedly been seen from the Castlevania series of games. Debuting in 1986, this series had players braving a complex castle of tricks, traps, and monsters, all on the way to face down Dracula himself. More action than horror, the franchise drew from a huge bestiary of classic mythological monsters and has recently gone on to inspire a Netflix anime series of the same name.
More recently, players are excited for the upcoming sequel for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Slated for release in 2020, this acts as a sequel to the critical darling original which launched in November of 2004. As role-playing games, these focus on the dark underworld of vampire society and their struggles as the different groups vie for power.
It should also be noted that not all of these efforts are of the traditional AAA gaming route. Some of the more famous current vampire games come in the form of casino slot games. Immortal Romance is one of the more popular here alongside others like the Blood Suckers series. These base their themes around more recent interpretations of the vampire theme and have done so with great commercial success.
The reflection of themes
With many different incarnations following many different interpretations and finding so much popularity, it is undeniable that ‘vampire culture’ is doing something right in the 21st century. The most major contributor here, as we see it, comes down to the flexibility of themes and their ability to reflect different aspects of contemporary society.
Back when society was obsessed with horror, it was the horror incarnations of vampires which proved the most popular. Each different social era brought with it a different way to view Dracula and vampire mythology, which is exactly what we have seen on television, film, and gaming.
A time of big-budget action films gave rise to Blade; a period where games were focused on exploration led the way to Castlevania; while years where teenage romance played a huge part in the market lit the stage for Twilight.
Vampires have proven that they aren’t just a great fit for horror, and this is what has made their lore such a magnet for media focus. Whatever the shape of the world ten or 20 years from now, you can be there will be different industries drawing the lines between that society and the realm of the bloodsucking dead.