Ever since Bram Stoker started his classic novel Dracula, he put the world of the vampire directly in the hands of men. His count was a wealthy aristocrat, one from an exotic location with powers beyond anything society could imagine. The women of Stoker’s world existed at the whim of men and this was most likely a product of his time.
As film embraced the vampire, it followed suit. A stream of quality lead actors portrayed the creatures of the night. Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Gary Oldman, even Leslie Neilson and most recently Jonathan Rhys Meyers have all donned the cape. They have all been paired with sexy supplicants, women they’ve turned into wives to do their bidding and defend them against the Abraham Van Helsing’s of the world.
Finally, as film started yielding to other forms of inspiration like comic books, plays, foreign and women authors, a run of quality women vampires appeared. Here are five of the best in chronological order. Feel free to add your own to the list:
Top 5 Female Vampires, Sexy Supplicants and Master Manipulators
Kirsten Dunst: Interview With the Vampire, 1994
Neil Jordan, who will appear later in this list, helmed the movie that was an adaptation of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Without Anne Rice blazing the trail, Stephanie Meyer would not have had her level of success. Rice’s vampires, played by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, were the classic models of the monster. They were attractive, wealthy, brutal and cultured. In the movie, Pitt’s character Louis discovers Dunst’s Claudia crying over the corpse of her mother in a plague-ridden area of the city. Louis drains her blood and Cruise’s Lestat gives her his blood, completing the transformation.
Dunst was twelve-turning thirteen at the time of the movie. One of the most shocking scenes was Claudia’s transformation into a vampire, her hair filling out and curling, lips full, teeth lightening white and sharp. Claudia is a tragic character though and ends up dying at the hands of enemies. This character, a living doll of killing beauty, stayed with viewers and allowed Dunst to break into future cinema success.
Kate Beckinsale: Underworld and sequels, 2003-2012
Kate Beckinsale plays Selene, a vampire warrior in the midst of a battle between vampires and werewolves. She is a skilled executioner and ends up falling in love with Michael, a vampire and werewolf hybrid. Selene’s story arch is long and diverse, stretching over four movies. The films were supported by great acting from Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, and others. They are atmospheric, dark, and violent. The vampires and werewolves are products of a virus carried by a character named Alexander Corvinus and his sons, one bitten by a bat and one by a wolf, creating the respective lines throughout history.
Selene maneuvers between the warring clans, defending her loves and eventually her daughter in the final film. She is a survivor, even if it means killing her father and other vampire elders. She makes things happen and kicks ass in the process.
Chloe Grace Moritz, Let Me In, 2010
This film is the adaptation of a Swedish horror novel called Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist. I recommend the book to anyone who loves a great scary story. The Swedish film, titled identically to the novel, is also a great film, but director Matt Reeves took the material and made it his own for this version. Moritz plays Abby, a vampire moving around the country living where she can with her handler played by Richard Jenkins. Jenkins’ character kills to find blood for Abby. Eventually he is caught and Abby must discover a way to survive.
She befriends Owen, a boy who lives in the same apartment complex and is bullied at his school. Abby’s friendship leads up to an amazing conflict where she is the enforcer, brutally putting an end to the bullying in a scene that must be watched to be believed. This movie is full of great death scenes. Abby eliminates Jenkins’ character while he is in the hospital, luring him out the window to fall to his death. One of Abby’s victims is burned to death in when they are exposed to the sun. The contrast between the angelic Moritz and her violence makes for a mesmerizing watch.
Collection of the Best Female Vampires on Film
Gemma Arterton and Saorise Ronan, Byzantium, 2012
This film, directed by Neil Jordan, is the main inspiration for this article. I watched it this week and loved it. It is based on a play written by Moira Buffini. Clara, played by Arterton is the mother to Ronan’s Emma. They are both two centuries old. Clara steals the secret to eternal life from a British military officer, a map to a nameless island where a faceless saint lives. Clara visits the island and is turned by this creature (who, in a masterful move by Jordan, always appears identical to the person it is killing).
Clara gives up her infant daughter to a convent and, after being turned to a vampire, returns when the girl is a teenager. An evil military officer rapes the girl, giving her the same disease that affected Clara before her change. She kills the officer and saves her daughter, violating the rule of the order that women cannot turn another.
The film is beautifully shot. Ronan does an amazing job capturing the vampire condition with subtlety and grace. She only feeds on those ready to die, mostly the elderly and infirm. The movie also pulls more from a Mediterranean legend of a vampire-witch creature that the script calls a sucrient (Clara and Emma open up the neck with an elongated thumbnail, not fangs).
Watch this movie, actually watch any movie on this list and you can enjoy some of the amazing vampire women in film.