Before this film came out I’d seen a few other vampire movies. Bad ones mostly. Usually they would focus was on the sex and violence rather than anything to do with the nocturnal predator themselves. I also hadn’t read much vampire fiction either, having kept my focus more on science fiction and fantasy. I had an idea that vampires could be interesting characters but had never really seen it done well so the idea hadn’t fully formed within my mind.
Then along came Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I can honestly say that this was the one defining film that turned me around on the whole genre. The story itself is a simple one: boy meets girl, girl is menaced by some terrible evil, boy rounds up his buddies to take care of business and win back his woman, happiness and songbirds ensue, etc. Though the story itself isn’t why I like it. For me, this film was all about the flavor, style and character of Dracula; about how dark, eerie, sinister and powerful a vampire can really be.
A large part of why Dracula is so terrifying is because of the supernatural gifts he has at his disposal – bending shadows, turning into mist, summoning wolves, emotionally or mentally manipulating people; shape-shifting into wolves, bats, and a hoard of rats; walking on walls, floating around his castle, opening and closing doors without touching them; whatever he did to punish his “daughters” by blending them into that weird spidery looking thing (White Wolf calls it Vicissitude, or Fleshcrafting), and (one of my favorites) mentally tricking people into thinking he’s not there or that he looks like something he’s not. Every vampire I’d seen prior to this was basically just a human with fangs. They wanted to kill people and drink their blood, which I’ll admit is scary, but that’s nothing compared to the monster that can blend into the darkness as if he’s not even there, make himself look like your best friend or turn a pack of wolves on you. It’s the trickery and sheer supernatural weirdness that makes him stand apart from the typical serial killer and take his place as a true creature of the night.
Dracula was also the first vampire I’d seen that had an agenda. It wasn’t all just about the woman either; he was setting down roots in London. Buying up properties and exerting supernatural control over people of influence, like Renfield. The film didn’t go too deeply into this as it was more about the love story but I could see some great, untapped potential for getting his hooks into many areas within the city. Had he not been so focused on Mina, he could have easily owned half of London as well as had a hold on many important people in positions of authority. This idea is an important one to me because I’ve always said, “If you’re going to live forever, you might as well be rich and powerful while you do it.” The point is I just get annoyed at seeing nothing but bottom feeder vampires living in squalor. The next century’s going to pass anyway so you might as well put a few bucks into that investment portfolio. Dracula may have been killed at the end but at least he had a plan for eternity.
Since this film, I’ve consumed hundreds of movies, books, TV shows and even comics about vampires. Very few have been successful in portraying a vampire in as frightening a manner as this.