Nothing's better than a bloody surprise.
If there’s one thing we like more than vampires, it’s vampires that surprise us. Forget about your grandpappy's Brylcreemed Transylvanian counts, the bloodsuckers who really matter here in 2014 are the ones that break the established rules -- whether that's being a redneck vampire biker or a pistol-packing model, inflicting nocturnal death on werewolves.
With the last season of True Blood playing out at the moment, the time is right to take a gander at the characters that have changed our ideas about what a vampire should be. Who made the cut? Take a look through our ghoulish gallery to find out.
Caleb and Mae (Near Dark)
We’ve seen a few different redneck vampire characters now, but in 1987 — when the dregs of the Hammer Horror were still a (relatively) fresh memory -- Caleb and Mae, the vampires from Kathryn Bigelow’s horror western Near Dark were unlike anything most audiences had seen. For one thing, Caleb especially isn’t a killer: something that makes him a preview of the later soft vampires of the Twilight series. The rest of the film’s vampish cast are a little bit different too: a mix of classic vampire, cowboy, and biker. It’s a strange mix — but it somehow works.
Lestat (Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles)
Lestat’s a tricky one. Today we think of the brooding, tortured, slightly foppish vampire as almost as much a part of vampire legend as the whole stake-through-the-heart, dislikes-garlic aspects of the traditional lore. Not so. While vampires always possessed a slightly sexy edge, it took Anne Rice’s 1976 novel and subsequent movie adaptation Interview With the Vampire to reimagine these monstrous bloodsuckers as the kind of perennially stylish heartthrob we think of today. Definitely a mold-breaker.
Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Originally I was going to include Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Angel on this list, but all he really did was take the Lestat model and add an (admittedly cool) dose of action hero on top of the brooding antihero model. Instead, consider Spike: The bleach-blond cockney punk turned what should have been a disposable character into one of Buffy’s most memorable players.
Buffy’s vampires tended to stick to established vampire lore, but remixed the archetypes in all sorts of inventive ways. Spike started breaking the mold by being a one-off character who turned into a series regular thanks to his surprising popularity. He continued to surprise us from there.
Selene (Underworld series)
Underworld’s Selene was what would happen if Keanu Reeves in The Matrix was vampirized thanks to a quick bite on the neck in between bullet-time sequences. Well, it would be if Reeves was a sexy lady with child-birthing hips and silver bullets. The Underworld movies may have been a bit of an incoherent mess, but the techno-inspired, leather-wearing, werewolf-gunning Selene was as far from the helpless Mina Harker female vampire as possible. Like many of the vampires on this list, it was a combination that worked bizarrely well.
Edward Cullen (Twilight series)
You almost hate to include Edward Cullen and the rest of Twilight’s sparkly vampires on a list of vamps who broke the mold, but there’s no doubt that Stephenie Meyer’s vampire saga broke with a few key aspects of bloodsucker lore: namely the whole vulnerability to sunlight thing.
While not an original part of the vampire myth (they were more active at night, but not actually afraid of the sun), this death-by-sunlight angle been included in almost every vampire story since Count Dracula appeared in the 19th century. Breaking with it not only changed Twilight by ridding its characters of a classic vamp weakness, it also ditched the whole “creature of the night” aspect for something altogether friendlier. For shame!
Eli (Let the Right One In)
Twists to the vampire legend don’t come much more heartbreaking than Eli, the female lead of 2008’s Let The Right One In. Taking the form of a lonely young girl, Eli befriends bullied 12-year-old Oskar, who is totally unaware that his new pal is anything but an equally troubled child. Their resulting friendship is troubling, surprisingly tear-jerking and unlike anything seen in other vampire movies before or since.
Deacon Frost (Blade)
Forget Wesley Snipe’s tax-evading vampire hunter (wait, I think that’s mixing up a few details!) — the really original character in Blade was Deacon Frost. The idea of yuppie-as-vampire had been explored in metaphor previously, but this is the first time I remember literally seeing it up on screen. Apart from the whole bloodsucking thing, is there anything about Deacon Frost that would seem out of place at a Silicon Valley drinks mixer? His murder of the vampire elders in the House of Erebus was a signal moment for ushering in the vampire v2.0.
Henry Fitzroy (Blood Ties)
Where to start with Henry Fitzroy, the most memorable character from supernatural drama series Blood Ties? The illegitimate son of Henry VIII, this Renaissance vampire winds up living in Canada in the 21st century, working as a graphic novel artist set on charming the pants off a female private investigator.
Unlike seemingly every other romantic vamp, Fitzroy’s not an angst-ridden teen, but a smooth chick-magnet/charmer who gets all the ladies. In a further departure from regular vamp lore, Fitzroy rarely kills humans and drinks only from those who are willing to offer him enough blood to sustain him.