Finally—October is here. Halloween has and probably always will be my favorite holiday of the year. It’s the unofficial kick-off the holiday season: here’s to a major holiday once a month for the rest of 2012! If you’re American! And also of a Christian bent! In any case you get time off work! Probably!
Halloween is also a time to lose a little control, act a little out of character, and celebrate all things creepy, disgusting, bizarre, or otherwise terrifying. It’s a time to ritualistically face our fears and enjoy the accompanying rush of adrenalin that courses through our veins.
In my case? It’s a time to buy Count Chocula cereal in bulk, attend my annual company party (that’s right: we don’t do the winter holidays, we get all our alcohol-fueled awkward social interactions out on All Hallow’s Eve), and hunker down on late nights with my favorite Dracula movies.
Gorging myself on candy will probably also be involved.
I read Dracula when I was ten. Thought he was the scariest and coolest. Watched every single movie I could find (and that my mom would let me). Thought he was even cooler than the coolest. Put the obsession away for a few years. Re-read the book as a senior in high school, and HOLY CRAP THIS BOOK IS TOTALLY ACTUALLY ABOUT SEX. That’s the first memory I have of my mind being blown. How awesome is that, I thought. A writer can write about one thing, and actually be talking about something else.
From then on, marathon viewings of films featuring the Count were an annual Halloween tradition. Here are my ten best cinematic Draculas.
[Note: I’m limiting my selections to movies only. I reserve the right to recycle this post with my top TV Draculas at another date. Especially once the new series starring Jonathan Rhys “Dead-Eyes” Meyers starts airing.]
10. Leslie Nielsen, Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Dracula is a ridiculously complex character, full of contradictions. So film interpretations of him really run the gamut. Over the course of cinematic history, vampire movies in general developed a reputation for glorious, glorious camp. The kind of camp featuring opaque red paint for blood, and grown men hissing like cats while dressed in the upholstery from their English grandmother’s fainting couch. Naturally, this paved the way for comedic interpretations of the titular character, and Leslie Nielson’s portrayal is right on top.
What I love about his Dracula is he’s fairly genuine and sincere for most of the movie. He’s really just looking for someone to spend some quality time with! Aren’t we all, Drac, aren’t we all?
9. Duncan Regehr, The Monster Squad
It’s like all the Universal monsters got together for an eighties reunion tour!
I used to watch The Monster Squad on a loop when I was young. A bunch of nerdy kids get together to talk shop about being nerds, and then the thing they nerd out on comes to town?! I’ll take two, please.
Duncan Regehr’s Dracula is a perfect mix of wholesome family B-movie monster flick scary, and juuuuuuust a touch of sex appeal. He’s like a starter crush for Dracophiles. I think of him the same way I think of my first after-school YMCA counselor. I didn’t know why I liked hugging him, but I really liked hugging him.
Author’s note: I just did some Google-fu on “Dracophile” to see if that was actually a thing, and discovered it’s not. However, dracophilia is a thing, and it’s the overwhelming desire or affinity for dragons. And “Dracula” translates roughly into “son of the dragon.” COINCIDENCE?!
8. Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing
ACTING IS HAAAAAAAARD!!
This movie is crap. But Richard Roxburgh is a revelation. He comes off like the result of an unholy union between Bono and Jareth the Goblin King, and oozes all the weird, comedic sexiness that particular combination would produce. Laugh if you must, but come on—Jareth’s codpiece, like his Tina Turner wig, was insane. I didn’t know if my hormones were coming or going. The only time I ever felt that way again was watching Roxburgh in Van Helsing. Plus, he turns into a gargoyle instead of a flock of stupid bats. Or worse, one single bat.
7. Gerard Butler, Dracula 2000
I’ll be in my bunk.
Dracula is animalistic, cruel, and can sometimes seem to be a physical manifestation of the devil himself. He can also be the epitome of class, charm, and sex appeal. Inhuman strength and everlasting youth never hurt anyone’s chances at pulling tail, last time I checked. He represents the seduction of evil. We’re simultaneously drawn to and repelled by him. For the weaker of us, the attraction wins out.
When Gerard Butler f***** that girl on the ceiling, I realized once and for all I am weak. Weaker than weak. The weakest. I had a really funny joke where I used “weak” as a verb, but I decided to dial it back. Insert your own “weaking” joke here.
6. Carlos Villarías, Dracula (Spanish-language, 1931)
He actually inspired the ill-fated Count Chocula/Boo Berry mash-up.
Back when Universal was filming its now classic version of Dracula, they were simultaneously filming a Spanish-language version. Like, super simultaneous. The Spanish-speaking actors would come in to the same exact set as the English-speaking cast and film their scenes at night.
Villarías played Dracula with his own twist. He may have been limited to Bela Lugosi’s blocking, but he managed to find a ridiculously charming self-awareness and sense of humor. It would be kind of like the devil telling you a few jokes, disarming you, earning your trust, and then BAM! There’s two holes in your jugular and you’re bleeding out in five minutes.