Saturday, July 13, 2024

Top 10 Most Compelling Vampires

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So. Vampires. I like them, you like them. They’re cool, spooky, badass, mysterious — and apparently sexy, if the last few decades are anything to go by. But whether you like them as old school monstrosities or modern alluring sex symbols, the vampire genre has given us plenty of characters that are well written, compelling, and unforgettable. And it just wouldn’t be Halloween if we didn’t celebrate one of the classic monsters, would it?

There’s a plethora of awesome vamps out there, but for now, here’s ten of them.

10. Eve — Only Lovers Left Alive

Eve is ancient, and it shows. She’s intelligent, poised, wise, elegant … and yet, there is a certain lightness to her that makes her endearing, a strange sort of bubbliness that is subtle and sweet. She’s witnessed countless atrocities committed by humankind practically since the dawn of time, seen the world fall and rise and fall again, and yet she doesn’t let it destroy her. She recognizes it, and mourns, but presses on. This is in vast contrast to her husband, Adam (who I also like). Adam has become depressed as the centuries have gone by, seeing life as more and more meaningless as he grows older. But even after all her years of living, Eve still sees life is an adventure, a tangible thing to grasp and mold to one’s liking. The dialogue she gave to her husband when learning he was suicidal is what earned her a spot on this list:

“How can you have lived for so long and still not get it? This self-obsession … it’s a waste of living that could be spent on surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship. And dancing. You’ve been pretty lucky in love, though, if I may say so.”

I love that quote. It sounds so immortal, yet human at the same time. If you can live forever, wouldn’t you want to make the most out of life? And yet as an aging human, making the most out of life is also important. Yet knowing Eve’s character, there’s something so powerful in hearing her say it. This, along with Tilda Swinton’s amazing performance, makes her quite compelling.

9. Adrian “Alucard” Tepes — Castlevania (Netflix)

(Warning: Spoilers)

I may be cheating a bit here, since Alucard is technically a dhampir – a half human, half vampire creature – but he’s the son of Dracula, the father of all vampires, so I think he counts.

Alucard is an interesting one. He’s intelligent, generally kind, and has a sense of humor, and yet he’s quiet and distant. He’s also incredibly badass, what with his inhuman strength and agility, and his swordplay and magic. But what’s compelling about Alucard is his sense of morality, and, most heartbreakingly, his willingness to sacrifice, even after his mother, Lisa, was murdered by humans on the accusation of witchcraft.

The murder made Alucard’s father, Dracula, declare a genocidal war against mankind, all in the name of Lisa. Lisa, who was a healer, loved her fellow humans, and wanted nothing more than to help them. Dracula, in his grief, wanted nothing but revenge. And yet, even though Alucard grieves, he does not condone Dracula’s actions, and seeks to destroy him for it. He explains it in this great quote:

“Alucard, they called me. The opposite of you [Dracula]. Mother never liked that. Did you know that? She hated the idea that I might define myself by you. Even in opposition to you. She loved us both, enough that she wanted us to be our own people, living our own lives. Making our own choices. And so here I am, choosing to honor my mother by killing my father.”

And Alucard makes that choice. He attacks his own father, who at that point, had gone completely mad. But there is a moment where Dracula realizes what he is doing – trying to kill his own son – and he falters:

“My boy. I’m – I’m killing my boy. Lisa. I’m killing our boy. […] Your greatest gift to me, and I’m killing him. I must already be dead.”

So Dracula relents his attack on Alucard.

When I first watched this, I thought that Alucard would spare Dracula, because he wouldn’t be able to go through with killing his father after hearing the quoted line — which is Dracula declaring his love for his son — and surrendering. But he does it. He does it, and you can see it’s destroying him. The voice acting done by James Callis (Alucard) and Graham McTavish (Dracula) is amazing here. Alucard is a son, killing his own father, the last of his family, to save a species that took his mother from him. It’s selfless, and admirable, and heartbreaking.

What’s even more heartbreaking is the end of the second season, where, after remembering his family, Alucard sits in his childhood home, Dracula’s castle, alone, with no father, no mother … and he sobs quietly. It’s just … ugh, it just kills me. It compelled me along with killing me, though, which is why he’s on this list.

8. Claudia — Interview With the Vampire (Film)

(Warning: Spoilers)

Claudia’s story is another heartbreaking one. She is a child that was dying from plague, only to be ‘saved’ by vampirism.

I put ‘saved’ in quotes because what happened to Claudia was nothing short of a tragedy. She was an innocent child before Louis and Lestat found her, and Lestat turned her into a vicious, bratty killer with no regard whatsoever for human life. Seeing a little girl murder so many people without a care in the world is disturbing and disheartening all at once, but what’s even darker is what happened later on in her life. While Claudia’s body is frozen in time, her mind isn’t. So she matured psychologically, and eventually, over the years, became an adult woman stuck inside of the body of a child. The sheer rage, mourning, and longing to grow up eventually drove Claudia mad … yet, it is one of the only things that makes her human, besides her love for Louis.

Still, her predicament, and the way it affected her character, is compelling. Here’s the scene that put her on this list:

Claudia murdered an adult woman and hid her corpse underneath a pile of dolls … the dolls she was gifted because she is seen by Louis and Lestat as still a child (and in Lestat’s case, not only a child, but a doll herself).

Most chillingly, when Louis asks her why she kept a corpse to rot in their house, she says this:

“I wanted her. I wanted to be her.”

Just imagine that. Being a grown woman psychologically, and yet, being unable to grow … all while having the monstrous, demonic tendencies of a vampire. Claudia is forced to experience this, and she breaks. She breaks, and realizes that it was Lestat that made her this way. Lestat, who sees her as nothing more than a doll, an object, a plaything. So she kills him (or so she thinks) so that she and Louis can be free of him … only to be executed for “murdering” him later on. She is punished for finally taking agency in her life, and living a somewhat adult life. It’s a sad ending for a sad character, but compelling all the same — and so is Claudia.

7. Marceline the Vampire Queen — Adventure Time

Marcy is the reason why I started watching Adventure Time in the first place. A vampire chick who plays the bass? Sign me up!

And then I actually watched the show, got to Marceline’s origin story … and yeah, she’s way more than that. She’s a half human, half demon girl who braved the apocalypse as a child, and then later became a vampire hunter, only to become the thing she hunted. There is a dark plethora of loss and trauma in Marceline’s backstory, and yet, somewhat similarly to Eve, she takes it in stride. Personality wise, she can be pouty and kind of mean (when she’s feeling mischievous), but overall she knows how to laugh and have fun, protect her friends, and save the day when she needs to.

That’s not to mention her unique powers. Marcy can shapeshift, fly, use telekinesis — typical vamp stuff. But most interestingly, unlike the other vampires on this list, Marceline doesn’t survive on blood, but the color red. Because of her powers, I always like seeing her do her thing in battle.
Her design is pretty good too. I love seeing what outfit and hairstyle she’ll wear.

And then of course there’s her lovely singing voice — all of her songs are memorable, catchy, or genuinely moving (I’m looking at you, Everything Stays and Remember You) And besides all that, Marceline is cool. She’s the artsy musician in high school that’s friends with people regardless of what clique they’re in. She’s chill, but enthusiastic. Daring, but caring. She’s really the friend we all need.

But all of that would mean nothing without her origin story, or the journey she went through. Marcy may be the cool chick, but she’s also a survivor, in more ways than one. And her admirable character is what earned her a spot here.

6. Damon Salvatore — The Vampire Diaries (TV Show)

(Warning: Spoilers)

Damon is the textbook definition of a problematic fave. He’s murderous, abusive, childish, petty, and definitely one of the worst brothers ever. On the other hand, he’s funny, protective (when he feels like it), quite clever, badass, and has a sort of sensitivity to him (again, when he feels like it). Being raised in an abusive home growing up, and being manipulated and betrayed by the woman he loved, Damon is the sort of guy that wants to be loved more than anything. But, being his own worst enemy, he stops that love from manifesting, or enduring. He has a lot of rage inside of him, a lot of vindictiveness, but a lot of pain as well. And goodness, underneath everything else.

The line he says in the season one finale to Jeremy, after witnessing the murder of Anna, was the first sign of his goodness that stuck with me:

“I was watching [Anna die] and all I could think about was … I wanted to help her, but I couldn’t.”

When I heard that line, I got really, really excited for Damon’s character, because I thought the writers were setting him up for a redemption arc (and I love redemption stories). Alas, that’s not really what happened. Don’t get me wrong — Damon isn’t static, necessarily. He develops. The problem for me is that the narrative doesn’t let him grow permanently — it takes him forward, only to yank him back right afterward. From the way his character was set up, his story should have been about him learning from his mistakes, becoming a better person, and finding an identity outside of Katherine (and, as a result, her doppleganger) since his story began with him being obsessed over her, and committing a lot of his atrocities in her name. But it’s like the writers wanted to keep a status quo, despite all of their other characters changing (for better or worse … mostly for the worst).

I didn’t feel right putting Damon in my top 5, due to the decrease in his writing. But despite the writers holding him back, the potential of where his character could have gone still keeps me holding on, and he’s a problematic fave in spite of my disappointment with his characterization, so he lands at a respectable six. Even with the writing issues, Damon Salvatore is quite unforgettable.

5. Angel — Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Angel’s got that whole “redemption” thing going on, and again, that is my jam.

Long story short, Angel was once the soulless Angelus, an evil, sadistic, savage monster. After being cursed with a soul, he was given a conscience, where he was then able to feel endless guilt for all of the atrocities he committed. As a cursed being, Angel lives his life trying to atone for the evils he’s done. When he is Angel, he is gentle, quiet, and brooding, but never in a way that is tedious or boring. And while his flaws aren’t as destructive as that of Angelus’s, they are still there. His dark side lingers even with a soul, since he was destructive as a human. Because of this, Angel suffers from an immense case of self-loathing:

“Look, I’m weak. I’ve never been anything else. It’s not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It’s the man.”

Even still, you can see the goodness within him, fighting, always fighting, despite what he may think. There’s an insightfulness to the character, and David Boreanaz portrays it all perfectly.

But the thing that’s great about Angel is that his redemption is never a straight line. There have been times where Angelus has won. But when that happens, Angel gets back up again, and seeks to ascend once more. It’s admirable, great storytelling, and, most importantly for this list, compelling.

4. Spike — Buffy the Vampire Slayer

(Warning: Spoilers)

Ahh, another problematic fave. Well, you can’t have Angel without Spike, right?

Spike is a fantastic character. He’s rebellious, funny, witty, and pretty badass. And because of these traits, he starts off as a fun, memorable villain. Then he becomes Buffy’s love interest, and things get … more complex.

Unlike Angel, who was a douchebag when he was human, Spike was a normal, sensitive guy who wrote poems and would never hurt a fly. And because of this, he was often ridiculed by his peers. Vampirism enhanced his resentment toward being mistreated, along with his insecurities, and we see that as we get to know him. Despite this, however, the sensitivity he had as a human is still in him, even as a soulless vampire. Unlike most vampires, Spike is able to feel emotions, even without a soul. He is able to love, albeit in a dark and twisted way. Because of this, his love for Buffy turned into an obsession, which led to him attempting to rape her.

Fortunately, Buffy is able to stop him, and the scene is perfectly acted by Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters. You can see every inch of shock and shame on Spike’s face as he realizes what he almost did, what he would have done if Buffy didn’t stop him. Even soulless, he knew he was wrong. He knew he had hit rock bottom. And he was disgusted with himself.

Spike’s self-loathing and shame causes him to go on a journey to retrieve his soul, starting his redemption arc, and this is why Spike ranks higher than Angel on this list. Angel’s redemption was forced upon him through a curse, but Spike chose his. He chose to feel the aching guilt that having a soul would bring him, for committing every single atrocity he has ever done … all to atone. He does it for Buffy, but himself as well. He doesn’t want to be the sort of person who could rape the woman he loves. And so he consents to essentially torturing himself, all to earn the forgiveness of not only Buffy, but himself:

“Why does a man do what he mustn’t? For her. To be hers. To be the kind of man who would never … to be a kind of man.”

The pain and guilt of it drives him nearly mad and delusional, and it is a deep, physical and psychological pain:

“They put the spark [Spike’s soul] in me, and now all it does is burn.”

Still, Spike continues to fight, because he wants to be a better man. He wants to redeem himself, even if it hurts him. And the narrative lets him.
Basically? Spike is what Damon Salvatore could have been. And his story is almost as compelling as they come.

3. Katherine Pierce — The Vampire Diaries (TV Show)

(Warning: Spoilers)

And we begin the top 3 with one of my favorite villains! Go up to bat, Kitty Kat.

Katherine’s backstory and personality is the best formula you could ever have if you need help cooking up a sympathetic villain. She was an unmarried teen mom in a time when unmarried teen moms weren’t tolerated and had her child taken from her right after birth. Then, she was banished from her home. This (unknowingly) threw her into the world of vampires, where she was pursued by Klaus Mikaelson, who wanted to sacrifice her in a dark ritual for her doppleganger’s blood. Preferring to be dead than Klaus’s captive and sacrifice, Katherine committed suicide and turned into a vampire, ruining Klaus’s plans. As revenge, Klaus murdered her entire family, and spent literal centuries hunting her down, just because she had foiled him.

So basically, Katherine was punished for having a child out of wedlock and hunted by a madman for the crime of not wanting to be his sacrifice. She spent her entire life as a vampire being on the run from Klaus at every turn. This is what made her a villain — doing whatever she needed to do to survive. She manipulated people (especially the Salvatore brothers), betrayed them, killed them, used them, all to escape Klaus. To me, you don’t get any more sympathetic than that.

With that being said, Katherine is selfish, petty, cruel, and, ironically, can be just as vindictive as Klaus. But, similarly to Damon, she craves love. And she is capable of love. She truly felt something for Stefan, despite the toxicity of their relationship, and when she discovers her daughter is still alive, she basically dies for her, because she loved her so much.

Most importantly, Katherine bleeds. She feels. She deals with the guilt she has over the crimes she’s committed to escape Klaus. But she presses on. And that’s only one of her redeeming qualities. Katherine is strong, funny, incredibly clever, and a lot of fun to watch. And honestly, the reason why she is the way she is truly isn’t her fault. And it’s also what makes her so compelling. Even when she was at her absolute worst, I never hated her. And just like Damon, and the other characters on this show, her character deserved better.

2. Alucard — Hellsing Ultimate

(Warning: Spoilers)

And onto this lovely demon.

If you’ve seen Hellsing Ultimate, you know why he’s here, and this high on the list (you might even be wondering why he isn’t number #1). I mean, how can you not talk about this beast? He is the ultimate vampire, in my book. A perfect mix of the classic and modern. Dark and disturbing, yet alluring, beyond badass, and, generally speaking, really nice to look at.

So basically, as general coolness goes, well … if Marceline is cool, then Alucard is an endless winter. But just like with the first Alucard on this list, it kinda feels unfair to have him here. It’s like it’s cheating — or rather, Alucard is cheating, because he’s more than just a vampire. He is a force. A demon. An entity. More like a Lovecraftian abomination than an undead blood drinker. A true monster …

And yet human, somehow.

For you see, Alucard is Dracula. And Dracula … is Vlad Tepes. And Vlad Tepes (the fictional version of him) was a man. A man who believed in God so much he led a crusade in his name. A man who had faith, even while enduring sexual abuse as a child. But when he lost his war and was about to be executed by his enemies, he became possessed by hatred, felt abandoned by God, and so turned his back on Him, drank the blood of his devastated countrymen, and became a vampire.

And he knows he’s a monster. He loathes himself, and respects humanity above all others. As an immortal, he is enticed by aging, and thinks the Queen and Walter, in their elderly age, are far more beautiful than they were when they were young. He respects humankind so much that he believes that only a human can kill him, because, in his opinion, only a mundane mortal, a being who abides the laws of nature, can end an abomination such as him.

He thought that human to defeat him would be Alexander Anderson, and when Anderson begins to turn himself into another sort of monster because he believes that’s the only way to defeat him, Alucard is absolutely horrified and tries to stop him:

“Anderson, stop it! […] You’ll become one of God’s monsters. Maintain your humanity — don’t succumb to power! Either side, it amounts to the same deal — whether in the name of divine or demonic, you’re still a monster in the end. This duel between us … would you really push it this far? Into the realms that lie beyond mortal life … a monster such as myself — a creature of such weakness that I could not bear the weight of a human life? If I am to be defeated, it must be by a human. Don’t do it, human. Don’t become a monster. A monster like me.”

He genuinely looks pained at the thought of Anderson losing his humanity. This is one of the few times where Alucard isn’t expressing an emotion that isn’t insanity, arrogance, or amusement. He wants Anderson to remain a man, so that he can kill him, and Alucard will finally be put down, because he wants to die — just on his own terms, and by a human. But Anderson sacrifices his humanity, and Alucard, enraged by Anderson’s decision, and refusing to be destroyed by another monster, finishes him.

And when it’s done, and Anderson is dying, Alucard weeps.

He is truly mourning for this enemy, that he respected. And while he cries, he gives us another great quote:

“You and I are the same! You are me. I was just the same! Don’t you understand? This is how I became what I am!”

This unexpected respect and admiration for humanity, despite his agelessness and power, is what earned him a spot on this list.

Also the fact that he shapeshifted into a girl once.


Now, before I get to number one, I’d like to highlight a few others…

Honorable Mentions

Vicente Valtieri – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

As an elegant vampire assassin, Vicente is pretty cool in my book, and I’ll always remember him for helping my character become a vampire, but he just didn’t make the cut.

Stefan Salvatore – The Vampire Diaries

I like Stefan for the same reasons I like Spike and Angel: the redemption aspects of his character. But having another character on this list for that reason just felt too repetitive, so unfortunately, Stefan didn’t make the list.

The Mikaelsons — The Vampire Diaries / The Originals

The Mikaelsons — specifically Klaus, Rebekah, and Elijah — are definitely memorable and compelling characters. But if I speak about one, I would have wanted to speak about them all, and having so many characters on this list from The Vampire Diaries alone didn’t sit right with me. But they deserve honorable mentions, at least.

Pretty Much Every Other Vampire on The Vampire Diaries (Except for Elena Because She was Trash as a Vampire)

It’s pretty obvious that a show called “The Vampire Diaries” is going to have a lot of awesome characters that are vampires. Can’t list them all here, unfortunately. But Caroline and Rose get a special shout-out.

Count von Count – Sesame Street

I mean, why not? He’s usually the first vampire everyone got to know. We grew up with him, and he helped us learn to count. He’s important, damn it. Let him have his shout-out.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

He’s the OG. I can’t make a vampire list without at least mentioning him. All the respect.

And now, for the #1 most compelling vampire (in my humble opinion):

1. Seras Victoria — Hellsing Ultimate

(Warning: Spoilers)

I love Seras so much. Like, seriously. I adore her. And yeah, I do think she deserves the #1 spot over Alucard.


Character development, that’s why.

And this …

… but mostly character development.

Seras is so many things in this story: an orphan who lost her parents due to murder, a woman becoming a cop to honor her father (who was a cop), a lost, hesitant vampire-in-training, and finally, a true vampire — a Draculina.

I made her transition sound fast from just writing it out, but it’s perfectly paced in the anime. Seras doesn’t like the thought of being a vampire — having to lose her humanity by feasting on human blood. She still sees herself as human, and as such, is horrified when Alucard kills humans who were attacking them. Alucard presses her to drink human blood, to become her true self, but she fights it. She refuses to accept her vampirism.
And then she’s given blood by her dying love interest — given blood willingly. In turn, Seras consents, drinks his blood, and manifests into her true form.

Yet she doesn’t let it change her. She’s still the same sweet, bubbly, goofy girl she always was — she’s just comfortable with what she is, now. But she still respects humanity and values human life.

I’d also like to point out that even as a human, Seras was admirable. As a young child, she witnessed her parents murders, her mother being raped, and she was nearly killed herself. And when she grows up, she follows in her father’s footsteps to ensure that what happened to her wouldn’t happen to anyone else. But then her whole squad is killed by a vampire, and she is turned into a vampire by Alucard. We see this new world through her eyes — the existence of the supernatural, the rules of the Hellsing organization, etc. We learn as she learns.

We see her struggle. We see her grow. We see her get completely broken down by Zorin Blitz, who reminds her of her trauma and dismembers and mutilates her.

And we see Seras win.

We see her go from a blue-eyed, human looking vampire, to a Draculina with red eyes and a demon arm.

And she achieves it without resorting to becoming a monster like her creator Alucard. She did not take human blood — it was offered to her. Unlike Alucard, Seras is able to maintain her humanity and live as a vampire. Though she is immortal and inhuman, she is still Seras Victoria.

Just look at this:

That’s Seras Victoria, sporting a new pair of red eyes and a demon arm, but look at that smile! Look at those mannerisms! Have you ever seen anything so pure?

Seras is still as cute as can be, because only her body has changed — not her spirit, and not her mind. She’s still a pure cinnamon roll — when she’s not killing people, that is. But here’s the thing: Seras only kills bad guys. She has never hurt an innocent human, nor has she ever been tempted to. Besides Marceline, she is the only vampire on this list that I am not afraid of whatsoever, because I know that as a non-villainous human, she would never hurt me. Because Seras Victoria is living proof that monstrosity does not lie in what you are, but what you do.

And she shows that by having one of the greatest level ups and character arcs in anime history — or at least, in the anime I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few.

Seras Victoria’s story and character has stuck with me, even though I haven’t rewatched Hellsing in quite some time. She’s genuinely likable, admirable, badass, and has managed to maintain her morality and humanity despite her circumstances. And that is why, in my opinion, she’s the most compelling vampire — on this list, at least.

Images Courtesy of Sony, Netflix, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, The CW, Funimation

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