Finally—Halloween is almost here! Halloween has and probably always will be my favorite holiday of the year. 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 at least 5 costume parties, and hunker down on late nights with my favorite Dracula movies.
I read Dracula when I was ten. Thought he was the scariest and coolest. Watched every single movie I could find. 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 five best cinematic Draculas.
5. RICHARD ROXBURGH, VAN HELSING
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.
4. FRANK LANGELLA, DRACULA
Frank Langella’s Dracula is just pure sex appeal. Well, 70’s sex appeal, which is admittedly a little dated. And involves a lot of pirate shirts, for some reason.
This version marked one of the earliest attempts to make The Count a romantic hero; the artistic staff was well aware that most of the time the audience was rooting for Drac and not that old wet blanket Van Helsing. Especially as we moved further and further away from Victorian norms as a society: the book is very much about how dangerous it is for women to be open about or even aware of their sexuality, whereas the seventies saw huge strides in women’s lib and the advent of the birth control pill.
3. GERARD BUTLER, DRACULA 2000
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 fucked that girl on the ceiling, I realized once and for all I am weak. Weaker than weak. The weakest.
2. GARY OLDMAN, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
I love me some “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Not only does Anthony Hopkins deliver the most spot-on interpretation of Van Helsing (his accent really does go in and out like that—IN THE BOOK; Stoker was WRITING an accent and couldn’t keep it together), but Gary Oldman delivers the most nuanced portrait of Dracula’s intellect I’ve seen on film. Yes he’s supernatural, but he’s also been alive for half a millennium. One would guess he’s gained some superior insight and wisdom over the years.
Upon further reflection, he should really sit down and write the great Romanian novel.
1. CHRISTOPHER LEE, HORROR OF DRACULA
Christopher Lee is the mack daddy of all Draculas. He’s clever, brutal, charismatic, wolfish, an impeccable dresser, and also a real tall drink of water. He’s the perfect combination of every quality I’ve praised in the other actors on this list. His Dracula is always two steps ahead of Van Helsing. And his voice is ridiculous. Who needs a bar of light across your face when you can hypnotize me through time and space and television screens?
When Van Helsing finally defeats him at the end of “Horror of Dracula,” we can’t believe it. Turns out we were right to be skeptical, since Lee’s Dracula went on to be resurrected eight more times.