Vampires in popular culture

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Vampires in popular culture includes vampire ballet, films, literature, music, opera, theatre, opera, paintings and video games.

Comic books and graphic novels[edit]

Vampirella #1 (September 1969). Cover art by Frank Frazetta.


Main article: Vampire films
A promotional poster for the 1922 film Nosferatu.
The 1956 Vampire Moth was the first Japanese film in the vampire genre.
Christopher Lee portrayed Count Dracula in the celebrated Hammer Horror series of films, starting with Dracula in 1958.

The Vampire (1913, directed by Robert G. Vignola), also co-written by Vignola, is the earliest vampire film.

These were derived from the writer Rudyard Kipling who was inspired by a vampiress painted by Philip Burne-Jones, an image typical of the era in 1897, to write his poem 'The Vampire'. Like much of Kipling's verse it was incredibly popular, and its refrain: A fool there was . . . , describing a seduced man, became the title of the popular film A Fool There Was that made Theda Bara a star, the poem being used in its publicity. On this account, in early American slang the femme fatale was called a vamp, short for vampiress.[1]

A real supernatural vampire features in the landmark Nosferatu (1922 Germany, directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau). This was an unlicensed version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, based so closely on the novel that the estate sued and won, with all copies ordered to be destroyed. (It would be painstakingly restored in 1994 by a team of European scholars from the five surviving prints that had escaped destruction). Nosferatu is the first film to feature a Vampire's death by sunlight, which formerly only weakened vampires.

The next classic treatment of the vampire legend was in Universal's Dracula starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. Five years after the release of the film, Universal released Dracula's Daughter, a direct sequel that starts immediately after the end of the first film. A second sequel, Son of Dracula, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. followed in 1943. Despite his apparent death in the 1931 film, the Count returned to life in three more Universal films of the mid-1940s: 1944's House of Frankenstein, 1945's House of Dracula and 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. While Lugosi had played a vampire in two other movies during the 1930s and 1940s, it was only in this final film that he played Count Dracula onscreen for the second (and last) time.

Dracula was reincarnated for a new generation in the celebrated Hammer Horror series of films, starring Christopher Lee as the Count. The first of these films Dracula (1958) was followed by seven sequels. Lee returned as Dracula in all but two of these.

A distinct subgenre of vampire films, ultimately inspired by Le Fanu's Carmilla explored the topic of the lesbian vampire. The first of these was Blood and Roses (1960) by Roger Vadim. More explicit lesbian content was provided in Hammer Studios Karnstein trilogy. The first of these, The Vampire Lovers, (1970), starring Ingrid Pitt and Madeleine Smith, was a relatively straightforward re-telling of LeFanu's novella, but with more overt violence and sexuality. Later films in this subgenre such as Vampyres (1974) became even more explicit in their depiction of sex, nudity and violence.

Beginning with the absurd Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) the vampire film has often been the subject of comedy. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) by Academy Award winner Roman Polanski was a notable parody of the genre. Other comedic treatments, of variable quality, include Old Dracula (1974) featuring David Niven as a lovelorn Dracula, Love at First Bite (1979 USA) featuring George Hamilton and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995 USA, directed by Mel Brooks) with Canadian Leslie Nielsen giving it a comic twist.

Another development in some vampire films has been a change from supernatural horror to science fictional explanations of vampirism. The Last Man on Earth (Italy 1964, directed by Ubaldo Ragona) and The Omega Man (1971 USA, directed by Boris Sagal), both based on Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, are two examples. Vampirism is explained as a kind of virus in David Cronenberg's Rabid (1976 Canada), Red-Blooded American Girl (1990 Canada, directed by David Blyth) and Michael and Peter Spierig's Daybreakers (2009 United States).

Race has been another theme, as exemplified by the blaxploitation picture Blacula (1972) and several sequels.

Since the time of Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931) the vampire, male or female, has usually been portrayed as an alluring sex symbol. There is, however, a very small subgenre, pioneered in Murnau's seminal Nosferatu (1922) in which the vampire is depicted in the hideous lineaments of the creature of European folklore. Max Schrek's disturbing portrayal of this role in Murnau's film was copied by Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog's remake Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979). In Shadow of the Vampire (2000, directed by E. Elias Merhige), Willem Dafoe plays Max Schrek, himself, though portrayed here as an actual vampire. Dafoe's character is the ugly, disgusting creature of the original Nosferatu. The main tradition has, however, been to portray the vampire in terms of a predatory sexuality. Christopher Lee, Delphine Seyrig, Frank Langella, and Lauren Hutton are just a few examples of actors who brought great sex-appeal into their portrayal of the vampire.[neutrality is disputed]

A major character in most vampire films is the vampire slayer, of which Stoker's Abraham Van Helsing is a prototype. However, killing vampires has changed. Where Van Helsing relied on a stake through the heart, in Vampires 1998 USA, directed by John Carpenter, Jack Crow (James Woods) has a heavily armed squad of vampire hunters, and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 USA, directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui), writer Joss Whedon (who created TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spinoff Angel) attached The Slayer, Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson in the film, Sarah Michelle Gellar in the TV series), to a network of Watchers and mystically endowed her with superhuman powers.

The 1973 Serbian horror film Leptirica ("The She-Butterfly") was inspired by the story of Sava Savanović.



GURP games[edit]

  • The Third Edition GURPS tabletop role-playing game system supplement Blood Types lists 47 different "species" of vampires describing 30 of them from both folklore and fiction in 23 listings (several are simply different names for the same type of vampire; for example the Burma's Kephn is considered a male version of the Penanggalen)

Trading Card games[edit]

  • In the trading card game Magic:The Gathering, vampires are quite iconic creatures of the colors black and red. Most of them share the ability to fly and to grow stronger (via +1/+1 counters) by dealing mortal damage to other creatures or to the players(according to the idea of gaining power from the blood of their victims).
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, vampire are all zombie-type monster cards: "Patrician of Darkness", "Vampire Lord", "Vampire Lady" and "Red-Moon Baby" ("Vampire Baby" in Japanese version). In Yu-Gi-Oh! R manga, the character Tilla Mook uses the card monster "Curse of Vampire".

Video games[edit]

The 1986 French video game Vampire was one of the first video games to feature vampires.

Video game series featuring vampires primarily use Dracula or Dracula-inspired characters. Konami's Castlevania series is the longest running series which uses the Dracula legend, though its writers have made their own alterations to the legend. An exception to this trend is the Legacy of Kain video game series, which features vampires set in an entirely fictional world called Nosgoth. Video game series such as Konami's Castlevania and role-playing games such as Vampire: the Masquerade have been especially successful and influential.[citation needed] Other vampires seen in games include:

  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger features Rachel Alucard as a vampire who carries a cat-like umbrella named Nago and is occupied by a red bat familiar named Gii.
  • The video game series Boktai revolves around the Vampire Hunter Django. However, even though the games sometimes equalize the terms of Vampire and Immortal, there are only a few true vampires in the games, such as the Count of Groundsoaking Blood.
  • Several Buffy the Vampire Slayer video games have been released.
  • The video game series Castlevania establishes a new origin for Dracula and chronicles the never ending struggle between him and the Belmont clan of vampire hunters stretching from the 11th century all the way to the 21st century.
  • The comedy game Conker's Bad Fur Day features a Dracula-like vampire who is often insulted by Conker. He dies by falling into a grinder due to extreme blood drinking.
  • The Darkstalkers (1994) fighting game series (known as Vampire Savior in Japan) features a vampire along with other mythological and horror-themed characters.
  • The Elder Scrolls game series involves vampires created by demon lord. They have all the typical attributes, but some (though not all) can walk in sunlight if they have fed on a victim.
  • The scrolling shooter Embodiment of Scarlet Devil features two vampire sisters as the final boss and the extra stage boss. The older of the two, Remilia Scarlet, became playable in two later games of the Touhou Project.
  • In the Guilty Gear series, Slayer is introduced in Guilty Gear XX as the first, and currently only, vampire so far in the series. He is a Nightwalker, though unlike other vampires, he seems to be unaffected by sunlight. He is also seen drinking blood from his own wife Sharon before a match, although Sharon is immortal.
  • Video game series Metal Gear Solid includes a character called Vamp, who drinks blood and appears to be immortal (though in Metal Gear Solid 4, it is discovered that this is due to nanobots in his body). At first glance, it could be noticed that his name stems from his Vampiric abilities, but actually comes from his bisexuality.
  • Mortal Kombat series, there's a species of vampires, although Nitara is thus far, the only vampire known in the series.
  • In Rosenkreuzstilette, regardless of whether the player is playing Spiritia or Grolla, the player meets Graf Michael Sepperin, who is vampiric in appearance and acts like Dracula in the Castlevania series, as the boss of Sepperin Stage 4. He reappears in Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel as the boss of Iris Stage 1.
  • The video game series Shadow Hearts have four known vampires (Three playable) in the games (though hardly stereotypical).
  • Shadowrun features vampires whose existence is explained by a resurgence of the Human Meta-Human Vampiric Virus. As such, the afflicted are not undead, but instead are still alive but radically changed by the retrovirus. They normally do not suffer from the supernatural limitations such as crosses, but still are vulnerable to sunlight.
  • The Sims 2: Nightlife, the second expansion pack for popular series The Sims 2, introduces vampires to the game. These vampires in this game follow many fictional conventions, such sleeping in ornate coffins, wearing gothic clothing, and being able to transform into bats. Vampirism can be spread between game characters through biting. If caught outside during the day, a Sim Vampire's will soon die. In The Sims 3: Late Night, Vampires makes a return. Unlike in Nightlife, these vampires live longer than normal Sims, won't die in the Sun but will suffer burns, get sick from eating Sim Food with Garlic, and drink Plasma either by biting a Sim, Plasma pack, or Plasma Fruit. They still can die from noraml deaths that happans to Normal Sim, with the exception of Hunger in where it's replaced by Thirst.
  • Role-playing games such as Vampire: The Masquerade (1992), in which the participants play the roles of fictional vampires (for specifics, see vampires in the World of Darkness).
  • In the tabletop wargame Warhammer Fantasy, Vampire Counts are one of the playable forces.




Theatres des Vampires is a gothic black metal band fully concentrating on vampire themes.
  • Draconian is a death metal band with issues facing vampires.
  • The vocalist Kamijo of the Japanese Visual Kei band, Versailles, says his look is influenced by the appearance of a vampire.
  • Theatres des Vampires is a gothic black metal band fully concentrating on vampire themes.
  • Cult dark punk group Vampire Lovers (band) recorded a live video clip during 1988 of their song "Drink my blood, Suck my veins". The song held the No.1 position in the song section of a Goth/Vampire social networking site called "Vampire Rave” for six weeks between April and May 2012.
  • Vampire Weekend deliberately chose their name to capitalise on the popularity of vampires in popular culture.[citation needed]
  • Fearless Vampires Killers is an English alternative rock band, which received the name from the 1967 Roman Polanski film The Fearless Vampire Killers



The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones.

'The Vampire' (1897) by Philip Burne-Jones depicts an alluring female vampire crouched over a male victim. The model was the famous actress Mrs Patrick Campbell. This femme fatale inspired a poem of the same name (also 1897) by Rudyard Kipling. Like much of Kipling's verse it was incredibly popular, and its inspired many early silent films whose 'vampires' were actually 'vamps' rather than being supernatural undead blood-suckers. The poem's refrain: A fool there was . . . , describing a seduced man, became the title of the popular film A Fool There Was (1915) which made Theda Bara a star, and the archetypal cinematic 'vamp'.[2]



Other vampire references[edit]

Many regional vampire myths, or other creatures similar to or related to vampires have appeared in popular culture.


  • In the film I Am Legend, a mutated virus turns some humans and dogs into vampiric beings, called "Darkseekers", that prey on unmutated humans and dogs.


  • In the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Count Dracula calls his wolf pet by the names strigoi and moroi.
  • Mike Mignola's Right Hand of Doom, from the Hellboy series features a female vampire proclaiming that the vârcolac (singular entity here) is the master of the moroii and strigoi.
  • Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series features Moroi as the protagonists and Strigoi as the antagonists.



Both Penanggalan and Mystics in Bali feature actor W.D. Mochtar as the priest who fights the Penanggalan. Both The Witch With Flying Head and Mystics in Bali depict an innocent transformed into a Penanggalan against her will. In the former film, there is an effort to save her, and her attempt at suicide upon learning her condition is thwarted. In the latter film, she is considered irredeemable, and her neck is spiked to destroy her. Both characters are monstrous only at night and unaware of their nocturnal behavior until informed.

Print media[edit]

  • The Dragon Warriors pen and paper RPG features a monster called the Death's Head, with a similar modus operandi to the Penanggalan, although the detached head has tiny wings and a horn.
  • The Penanggalan may be found described as an example of a vampire as well as the Kephn (a male counterpart from Burma) in the GURPS third edition supplement GURPS Blood Types (Steve Jackson Games, 1995)
  • The short Guro fetish/comedy manga story Head Prolapse Elegy by Shintaro Kago revolves around the travails of a Penanggalan who desires a normal love life with a man, but is constantly thwarted by her condition.
  • The first book of the Malay Mysteries, Garlands of Moonlight, revolves around a Penanggalan [2].


  • Anime-based website Gaia Online has a Penanggalan as a companion or a self pose in the "Nightmare" evolving item.
  • Although the indie horror game Eyes was originally released featuring the ghost of a beautiful woman as the monster that hunts the player, it was eventually updated to replace the somewhat unscary creature with a Penanggalan, who otherwise functions identically to the original, killing the player the instant it comes in contact with them.




  • The term is used to describe vampires in general in the book series The Hunt by Susan Sizemore.
  • The Strigoi play a central role in Graham Masterton's 2006 book, The Descendant.
  • Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy novels features Strigoi as villains.
  • The Strigoi play a central role in Dan Simmon's 1992 book, Children of the Night.
  • A Strigoi appears in "Philologos; or, A Murder in Bistritia" by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald in the February 2008 Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • In the Guardians of Ga' Hoole book series, an evil owl whose ancestors were witch owls called hagsfiends renames herself the Striga after her escape from the Qui' Dragon Palace.
  • Guillermo Del Toro's 2009 Book The Strain references vampires as strigoi
  • Strigoi is the preferred name of vampires in Susan Krinard's Roaring Twenties series.
  • Mike Mignola's Right Hand of Doom, from the Hellboy comic series feature's a female vampire proclaiming that the vârcolac (singular entity here) is the master of the moroii and strigoi.


  • In the 2008 adventure video game A vampyre story, one of the more prominent characters is named Madam Strigoi and although she is not herself a vampyre (as far as is known), she has great insight into vampires.
  • The video game Ace Combat 6 features an elite enemy fighter squadron called "Strigon Team" formally known as the "Vampire Team", whose insignia and paint scheme contains death motifs and whose commander flies an experimental aircraft named "Nosferatu".
  • Underground adventure game, Ben Jordan: Case 3 features a Strigoi who goes by the name of Zortherus
  • In Disgaea video game series, there is a class of vampires called Strigoi.
  • In the video game Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, an enemy demon which can be encountered by the player is a Strigoi.
  • In the 2008 video game Soul Calibur 4, the French fencer (and vampire) Raphael Sorel has a move called the Strigoi Envelopment.
  • The 2007 Video game The Witcher, based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, features a vampyric female creature known as a striga.
  • The Sixth Edition (6 Ed.) of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game gives the name Strigoi to a bloodline of monstrous vampires, similar to Count Orlok.
  • In Dark Arisen, the 2013 expansion and re release of the game Dragon's Dogma, Strigoi are encountered as enemies after the defeat of the main boss. They look like large, blood-red gargoyles and attack by draining blood from the Arisen and their pawns using their tail.


  • One of the villains in the 30 Days of Night (2007) film is listed as "Strigoi" in the end credits.
  • In the film Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993), some of the characters refer to vampires as "strigoi".
  • In the Dracula 2000 movie, Count Dracula calls his wolf pet by the names of "strigoi" and "moroi".
  • The 2009 film Strigoi involves vampires in Romania, which are referred as "strigoi".[3]



  • A group of strigoi appeared in the episode "Bite Father, Bite Son" in the animated series American Dragon: Jake Long.
  • Strigoi are the featured enemy in the 1999 episode "Darkness Visible" of the show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
  • The strigoi was featured in the Animal Planet TV series Lost Tapes.
  • In the ABC television series Scariest Places on Earth, strigoi are discussed in an episode called "Return to Romania Dare." The episode originally aired on April 21, 2002.
  • The vampires in the 2014 television series The Strain are referred to as strigoi by the character Abraham.


The Stirge was presented as a popular monster in Dungeons and Dragons. In the game it took the form of a many-legged flying creature which sucked the blood from its victims through a sharp, tubular beak.

A version of the striga makes an appearance in The Witcher (video game) based on the works of Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. As a demonic undead creature, which transforms from the corpse of a dead child conceived via incest, striga in the Witcher's universe doesn't look like insects or vampires but looks similar to a ghoul with a muscular quadrupedal body, big claws, and a fang-filled mouth.

The strix make an appearance in the Vampire: the Requiem historical book Requiem for Rome. In contrast to the more traditional vampires presented in the line, the strix are disembodied spirits who commonly take the shape of owls and can possess both humans and torpored vampires. It's rumored that the strix restored Remus to undeath, and corrupted a sixth clan of vampires who were destroyed en masse. The strix believed themselves to be betrayed by the vampires of Rome, especially those of the Julii clan, and swore to bring about their ruin. They reappear in Night Horrors: Wicked Dead as heralds of disaster, mainly unbound by their former oath (although they still occasionally pursue such activities for personal reasons). Immensely amoral libertines, they view vampires clinging to humanity as weak, and as such will often serve as tempters in order to make them lose themselves to the Beast.

Strix are also described in the GURPS third edition Sourcebook for Vampires Blood Types. They are described as witches who, having made pacts with dark entities gained the ability to become blood drinking birds at night. What their pacts with these dark forces require of them is not described.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Per the Oxford English Dictionary, vamp is originally English, used first by G. K. Chesterton, but popularized in the American silent film The Vamp, starring Enid Bennett
  2. ^ David J. Skal "Fatal Image: The Artist, the Actress and "The Vampire" in David J. Skal (ed) (2001) Vampires: Encounters With The Undead: 223-257
  3. ^ Legend of the Five Rings,Five Rings Publishing Group, 1997
  • Christopher Frayling (1992) Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (1992) ISBN 0-571-16792-6
  • Freeland, Cynthia A. (2000) The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror. Westview Press.
  • Holte, James Craig. (1997) Dracula in the Dark: The Dracula Film Adaptations. Greenwood Press.
  • Leatherdale, C. (1993) Dracula: The Novel and the Legend. Desert Island Books.
  • Melton, J. Gordon. (1999) The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Visible Ink Press.

External links[edit]